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AppLovin bids $17.5B to acquire Unity

AppLovin bids $17.5B to acquire Unity


·August 10, 2022


AppLovin will be caught in up in an ad fraud scandal within two years. I can't share the data but we've stopped spending any money through them due to obvious fraud. Previously we were spending ~20k/day with them.

To be fair, unity isn't clean either. For over a month in Q1 of this year they had a whole lot of ads where the "x" button to close was actually covered by the ad, so ~50% of ads were being clicked when a user wanted to close them.


Isn't it standard practice to give the X button on ads a near-impossible-to-tap hitbox?

I'm amazed there's still so much money in mobile ads, as the games/apps that use them have become so obnoxious that I've got no desire to go near them any more.

It's moved on from 'annoying by somewhat honest' ads, to completely fake gameplay footage, and ads for real-money gambling in games that kids may be playing.

And the model of having thousands of short-lived/unprofitable games pushing ever more players towards the same few aggressively-monetised megahits doesn't seem like it should be sustainable.


> ads for real-money gambling in games that kids may be playing.

Exactly. The target demogrphic for these ads are kids with an Apple Pay account linked to their parents, who can be goaded into clicking on loud shiny ads.


Definitely not standard practice. There will always be bad actors, fraud, spam, etc, when so much money is involved. But most buy side systems are advanced enough to recognize bad actors and not spend money on them. So for any site/app that wants longevity in their revenue they will not implement shady tactics and they’ll earn high cpms.

Brands with real budget employ teams of people to avoid serving on the inventory you’re discussing. Nike blocks like 99% of available inventory.


Is it legally fraud of a ad SDK uses these kinda of tricks? I encounter these kinds of tricks in many of the games my daughter plays on the iPad and hate it immensely, but it seems everybody gets away with it ...

Are there any laws that should prevent these kinds of dark patterns?


I got Apple Arcade and it’s been great for my kids. I can limit what games get installed and they are free of this obnoxious crap.


Kindle FreeTime doesn't really offer much for limits except intended age but is similarly non-obnoxious.


I got Apple Arcade subscription for myself for the same reason. No ads, no pay to win mechanics, and some great games, too.


Yes! I love Apple Arcade for this reason, too.


I would imagine that if something is deemed fraud, it's the ad-space buyer that is deemed the victim, as they're paying for clicks that aren't genuine interest, and not the user/viewer.

IANAL etc, but I thought it would be good to add the distinction.


It's not a dark pattern, because it doesn't really benefit anyone. Just destroys the signal by drowning it in noise so advertising becomes just a little bit dumber.


It benefits the app creator, and whoever is behind the ad serving to the detriment of the person doing the advertising. They get charged each time someone clicks that add.


OP didn't directly say such dark patterns are fraudulent. They said AppLovin was committing fraudulent activity and then that Unity uses dark patterns.


I installed pi-hole in my house just for this.


I configured my kid's tablet to use AdGuard's public DNS

No more in-app ads.

Strange thing, I tried it on my FireTV to block youtube ads, but it didn't work. I wouldn't be surprised if the FireTV monkies around with user settings. The other explanation could be that youtube uses the same hostname for videos and ads, so the DNS blocking can't distinguish.

I ended up side-loading a 3rd party YT client that doesn't play ads.


How much time did it take to research + install a Pi-hole?


In every comparable instance the company will provide a “make good” where they don’t bill you for that same amount on the next billing cycle.

My company didn’t because the US is a small fraction of the company and they aren’t too invested in spending time/resources here.


You have to report it and get the regulator involved to find out

If you just dismiss this as “kids games on an ipad” then everyone gets away with it

the reality is that the entire adspend industry is fraudulent or has a large component of fraud


Hard to definitely label it as a fraud, because from my experience mobile advertising SDKs tend to have a lot of bugs in their presentation layer, and not all of them may benefit ad provider.


> ads where the "x" button to close was actually covered by the ad, so ~50% of ads were being clicked when a user wanted to close them.

Even Android has patterns like these


This X being unavailable can be just incompetence. Esp on Android with all those slightly different screen sizes.

Recently i tried to run an app on an iphone mini but their layout was crap and both buttons on the first screen of the initial setup were on top of each other. Couldn't click either :)


Incompetence that for a curious coincidence advantages them and frauds both the user and the companies paying for ads.

For sure mobile screen variety isn't helping, but I don't believe that's the reason the X button doesn't work on ads.


If you are spending thousands per day you should be backing out real time ROI/LTV which eliminates nearly all potential fraud.

The performance ad market moved from pay per impression to pay per click and then finally to pay per conversion years ago. Pay per conversion is the foundation of Facebook's lookalike audiences and Google's long-tail search campaign tools. When I see problematic campaigns these days it's usually because the media buyer hasn't set up their funnels/KPIs correctly.


The system is 100% deep learning, but most our our spend going to app lovin was in a new product that isn’t use deep learning yet unfortunately. You’re correct though :) we bid to roas/cpa and the affected campaigns were bidding to cpc!


