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Unity's new weapon for devs: Porting games to Firefox

Following news from Epic that the Unreal Engine 4 will be optimized for Firefox, Mozilla and Unity reveal a Unity add-on for bringing Unity-built games to the Web with asm.js and WebGL.

Mozilla has teamed up with Unity to run its games on the Web without plugins -- but with an add-on.

Announced at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, the extension will ship later this year with the anticipated Unity 5.0. Powered by the Web graphics library WebGL and the JavaScript subset asm.js, the add-on update says more about game developers' faith in Firefox than anything else.

"We believe WebGL and asm.js will be driving the future of gaming on the Web. We're happy to see the platform mature and look forward to helping to drive its evolution," said Ralph Hauwert, a senior developer for Unity Technologies.

To demonstrate the usefulness of the add-on, Unity and Mozilla ported the popular game Dead Trigger 2 to Firefox in the video above.

Mozilla hopes that continued development on asm.js will prove its worth as an effective tool in helping graphics on the Web achieve native code speeds. In its first year on the playing field, Mozilla was able to improve asm.js from achieving around 40 percent of native code speed to around 67 percent.

Although Mozilla's partnerships with game developers is relatively recent, its push for new Web technologies is nothing new. WebGL was introduced five years ago, but it wasn't until Internet Explorer 11 was announced that all the major browsers adopted at least partial support for the graphics standard.

The company is hoping that the vote of confidence from Epic and Unity will encourage browser makers to adopt the relatively-new asm.js.

Unity said that the add-on is currently one of the most installed extensions in its catalog.

"One of questions game developers ask us most often is whether Unity will support WebGL and asm.js," said Mozilla game platform strategist Martin Best. "We're happy that this support is now a reality and look forward to a new era of high-quality games on the Web."

Unity games will work in all browsers that support WebGL, but they will run fastest when combined with a browser that supports asm.js. Currently, that's only Firefox, but the support of game developers could help the JavaScript accelerator prove it's worthy of leveling up.

Correction, 9:20 a.m. PT: This story was originally unclear about the add-on. It's for Unity, not Firefox.