Flash vs Unity 3D

After reading John Grden’s post about  Unity 3D and this post on the subject, I thought I’d add my opinion. Let me say that i am a longtime flash developer coming from an artist’s background. I love Flash and am attracted to Unity 3D, and think there is plenty of room for both. That said:

The Current Situation

Flash is a well-tested technology with a lot of goodwill behind it. Decisions to limit the capabilities of the Flash player to ensure ubiquity have been good ones, but now the imagination of it’s users is outpacing the power of the flash player. Flash’s primary draw has been it’s effectiveness as a creation tool and delivery method for a variety of media (games, music, videos, animation, apps), but while the delivery method is still pitch perfect, the creation tools are lacking.

Why Flash is King

Flash works.

Slower on mac and haphazardly on Linux perhaps but it works.  As for Unity, I have installed the Unity 3D web plug in twice.  The first time i checked out a unity example with it, it threw up a black screen that required a restart of my computer to get out of.  I gave it another test today with another Unity example and had the same results. My computer specs are not an issue for the point i am trying to make – flash works even on my old system, Unity didn’t.


Flash and Unity 3D are like PCs and Televisions.

Televisions do one thing very well. They turn on instantly. They don’t crash. They are easy to use. But the trade off is that they are not very flexible. My television cannot create rich internet applications if I decide to try that.

PCs Personal Computers do many things with less reliability than a television turning on and off. They crash. They frustrate. They don’t work and then suddenly they do. They take an age to turn on and off. But unlike the specialized television they can literally do millions of things. Run air traffic control centers. Surf the internet. Play music. Explore Mars.

Flash is like the PC in this analogy. It doesn’t harness the most power or create 3d as well as Unity, but it has consistently offered people who are willing to try a surprisingly unlimited range of opportunities. Unity specializes in games and does it really well. Flash is less specialized but does more – games, motion graphics, video, music, animations, apps, banners and more

Why Unity Rocks

Sex Appeal

Read John Grden’s post and you will notice something – he is excited. The kind of  “I’m staying up all night because wow the power of this is so cool” excitement that keeps flash developers working past their bedtime and without encouragement from the outside.  Unity offers the kind of sexy interface and promise of power that made flash a phenomenon in the first place. I’m excited about it and it essentially crashed my computer twice.

Web 3D

Everyone has wanted this since 1999. Powerful, simple, accessible 3D for the web. Is anyone surprised that an app like Unity is making such a splash by delivering the holy Grail?


Flash doesnt deliver enough graphic power for many situations, and people looking to create powerful applications that can be distributed online are reluctantly looking elsewhere. When Flash superstars like Bit 101 start blogging about the ABC’s of iPhone development with the zeal of a kid in a candyshop, code and tutorials included, the trend is clear. There are new ways to deliver your creations to the masses and this will quickly eat into flash’s userbase. Especially since i don’t see full-powered Actionscript 3 flash apps being available on any devices besides the desktop and laptop anytime soon.

The Masses

If Unity 3D didn’t have a web player, we would not be having this conversation. Unity would be just another game creation app, albeit a very attractive one. It is Unity’s developing ability to deliver 3D on the web that will directly compete with Flash.

How Flash can Compete

The following suggestions are for Adobe to consider:

Open your vision of Flash

No excuses about how Flash is meant for this or that and Unity is meant for something else.

Flash is not the ‘industry-leading-authoring-platform-for-delivering-engaging-interactive-experiences-and-deploying- accessible-and-content-rich-internet-applications-on-the-world-wide- web-and-breathe-whew! ‘. Flash is the best way of getting your imagination out on the web for all to see.  And it has done a terrific job of doing that no matter what kind of imagination you might have.

Acknowledge the Competition

Unity 3d with its web plug in offers exactly the same thing – imagination online. Adobe -get moving! Everyone knows you are the monopoly and we all know what happens to monopolies in terms of innovation – it falters. You have got to surprise us by giving the fans what they want, and for the better part of the last decade, that dream has been hardware acceleration and web 3d.  Learn from them and acknowledge they are offering something out of the box (powerful gorgeous 3d web) you aren’t. No it won’t be easy – but do it or someone else will

Leverage the Power of the Flash Player

Reading a few posts on Adobe’s new C/C++ to Flash solution Alchemy and the open source meta compiler Haxe has surprised me:

1. Flash player IS capable of native OS-like speeds

2. Flash player is capable of delivering all kinds of code bases

Who knew?

