One of the biggest draws of Unity engine lies within in its multi-platform availability - users can play games under the game engine on home consoles such as Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, and the Oculus Rift and PCs. However, recent actions by the likes of web browser developers Google, Microsoft and Mozilla are in the process of putting an end to it.
NPAPI, a plug-in that the Unity Web Player uses, isn't supported by the latest version of Google Chrome and Firefox. It will stop supporting web plug-ins save for Flash by the end of next year, and Microsoft's Edge for Windows 10 isn't supporting them at all.
This has prompted the developers of the Unity engine to plan out for the end of its Web Player browser game platform in a public roadmap published on the company's official website. The roadmap also mentions that Unity is diverting into alternative web technologies to make its old Unity-based games playable in today's internet browsers.
"Today we are announcing the first step in that end-of-life process, the deprecation of the Web Player. When Unity marks a feature as deprecated it means that the use of the feature is no longer recommended and that the feature will be removed in a future release. For the Web Player, Unity 5.2 and 5.3 will still be able to publish Web Player content, but Unity 5.4 (to be released in March 2016) will no longer ship with Web Player support. The Web Player will then become an unsupported product." wrote Jonas Echterhoff in the published roadmap.
For Unity to target the web with its engine next year, the only option would be to through WebGL export. Unlike Unity's Web Player, WebGL isn't a plug in but utilizes standard APIs that are exposed by the browser. WebGL content runs in web browsers without having the need for any plug-in to be installed. However, WebGL is a different platform from Unity's Web Player and does not match its set of features and performance.
Unity is working closely with browser vendors to ensure that the gap becomes as narrow as possible. However, there are limitations such as restrictions on usable networking protocols mandated by security concerns. For now, users who still want to play browser-based games on the Unity Web Player will have to settle with previous versions of their favourite browsers.