Hoping to close the graphics quality gap with game tool makers that focus on console-quality graphics, Unity Technologies is launching a new version of its game engine that powers online games and iPhone apps.

The new version of the Unity 3D technology means that online games and iPhone games will start to look a little bit more like console games with high-end graphics. The image from the game ShadowGun above shows that Unity’s 3D quality is pretty good. But it’s still not quite as good as some of the best graphics you see in games such as the upcoming Battlefield 3. It’s a long time before Unity gets there, said David Helgason, chief executive of Unity, but he said this is a step in the right direction.

“The most interesting part is we are accelerating our roadmap continuously,” Helgason said.

San Francisco-based Unity launched as a low-end browser-based 3D technology six years ago. Now it has more than 500,000 developers, with 150,000 of them active every month. Games built with Unity can display decent quality 3D graphics, for both online and iPhone games. When a user downloads a Unity-based game, they also download the Unity plug-in. That plug-in has now been installed more than 60 million times.

The new version of Unity supports the Substance technology from French tool-maker Allegorithmic. That technology lets a developer create pieces of game art, known as textures, semi-automatically. It saves on bandwidth and costs. The result should be that graphics will look better in Unity-based games.

Unity now has more than 125 employees. About 50 percent of the company’s revenues come from outside the U.S. and 30 percent of the revenue is non-gaming related. The company has been on the iPhone since 2008 and launched on Android last year. The number of games using Unity is perhaps 2,000 or so on the iPhone and more than 12,000 on the web.

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