I love the flash player – i can play it windowed, full screen, in a  web page – my choice. There’s no reason Adobe or anyone cant create a new IDE that leverages more powerful 3d tools and compile this down to something the flash player can play.  Keep the player – expand the technology that can use it. After all it’s everywhere, its well known, its cute and it works. Adobe has already done this with Flash CS series and Flex. Yes they both use actionscript, but they are two separate apps that compile to the same player. People are willing to use whatever tool they need to to get the job done.

The Buyout Option

Quite frankly, it looks like the Unity team is doing just fine on their own. I’m not sure Adobe buying them would have such a positive effect. Yes it would stifle Adobe’s competition in this area, but it would potentially shake up Unity’s corporate culture in negative ways. Unity has a cool, young app here, so cool we have people buying Macs just to use it. And I know there are a bunch of flash developers just waiting to pounce once a PC version arrives. Yes, they are doing something right so let them flourish. Instead of buying them out, innovate.

The Bottom Line

New technologies that allow content creators to deliver more graphically intensive and powerful games and apps across the internet are emerging.

The Unity Web Player will overcome any instabilities and its content creation tools will go cross platform, attracting hundreds of thousands of developers aching for powerful web 3d in an instant.The Apple appstore reaches millions of customers and the iphone and iPod touch themselves outperform the graphic capabilities of flash on the desktop. The Flash player has excellent reach, easy of use and cross platform capabilities. What it lacks now is raw power and an expanded vision to compete with these new technologies.

The good news  that while i see Unity 3D and Apple apps only continue to expand their marketshare and user base (which is a good thing), the same will be true with Flash if it addresses these concerns.

with 28 comments

Written by protopop

December 27th, 2008

Posted in Flash,Unity 3D

28 Responses to 'Flash vs Unity 3D'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Flash vs Unity 3D'.

  1. [...] Flash vs Unity 3D [...]

  2. The Buyout Option – “Unity team is doing just fine on their own”…, yeah, but they need about million years to get Flash ubiquity. And for Adobe is much easier and cheaper to buy and polish that toy… maybe I’m wrong. Anyway, Unity3d will give Adobe nice kick in the ass in terms of 3d development.
    my 0.2 $


    29 Dec 08 at 10:44 am

  3. Nice coverage: you’re looking at it from a number of angles and made some strong points. I learned.


    30 Dec 08 at 6:47 pm

  4. Hi.

    As one of the Unity developers I am very sad to hear that it did not “Just Work” on your machine. We do a lot of high-end stuff which makes it harder for us than it is for Flash, but that is no excuse!

    I would love if you could submit a bug report about this (and mail me the case number), so we can fix it.


    Nicholas Francis

    13 Jan 09 at 7:42 pm

  5. [...] Exhibit B:I love Flash and am attracted to Unity 3D, and think there is plenty of room for both.From Protopinions Flash Vs Unity3D [...]

  6. I think you are not looking at the full picture. Adobe already has a 3D tool. Adobe is also actively rebuilding the 3D engine in this tool. That tool is Director. The Shockwave Player has a much higher install % than the Unity plug-in. In addition, the Shockwave Player has had true 3D capable since version 8.5 which was released in 2001.

    As for “Just keep the Flash Player”, I think you are probably not thinking through the fact that the Player will need to be updated with a 3D engine to run what you are asking for.

    Lastly, I think you perhaps have expectations that are too high when it comes to the C/C++ import into SWF code. It is still SWF code under the hood and does not run at compiled C/C++ speeds.

    I guess in general I am saying that your arguments and suggestions are a bit uneducated (no offense meant).


    5 Apr 09 at 1:09 pm

  7. [...] Flash vs Unity 3D « protopinions The post heard around the world (tags: flash unity3d competition) [...]

  8. [...] Flash vs Unity 3D « protopinions The post heard around the world (tags: flash unity3d competition) [...]

  9. [...] Exhibit B:I love Flash and am attracted to Unity 3D, and think there is plenty of room for both.From Protopinions Flash Vs Unity [...]

  10. [...] Exhibit B:I love Flash and am attracted to Unity 3D, and think there is plenty of room for both.From Protopinions Flash Vs Unity [...]

