6 ways to massively improve the #unity3d AssetStore (for #gamedev’s)

Six months ago I tweeted a handful of obvious ways that you could make the Unity Asset Store greatly more profitable.

One of the Unity folk reached out to me, claimed that Unity was highly invested in improving this and asked for specific suggestions. So I wrote longer, detailed versions of each tweet and emailed them.

It’s been six months. No response. So … for Unity’s competitors, maybe looking to make/improve their own Asset Stores (or newcomers hoping to unseat the incumbents), here’s six obvious commercial improvements.

I’ve cut a few paragraphs I wrote to Unity about who I think their 3 main audiences are on the Asset Store; I included them as a “here are the assumptions I’m making” – I have no idea what their real audiences are. So I omitted that here.

NB: I’ve made the formatting webpage friendly, added some details, but this is essentially an info dump. I was too busy at the time to sugar-coat it – I figured that if Unity wanted to talk, I’d talk to them, and in person I’m really quite friendly and gentle. But at the time we were working 24/7 getting ready for a major exhibition, so this is a bit … terse.

Without stats, vendors are blind

I cannot emphasise this enough: selling on the Asset Store today is like advertising before the existence of Google. It’s absurd: the people at Unity in charge of this stuff appear to be rank amateurs at SEO, eCommerce, Advertising, etc. There is no excuse for trying to sell stuff ONLINE without metrics to tell you what’s selling and why.

So…

Set some easy measurables to gauge the health of sales:

  1. what happens to sales of new assets, cohorted?
  2. What happens to pageviews?
  3. What’s the “reviews/purchase” ratio?
  4. What’s the sales volume before and after an Asset Sale?

(if the Store is working well, the sales volume would be lower after each sale, it ought to drop-off; post-mortems by many devs suggest the opposite. In that case, the whole of “Discovery” on your store is FUBAR and needs fixing urgently: this is the initial flow of potential sales, and you’re cutting it off)

Unity’s store is ugly and impossible to navigate

Web design is a well-established skill; hire a web-design agency and ask them to design the site for you. Focus on:

  1. what do people look for on your site?
  2. how will they find each of those things?
  3. how much effort does it take them to do so?
  4. what’s confusing/misleading (and can you remove/fix that)?
  5. how long is each user-journey, and how short can you make it?
  6. what isn’t useful (and can be removed)?
  7. …etc etc etc etc. If your Asset Store has a few hundred entries, you can get away without this (temporarily). But when you have hundreds of thousands of products on sale, it’s inexcusable

Or just copy this well-researched, well-made example that every consumer already knows how to use:

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 10.50.22

It’s also fugly. That immediately lowers people’s ambitions, gives them a negative impression of everything they MIGHT have bought, and reduces overall sales volume.

  1. Build wireframes for new site.
  2. Your fonts are wrong, your images are wrong, your clickable areas are wrong.
  3. These should be decided by wireframe, not by “what’s easy to implement in the Unity 2.x UI”

(tongue-in-cheek; I have no idea why the fonts on the asset-store page are so poor (wrong size, poor legibility, poor kerning, etc) and the layout so weak).

But whatever the reason, wireframing for screen-size/share would be a quick route to fixing.

It’s almost impossible to find things you need on the Asset Store

COMPLETELY replace the discovery system.

At the very least, delete the search box and replace it with “search this site using Google”,
because that is MORE EFFECTIVE than the current system.

But really: search (and filtering) should only be used when Discovery is failing; there are many Discovery systems you could put in place.

The only bit that sort-of, maybe works for purchasers right now is the filtering/sorting. But even that hasn’t been thought-through: it lacks the basic essentials that most/all devs need.

  1. e.g. can’t filter by Unity version.
  2. e.g. categories are useless (too broad, too irrelevant; should be using a tagging system instead)
  3. e.g. can’t filter/sort by “price” and “rating” simultaneously – if you hit
    the “related items” link you can’t sort by anything at all !

    • this absurd bug crops up in a couple of places on the Asset Store
    • e.g. I saw it the other day on a Sale page: the sort-by-rating link was missing
    • I don’t understand this. How can you make an ecommerce website without a Database and a CMS?
    • If you have those … these features would be one-click-enabled on every page!
  4. … etc

Unity is an IDE. The I stands for Integrated

Integrate it with the Editor. Your entire audience for purchasing BY DEFINITION spends most of their time in the Editor; but you force them to stop working each time they want to use the Asset Store. You positively break their development workflow, and reduce their output; you make it harder/slower for them to make their games.

The crappy popup window (that is often VERY slow to render – why? Are you too cheap-ass to pay for proper web-hosting?) which forgets your username AND your password 9 times in 10 … is not “integrated”.

  1. e.g. top-row buttons in Unity frequently vanish, requiring restart/close-open.

It’s almost as if no-one cares that the Asset Store “doesn’t work” inside the Editor. It
actively drives people away from using the Asset Store!

Rather, you want something that’s FAST and LEAN and people are happy to keep open 24/7. Normally, you wouldn’t need that – but given your flash sales, it’s amazing you don’t have it (since it would drive sales volume very effectively). Surface the wishlisting, make it
explicitly “tell me when this asset goes on sale”. Again, many many good exampels of this kind of thing elsewhere.

