come together —
Major deal continues the slow merging of movie-creation and game-creation tools.
Unity, the company best known for its line of popular video game engines, has announced plans to purchase the tech division of the Peter Jackson-led, New Zealand-based visual-effects studio Weta Digital for $1.625 billion in cash and stock.
The acquisition means that Weta’s suite of visual-effects tools, popularized in movies like Lord of the Rings, Avatar, and Wonder Woman, will eventually be integrated into Unity’s cloud-based workflow and made available to millions of users, the company said in a press release announcing the move. Unity will also acquire the 275 engineers that build Weta’s technology and “a library of thousands of incredible assets.”
The Weta visual-effects team itself will remain as a standalone entity known as WetaFX, which will still be majority-owned by Jackson. Unity expects that entity to “become Unity’s largest customer in the Media and Entertainment space.” Weta Workshop, which focuses on practical effects and props, will also remain separate.
Weta CEO Prem Akkaraju told Variety that there was some apprehension about making the company’s exclusive tools more widely available to the public through this deal, but Weta’s goal of inspiring other creators won out in the end. “We’re Jimi Hendrix, and now we’re selling guitars,” he said. “We think this world has many, many more Jimi Hendrixes.”
While Unity made a name for itself by offering cheap-yet-robust game-creation tools, Hollywood has turned to Unity and to Epic’s competing Unreal Engine for pre-visualization and real-time motion capture for effects-heavy productions.
The Weta purchase comes about a year after Unity Technologies raised over $1.3 billion in a stock IPO and months after the company purchased game-streaming upstart Parsec for $320 million. Unity’s game engine is free for users with less than $100,000 in annual funding and revenue, or it’s available to larger companies as a $150-per-year, royalty-free subscription.
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