  11. [...] Flash vs Unity 3D [...]

  12. [...] Flash vs Unity 3D [...]

  13. [...] Exhibit B:I love Flash and am attracted to Unity 3D, and think there is plenty of room for both.From Protopinions Flash Vs Unity [...]

  14. um, this isn’t about the post, not really, but macs are awesome. you said on your comparison “PCs crash. They frustrate. They don’t work and then suddenly they do.” and “Flash is like the PC in this analogy”. well, I have a mac, a macbook pro 13in. and I love it, and I have unity on it, and I’ll say, I love it! my mac doesn’t crash, and I have been running like up to 14-15 apps at a time, and it didn’t decrease in speed at all. Plus unity owns all game making software I’ve ever used. macs are awesome!!! PS, as I’m writing this, i have 14 apps running!


    2 Mar 10 at 12:07 am

  15. By all you exclamation marks i can tell you’re one of the Mac faithful:) I agree, Macs are awesome. By PC i meant personal computers (probably an outdated term but I don’t have a better one) in general. When i say Flash is like a PC, i mean Flash is like computers (mac and pc) in that it can do many, many things very well, rather than one specific thing fantastically well. – thanks for pointing it out, I’ve edited my post to try and make things more clear. I have a lot of Mac love – I’m positive that part of the reason Unity is so well put together aesthetically – both the program and the website – is because it originally served the Mac crowd. Thanks for taking the time to comment – I love it each time I get one:)


    2 Mar 10 at 2:22 am

  16. [...] Flash vs Unity 3D, une argumentation très complète sur les avantages des deux technologies et une conclusion mitigée (ces deux technologies poursuivent deux ambitions différentes) ; [...]

  17. foo

    15 Jul 10 at 10:48 pm

  18. So I hear:) I hope they get it right. Unity 3D is a really amazing piece of software with a lot of drive behind it. It would be nice if Flash could somehow leverage the open source webGL stuff that is coming out. Open source solutions will eventually replace all proprietary plugins so getting the jump on this is a smart idea.


    17 Jul 10 at 2:53 pm

  19. [...] Flash vs Unity 3D [...]

  20. [...] Flash vs Unity 3D [...]

  21. The fact that you are comparing a 3D program w/3dengine to a 2D vector animation and interactive media design package reveals just how little you know about the technology…


    21 Oct 10 at 10:41 pm

  22. Thanks for keeping me on my toes with your comment and for taking the time to write.

    I say why not compare them? Flash is practically institutionalized as the premier proprietary method of getting media on the web, and Unity is another means of doing the same thing. You’re correct that if you compare them as 3d engines, there is no contest because Unity is specifically designed for hardware accelerated 3d and Flash isn’t. But they are both popular media delivery plugins that let people share their creations with the world, and as an artist i see them as just means to get my ideas into the browser.

    People have been 1) asking that flash do 3d and 2) creating opensource 3d engines that attempt to do this. Now Unity comes along and it has a similar workflow (as a longtime flash developer I’m very comfortable in the Unity IDE) and also encroaches in an area Flash specializes in – online games via browser plugin. Plus, for whatever reasons, many Flash developers have been very excited by Unity, and a comparison between them is of great interest to them (myself included).

    In the end Flash is Flash and Unity is Unity, and everyone should feel free to use whichever software they feel works best for the project at hand:)


    21 Oct 10 at 11:45 pm

  23. [...] Flash vs Unity 3D « protopinions The post heard around the world (tags: flash unity3d competition) [...]

  24. [...] Flash vs Unity 3D « protopinions The post heard around the world (tags: flash unity3d competition) [...]

  25. thank you for this article. I am also learning Unity3d to make some games and your article has helped me get some insights and ideas. Thanks again.


    21 Aug 11 at 1:32 am

  26. I’m really glad to hear that. I’ve been using Unity since then and I can tell you it’s a really great program with a real heart, I can FEEL they are trying to make the best game creator out there and not just trying to make a buck (although that doesn’t hurt).

    Let me know if you make anything in Unity – don’t be shy to show the world what you can do.


    1 Sep 11 at 8:55 pm

  27. [...] *ive moved the official post to my games blog: http://protopop.com/blog/2008/12/27/flash-vs-unity-3d/ [...]

Leave a Reply