That makes sense. I wouldn't call that ad fraud. That's the ML system optimizing for what you've said you want. If you bid for cpc you're going to get a lot of cheap clicks, but they're going to be nearly worthless. That would be the case on any large ad network, especially since mediation is so mature.


Great opportunity for Godot to take up space in 2d and low scope 3d games


applovin feels like the modern day embedded IE toolbar in your MSI


most major ad tech companies use borderline scammy ways to increase KPI's


It's a weird decision.

Unreal Engine is redefining game engines into something capable of creating both movies and games, and pushing the state of the art to somewhere amazing.

Whilst..... Unity is laying off people and leaning into low quality advertising.

It's weird also that the big players like Microsoft didn't swing in to buy Unity and do the same thing that Unreal is doing.

It's like the future of high end media is being created in this space and Unity is tossing away their second place position entirely.


Meta would love to buy Unity, it has been on Zuckerberg's radar for almost a decade:

But in practice they can't do any acquisitions anymore because of antitrust. Two recent examples:

- Meta purchased a VR fitness app maker called Within, and the FTC is now blocking the sale.

- Meta purchased Giphy years ago, and the UK antitrust authority now wants the sale unwound even though Giphy did no business in the UK.

Multi-billion dollar acquisitions of public companies like Unity are out of the question for Meta because they're subject to a much higher standard than anyone else. Microsoft can probably get away with buying Activision Blizzard while Meta can't buy one insignificant VR game.


The case of Giphy is really absurd.




This is a real shame. Meta is a company that is trying to do something (beyond Facebook) and I think a Unity acquisition would benefit both of these companies (in their current positions).


Is it? Facebook is trying to "take over" areas not at all related to social media in order to gain more data and could act as a loss-leader in the game developer space just in order to bolster market share in other areas. Preventing that seems to be better for consumers in general.


Just like Occulus? All Unity accounts will be authorized by a Meta account. Lose the Meta account lose the Unity access.


Meta is a company that's trying to land grab a new continent (metaphorically). Their motivation to push the Metaverse is their control over it. I don't see why any of us should want to help them do that.


On the other hand, I'm not looking forward to eventually get a Facebook out of necessity when I need to login into my Unity editor.


This is good! Multi-billion-dollar tech companies have been given too much power by governments, partly because they want to capitalize on the spying capabilities provided by their endless cycle of private data slurping, collecting and de-anonymizing, and partly by regulatory capture from an army of lobbyists employed by the tech companies.


Unity is still the engine for the vast majority of 2D and 3D games, especially VR. It feels like each has filled their niche well, and they are now bifurcating to target different audiences.

It doesn't seem to me like Unreal will ever capture the majority of the market, unless their tactics change.


I would wager it's owed mostly to the mobile market dwarfing console/PC nowadays for which Unity is the de facto choice. The same way the web market gives us legions of Js devs: Unity is just the game engine ver of Node - easy to hire for and runs everywhere.


I am so glad I didn’t go for Unity but Godot. I know it’s playing catch-up but it’s been a joy to work with. Not sure what to think of Unity.


For anyone interested in creating games. I can only second this. Been using Unity for work and hobby purposes since Unity 5 and feel its always been undecided on how to do things. Even more so now than back then.

With Godot I've never had the feeling that I'm working against the engine to achieve something. Godot has one, maybe two different ways of doing something. If more than one, there are usually obvious tradeoffs between the two ways.


There were alleged rumors that Microsoft did try to acquire Unity at one point. It takes two to tango and the allegation was always that Unity wasn't interested in selling to Microsoft. The impression that I have is that Unity didn't get to this "weird ad company with a game engine byproduct" by accident, they seem to have had board members where this was their exit in mind all along and the (weird, gross) direction they intended to move the company.


Unreal/Epic have taken free to play money already. It was Unity's turn i guess.


Either way, Unity += ads.


2022-08-09 (AppLovin offers to buy Unity Software in $17.5 bln deal)

> For people wondering what happens with the ironSource deal, this bid is meant to derail it.

see also

2022-07-14 (Gamedevs not baking in monetization are “fucking idiots”, says Unity CEO)

2022-07-14 (Unity is acquiring a company who made a malware installer)

2022-07-13 (Unity merges with IronSource)


Is it time to start avoiding all games created with Unity?


Not yet, games can still be created in older versions.

I think many game devs will be moving from unity on new projects. But there are many projects that have been in development for years, and you shouldn't avoid them because the engine's company is fucked up.


According to Wikipedia, AppLovin has 6.16Bn in total assets and 2.5Bn revenue. How can a company this size bid 17.54Bn to acquire Unity?


The title is too simplified. The merger/acquisition will create a new entity in which Unity will own 55% of the total shares and 49% of voting shares. Unity CEO John Riccitiello will become CEO of the combined business, while AppLovin CEO Adam Foroughi will take the COO role.