Before I spend, I research; I like to ask questions

Make it a source of DIALOGUE between devs and purchasers.

There is a tiny amount of this in the review/comment system, but this is a drop in the ocean compared to what could be there.

  1. e.g. it’s hugely frustrating that purchasers can’t publically question authors until
    AFTER you purchase.

  2. e.g. Integrate it with social networks. Amazing that there’s no twitter integration.
  3. e.g. Amazing that developer-identity (who made this? Can I trust them? What’s their StackOverflow score? etc) is so hidden, relegated, hard to find.
  4. e.g. 5-star ratings which 99% of the time are “we have too few ratings to give you an average, SO WE’RE GONNA SAY NOTHING” are passive-aggressive insulting to your purchasers – “we know whether this is positive or negative rated BUT YOU DON’T! HAAHAHAHAHAH!”
  5. e.g. why can’t we see the percent of refunds / complaints on this product?
  6. e.g. why can’t we see which versions of Unity this is being successfully used with? (c.f. WordPress’s own VERY SIMPLE and yet better-than-Unity plugin-store which shows at a glance which versions are confirmed (by users! It would cost Unity nothing to collect this!) to work with the Asset
  7. …etc

It’s my money, Unity, not yours

If you won’t give developers marketing support (and you don’t), and you’re saying devs are entirely responsible for marketing and promoting their own products … you don’t get to deny them the choice of who they give it to.

If developers want to give away 1,000 free versions of their software … why are you restricting them to 12 / year?

Every dev I know who has assets on the asset store gives loads of copies away by email – no DRM, nothing. Simply trust. None of them want to. But Unity won’t allow them to do it on the Asset Store!

This REDUCES footfall via the Asset Store, and ENCOURAGES off-store sales. That seems, from the outside, to be the opposite of what you want to be doing.

PS: thoughts

Let me be clear: this is a lot less than a complete list of improvements I’d make. These were merely the off-the-top-of-my-head-obvious things I was thinking about at the time.

When I emailed Unity, I offered (explicitly) to talk to them about others – even offered to meet in person (I live less than 5 minutes walk from one of their major offices!).

I got silence. Which reinforces my very first point, from January 2015:

10 thoughts on “6 ways to massively improve the #unity3d AssetStore (for #gamedev’s)

  1. Jason

    All very good points, but I suspect they didn’t like your tone. You weren’t obsequious enough, and they are rather celebrity-like these days.

  2. Dev

    “Your entire audience for purchasing BY DEFINITION spends most of their time in the Editor”

    I am pretty sure the dev part of the audience spends most of their time in Visual Studio.

  3. adam Post author

    @Dev – yeah, fair point. I’d love to know real stats on this though. Because even when programming, I spend a LOT of my time in the editor running, testsing, tweaking, play testing etc.

  4. Caitlyn Meeks

    Hi all,

    Caitlyn Meeks here, manager of the Unity Asset Store. We’re not proud of it, but we do indeed agree with most of your points.

    Largely these shortcomings are the byproduct of difficulties scaling a store that was hardcoded into its current state, making it damn difficult to iterate nearly as quickly as we’d like. We do, really really do, care about our customers’ opinions on the Asset Store, we are also game developers, artists, creative people… cut from the same cloth as many of our customers.

    We want to fix these issues and give you an optimal experience — it’s not that we aren’t aware of what needs to change — it’s that we haven’t had access to enough resources to really do it. Fortunately our new executive staff understand the value of the Asset Store and are investing more in our humble little department.

    I do apologize. We will serve you better.

  5. adam Post author

    @Caitlyn – thanks for chiming in, it’s very reassuring to hear from you.

    “haven’t had access to enough resources to really do it” – that’s what I suspected. I think a lot of people are amazed that the executive team left it this long with neither investment (considering it’s a profit-center) nor opening it to the community (e.g. publishign a referral/commission SDK and allowing 3rd parties to make decent, high-quality stores that fed the money back into Unity).

    My experience at big games companies is that anything web + online often gets massively under-invested by exec teams, sadly :).

  6. adam Post author

    Despite being a Danish company, they’re now USA centered. Apparently, their Europe existence is rather more ephemeral – e.g. UK has big offices, but it’s only for sales stuff.

    Followup questions I put over the past 6 months went unanswered. There have been improvements to the asset store, especially a couple of months ago.

    But they also broke things that were working fine, and my experience was that their support team was clueless, incapable of speaking English or of understanding computers (begging the question: why are you doing English tech support?!?).

    All in all, same old Unity: screw the Asset Store! It makes cash, we don’t care.

  7. Russell

    I just wanted to share a site I made to help with your first complaint: No Insight to sales statistics
    http://UnityBuzz.com/
    I only work with publicly available data so it is still a little limited to how much information I can glean, but I find it very helpful to be able to see asset sales statistics over a period of time, and a grand overview of what is selling well (or not) in the Asset Store as a whole.

  8. adam Post author

    Very interesting site, thanks. If you have twitter, @ me (t_machine_org) and I’ll RT it too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *