Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang may have taken some of the wind out of Unity's sails. Huang noted during a February 14 earnings call that ray tracing support was available in the Unreal and Unity game engines, but it turns out Unity hadn't announced that feature yet.
Huang's enthusiasm for ray tracing support in Unity likely stemmed from the need to convince shareholders that sales of the new RTX graphics cards would pick up. Nvidia needs a win after falling prey to the cryptocurrency bust, facing increased competition from AMD, and apparently overestimating how quickly gamers would flock to its latest-and-greatest GPUs despite their high prices.
Before that can happen, though, more games need to support ray tracing. There are a handful--Battlefield V and Shadow of the Tomb Raider are the biggest examples--but Metro Exodus is the first AAA title to support ray tracing at launch. (And that aspect of it was overshadowed by the path it took to release as well as launch-day bugs that stopped people from playing the game.)
Unity could help make that happen. It's free, offers plug-and-play resources for game developers, and supports pretty much every modern platform. All those factors make it incredibly popular with studios large and small. Introducing ray tracing support would make it much easier for developers to support the feature, especially if it's as (relatively) easy to use as other tools.
So, one could understand why Huang might be eager to mention Unity in the same breath as Unreal Engine when it comes to ray tracing support. The more game engines support the technology, the more games will be built with support for the technology, the more RTX graphics cards Nvidia can sell to gamers who want to experience ray tracing for themselves. Well, theoretically, at least.
Of course, that's a major feature announcement, and Unity might not be ready to reveal its plans for ray tracing support. Now it's faced with a decision: push forward its plans for ray tracing now that Huang's (potentially) spilled the beans or hope that people will have forgotten about the accidental reveal by the time the feature's actually ready to be announced so it's still exciting.
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Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.