This is basically a desperate play by AppLovin to prevent Unity from acquiring ironSource (its main competitor) and cutting it out of the mobile ads business.


Why on earth would Unity accept giving this company majority control... a company that is worth less than Unity.

Just a dumb and terrible proposal


According to the proposal the non-voting C-class shares are going to be given voting rights, so Unity stock holders will end up with the majority of voting rights too after that goes through.


It's so interesting that the move to avoid being destroyed is to destroy oneself.


If you can't beat 'em, reverse-pseudo-corporate-join 'em?


Interesting (and probably accurate) take.

Worth noting that this transaction excludes the $4B proposed purchase of IronSource by Unity.


-- In the same manner that Twilio acquired Sendgrid --


The valuation (based on the trading price of each stock) of the combined companies is more than the $18 billion (it can vary in exciting ways).

This article lays it out pretty clearly:




I just commented about this. I get the impression large investors are using other lesser known companies to make acquisitions probably to conceal financial records somehow. It's like a shell corp but one that is legitimate enough to not be called a shell corp outright.


> I get the impression large investors are using other lesser known companies to make acquisitions probably to conceal financial records somehow. It's like a shell corp but one that is legitimate enough to not be called a shell corp outright.

That's simply not correct.

It's an all stock transaction, so AppLovin can issue stock equal to $17.5B and transfer that to owners of Unity stock in return for their Unity stock. Then the two companies merge and the AppLovin stock owners now own both.

You can read details here:

> in a transaction where each outstanding share of Unity common stock would be exchanged for 1.152 shares of AppLovin Class A voting common stock and 0.314 shares of AppLovin Class C non-voting common stock. Under these terms, current Unity shareholders would receive approximately 55.0% of the outstanding shares of the combined company, with the Class A shares representing approximately 49.0% of the outstanding voting rights of the combined company.


Do AppLovin stock holders prior to the acquisition see a massive price decrease in their shares?

Seems like they’re basically printing double the existing stock to cover it


For those discussing the dollar amounts, it's really just a merger with AppLovin as the dominant partner [1]. It's an all-stock deal, so I don't think there's any need for external money.



based on the details of their offering Unity would actually end up the dominant partner. Even if just barely


Meta should have bought Unity. Zuck is sleeping at the wheel. They are gonna try to win at the metaverse without a dev platform. Good luck with that.


It is surprising they didn't, and while I am glad they didn't for Unity's sake, it feels like Unity is about to get shagged anyway. There are sharks circling their value propositions to developers, and they're spending their energy on acquisitions that demonstrate their focus is shifting away from those same developers. Who wants to commit a multi-year, company wide project to an engine with lagging technical offerings AND a faltering mission statement?


They are forgetting that developers don't like ad companies or being controlled. Devs will move on, leaving unity behind.



interesting, that would have been very shortly after John became CEO. Wonder how that would have turned out if John was given another year or 2 to sink his fingers into Unity?


Seriously doubt regulators in the eu will approve any Facebook purchase at this point. Maybe in 2018 this could’ve happened, since then I doubt it.


And yet Amazon which is 300% bigger can buy iRobot with no issues. I’m so confused by the weird random things the EU and US block wrt to mergers and yet they don’t block massive obvious ones it seems.


It's not about size it's about influence


The US government won't let FB acquire any company that generates a headline when an acquisition is announced. We are in a period of government-incentivized small-ness.


They probably saw what happened when Amazon acquired Crytek and decided against it.


There would have to be some serious anti-trust concerns given their mobile marketshare.




I haven't coded anything in Unity in a few years, but I did, and others I know well did. They ran into the problem that Unity wants its resources to all be defined at compile time. A metaverse is totally data driven (at least should be), so Unity and a metaverse are not compatible.


VRChat is written in Unity. So is/was Tilt Brush. Even. Virt-a-mate. All loading user generated content just fine.


This probably would merit context as my employer has implemented several model viewers in Unity which by definition imports resources at runtime.


It really does seem that this bid will be tying two sinking ships together. Whether that helps them float, I don't know.


This probably have an amazing background story.

AppLovin and Unity has a similar market cap, making this merger almost equal in power - which typically leads to an uphill battle in management of who has the power.

This first and foremost blocks the IronSource merger, and it's probably something that Unity management don't want to do. But the board must consider it or otherwise it will suffer hell of litigation from shareholders.

It's super interesting to see where this all leads.


Absolutely, I hope we get to hear the story at some point - so much bad blood between AL and IS. With this proposal coming on the day of Unity's shareholder meeting, and sending weak signals about AppLovin's outlook, it's such a weird play. I'm too much of a rube to know if it's brilliant or desperate, but I'm sure it's a good story regardless


Why do I get a sense that some of these companies making acquisitions are just fronts for acquisitions. Regardless, personally I see a lot more value in Unity than Twitter.




I sometimes wondered if Meta would purchase them in an attempt to make it the defacto metaverse dev tool.


Seems like a no-brainer. But maybe they're building their own.