A few weeks ago, we bought a Unity Asset that really let us down.
In developing our own assets, we spend a lot of time on the Asset Store, researching the market and getting inspired (and frantically refreshing to check our store rankings).
As a consequence hereof, we end up being persuaded by all the fantastic assets the Asset Store has to offer (there are so many high quality ones!) more often than we’d care to admit.
And I bet that you, just as us and so many other Unity developers, have already bought, or at least considered buying, an Asset on the Unity Asset store at some point.
And with good reason!
Developing a game takes a lot of time and requires a ton of resources. So when you see an asset that could save you weeks’ worth of work, you of course go for it – who wouldn’t?
Most of the asset we end up buying are great. Most of them.
But every once in a while, we purchase an asset that lets us down.
Either because the quality wasn’t as great as expected, or because there is no support to be found from the developer.
What we have learned from these experiences, however, is that buying Unity Assets doesn’t have to be like shooting into the dark, as long as you do a quick “analysis” of the asset first.
Because there ARE certain signs to look for that can help us filter away the assets that may end up disappointing us if we are to purchase them.
So let’s get down to it.
Some of these steps may seem fundamental if you’ve spent a lot of time on the Asset Store.
But whether you are brand new to buying Unity assets or have done it many times, following these steps will be sure to save you a lot of potential headaches!
Going through each of these 5 steps, you’ll easily filter away well over 75% of all Assets on the Asset Store today, leaving you with the best of the best.
On Google Play and the Apple App Store, even the most popular and well-made apps and games rarely have a rating better than 4.3 (it happens, I know, just not all that often).
If you’re about to purchase your very first Unity Asset you may therefore assume that a 4-star rated asset will be plenty fine.
But don’t be so sure about that.
Just as most other Asset Store customers, we rarely buy assets that do not have 5-star average ratings. Your game will be built around the assets you buy, so be sure to only buy something you feel you can rely on. The chance that a 3 or 4-star asset is really good is simply too low.
When searching for an asset, therefore, make sure to first of all filter away any asset with a less-than-5-star rating. This is done directly on the search page and will easily remove over 75% of all listings in an instant.
The only exception to the 5-star-minimum rule is when it comes to fairly new assets with less than 10-15 reviews. In that case, a 4-star rating may be acceptable.
This is simply because each rating weighs more in the calculation of the average if the asset doesn’t have a lot of ratings, and the greater impact a single negative review thus has.
This can skew the validity of the average slightly, as the reason for the one negative review may be something that has already been fixed. This would not be unusual as frequent updates are often pushed in the beginning of an assets’ lifetime.
On the flipside, this also means that if a more mature asset with over 20-30 reviews has an average rating of 4 or below, you may want to steer away from that asset completely, as it indicates the asset has received quite a few bad ratings.
If you are buying any type of art or audio asset, you may be able to skip this step entirely, as art and audio assets rarely need updates to keep functioning.
With any type of code-based asset, such as an editor extension and scripting asset, however, you want to make sure that the asset is being actively updated and that it works with the latest version of Unity.
When we are viewing the store page of a specific asset, we always check the “latest update date”, which is located just below the asset art.
If you are still on the search page, I recommend filtering away any asset that has not been updated within the last 250 days, and less if a major Unity update has recently arrived.
There are a few reasons you may want to steer away from assets that have not been updated lately.
First of all, it could be a sign that the developer has stopped supporting the asset.
If you find a popular asset that is not receiving frequent updates, you may therefore want to avoid buying it.
This does not mean, of course, that an asset that has not been updated in a year can’t still be fantastic. The odds are just very small. So as a general rule of thumb, we steer away from any such assets.
Once again, if you are buying an art asset, this won’t matter much, but for any other type of asset, it is important to make sure that the asset is well documented.
Especially with larger assets, you are almost certain to run into issues you may not immediately know how to fix.
And that’s where documentation comes into play. Without it, we have to rely on the customer support of the developer, which is almost always guaranteed to take longer than if you could find the answer in the documentation.
Evaluating the documentation of an asset before buying is not always easy, though.
Some Asset Store developers store the documentation directly on their website. That’s what we do. So before buying an asset, do a bit of research on the publisher’s website to see if you can find the documentation.
Other assets have great documentation that just isn’t stored on the website of the developer. In these cases, we always try to evaluate the level of support provided by the asset developer before buying instead.
We do this by looking at any questions asked to the developer on social media, or look for YouTube tutorials on how to use the asset.
If questions are answered quickly, and YouTube tutorials are provided on how to use the asset, odds are that the asset is well-documented too.
Average ratings and latest update dates are great factors for identifying the risk involved with buying an established asset, but what if the asset is brand new?
A new asset, good or bad, may not even have received enough ratings for an average to show up (requires a minimum of 3 ratings), and the latest update date will often be the same as the release date.
In these scenarios, it is worth considering if the developer has released other assets that are already doing well. If so, odds are that this new asset will be fantastic as well.
Just take a look at Asset Store developer Manufactura K4 for a great example of this.
Some of their assets have not yet received enough ratings, but since most of their other assets have 5-star average ratings already, there's a good chance their new assets will perform just as well.
We have already looked at the average rating, but before buying and after going through step 1-4, it is time to look at the actual reviews the asset has received.
By default, only the 3 most helpful reviews are shown on the Asset Store. Oftentimes, however, the top 3 reviews are months, if not years, old. They don’t always show a realistic picture of the asset.
It is sometimes enough to just read these reviews, but if the asset is updated often, it makes sense to see the latest rather than most helpful reviews.
Luckily, we can easily change the view:
At the end of the day, these five steps should be considered as a whole.
One asset may not have received an update for half a year simply because it’s very well-written and designed, and another asset might be the first published by a new developer with no track-record but still work amazingly well.
However, as a whole, the above 5 steps should provide you with a good idea of how satisfied you will end up being if you purchase the Unity asset. So go give it a try! :)
The asset we recently bought that I mentioned in the beginning of this article didn’t live up to all of the above steps, and ultimately let us down.
Indeed, had we followed the steps ourselves, we probably wouldn’t have bought it in the first place.
Lastly, be sure to support the developers and publishers who make assets that you DO like and enjoy using!
Each and every purchase, share on social media, and positive review counts!
Asset Store developers make products to help other game developers make awesome games, and there’s nothing better than getting some feedback :)
P.s. Are you and Asset Store developer interested in being published by Devdog? Reach out to [email protected] to find out how we help several developers and artists already!
Prior to Devdog, I ran an online games industry news media for and about Nordic game developers for nearly two years.
During that time, I often reached out to new game developers directly, apart from interviewing the ones who sent a press release directly to me.
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