Is "unity" too few clicks to ask for?

Dave Perry recently commented that a major advantage of Gaikai over OnLive is it does not require a download. Tonight I finally got around to trying out Unity3d, which faces a similar obstacle. My impressions of the download barrier...

Tonight I got around to finally downloading the Unity3d player. The concept is very cool - real hardware accelerated 3D in a web page. I'll admit I've been sceptical though. One factor that has kept me from trying it out has been the download barrier.

It's a hassle to find the download, wait for it, install it, and then finally do what you originally set out to do.

How true is this of Unity3d? Here's my experience on Windows XP with Firefox 3

  1. Click the "Install Web player" link on the web page.
  2. Click through Firefox's "Save File (.exe)" prompt.
  3. Wait about a minute for the 3MB download.
  4. Double click on the downloaded exe in the Firefox download manager.
  5. Click through Firefox's "Open Executable File?" warning.
  6. Click through Windows' "Open File - Security Warning" dialogue.
  7. Click the "Finish" button when the installer completes.

Some positive notes: the download was fast, the executable was properly signed, the installer didn't have any prompts, and best of all, no browser restart was required to start running Unity3d content. Mouse clicks

On the downside, I had to click at least 6 things to complete the process and two of those things were scary prompts about potential viruses destroying my computer. 

Is this a big deal? It probably depends on your audience. For gamers, the one-time hassle of installing the player is likely outweighed by the benefit of having access to some free games.

For a more casual web browsing audience, the scary warnings might be enough of a deterrent to abort the process - particularly on a shared (family) computer where the user might not have the privileges necessary to run an installer exe, or may have been instructed never to click OK to one of those "scary" dialogues.

In the end, maybe Flash 3D will catch up with and surpass Unity3d by leveraging Flash's ubiquity. Flash is bundled with almost every browser in existence, which (perhaps unfairly) sidesteps the whole download issue. In the meantime though, check Unity3d out... it is a glimpse into the future of web gaming.

P.S. Here's the Dave Perry comment about the download barrier.

Flickr photo by Jonathan_W

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