"BRINGING YOUR VISION TO LIFE": PRODUCTION PLATFORMS AND INDUSTRY UNITY
In this paper, we introduce the notion of production platforms by exploring the political economy of the real-time animation platform Unity by Unity Technologies. Contributing to the debate on the ‘platformization of cultural production’ by examining the penetration of Unity’s economic, infrastructural, and governance extensions beyond its platform boundaries, we argue Unity has become the de facto default for the development of apps thereby impacting the production and circulation of immersive content. To explore the impact of Unity’s role in the wider process of platformization we draw on an archive of corporate documentation and promotional material, news coverage, and industry data. We situate the platform within Unity Technologies’ culture and business strategies, which enrolls and keeps developers ‘tethered’ to its proprietary platform. We found Unity’s diffusion and growth has evolved along three lines, economic expansion, infrastructural integration, and regulatory control through a series of acquisitions and business partnerships with industry-specific technologies. While there are competing real-time animation platforms, Unity Technologies’ focus on economic and infrastructural integration with industry-specific technologies and companies has made it indispensable for real-time animation workflows. As a result, global businesses such as Disney, Toyota, and Nintendo use Unity in their design process. Our analysis signals a broader shift in the cultural production of apps where a small group of production platforms shape the production, distribution, and circulation of real-time animation products. In many ways, Unity not only animates the life of the internet, but it also brings to life visions of the material world around us.