Unity Technologies, the company behind the game engine of the same name, is purchasing the tech assets of Peter Jackson's Weta Digital VFX house, it has been revealed.
The two firms have entered into a definitive agreement that will see Unity acquire Weta Digital's proprietary technology for $1.625 billion, with the purchase being made up of a combination of cash and stock. The deal is expected to be finalised before the end of 2021.
Based in Wellington, New Zealand, Weta was founded in 1993 by Jackson, Richard Taylor and Jamie Selkirk in order to produce the digital special effects work for Jackson's movie Heavenly Creatures. It would later find fame as the effects studio behind Jackson's wildly successful The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie franchises and was also involved with the effects on James Cameron’s Avatar (it is currently working with Cameron on the sequels, too).
More recently, Weta has worked on movies such as Jungle Cruise, The Suicide Squad and Black Widow. Weta has earned several Academy Awards and BAFTAs over the past few decades.
The deal effectively splits Weta in two; the half which Unity has acquired will be still be called Weta Digital and is essentially the tech 'assets' of the original Weta. However, Peter Jackson will remain in control of his visual effects business, a separate company now known as WetaFX.
Weta Digital's Prem Akkaraju will become CEO of WetaFX, while Weta’s CTO Joe Marks joins Unity to oversee Weta Digital. Unity will also benefit from Weta’s 275 engineers and will take on the company's proprietary technology – which includes the firm's cloud service and tools, such 'Manuka' and 'Gazebo' renderers, 'Barbershop' hair and fur system, the 'Loki' physics-based simulation tool, and its facial capture technology.
Unity is famous for its work in the realm of video game engines, and its Unity engine is used in thousands of games – including, it would seem, the latest Pokémon entry on Switch. However, Unity is looking for ways to expand into new areas, one of which is 'virtual production' in TV and movies.
Speaking about the deal, Jackson said:
Weta Digital’s tools created unlimited possibilities for us to bring to life the worlds and creatures that originally lived in our imaginations. Together, Unity and Weta Digital can create a pathway for any artist, from any industry, to be able to leverage these incredibly creative and powerful tools. Offering aspiring creatives access to Weta Digital’s technology will be nothing short of game changing and Unity is just the company to bring this vision to life.
Unity President and CEO John Riccitiello added:
We are thrilled to democratize these industry-leading tools and bring the genius of Sir Peter Jackson and Weta’s amazing engineering talent to life for artists everywhere.
Removed - unconstructive
"It's some sort of code, I can't read it"
So the same company that powers cheap mobile games (albeit quality games too) now owns the company behind Planet of the Apes and Lord of the Rings. Not something you see everyday.
John Riccitiello: This is a start of an unprecedented relationship with Weta
So why is this news here? Is James Cameron going to use Unity to make games for Switch or what?
Does this mean that all games made with Unity will now feature Weta-quality visuals?
@thiz is exactly right.
I think the days of Unity having a bad rep for crappy games and games "looking like a Unity game" should be a thing of the past at this point.
At this point it's just ignorant to still be conveying that idea. It just so happens to be the most accessible and mobile friendly game engine in the world, so of course a lot of the content created with it is going to be terrible, made by people who don't know what they're doing.
On the other hand, some of the most beloved and highly rated Indie games in recent years have been created with Unity - Inside and the Ori games being some of the first that spring to mind. Most people would agree both those games have excellent visuals.
To my surprise, even Nintendo uses Unity for their mobile Mario Kart.
Anyway, Unity is actually extremely powerful in the right hands, and current day Unity has come on leaps and bounds, so much that I think it could stand toe to toe with Unreal in almost every scenario, even console standard games.
It has multithreaded asynchronous loading now, multithreaded physics, a very fast entity component system to power huge hordes of moving objects, an excellent level editor and general tools, plus an asset store full of some very impressive tools if stock Unity doesn't have quite what you're looking for.
Even the recent "Dusk" was made in Unity, and praised for being an incredible port and flawless performance.
Anyway I hope this deal works out well for Unity, it's a lot of money to be investing in film effects, when you're primarily a game engine.
@NoTinderLife Unity may get prettier?
Also, Unreal Engine has been in use for Virtual Production for a while now, most famously The Mandalorian is entirely done using it.
I can't quite figure out what Jackson is getting besides the WetaFX name b/c it seems like everything else including the employees is going to Unity.
Guess I'll go Google it, news this big shouldn't be too hard to find.
Something I’m really impressed by is the way Jackson filmed the Hobbit trilogy digital scenes. Basically he ran around in a giant garage with a 3D screen on his camera that displayed the WETA effects in action. And he filmed them like a regular director would as if they were there before him. So he was running around this place during battle scenes and just filming what was taking place in the screen like he was in the thick of it. It was fascinating and I wondered if video games could adopt some of the technology.
For a second I though 'tech assets' meant you'd be able to use Weta's back catalogue of cgi creatures as assets in whatever game you're developing in Unity. Orcs riding T-Rexes and what not. I don't think that's the case though.
@AG_Awesome Unfortunately, The Hobbit films looked like ass compared to The Lord of the Rings.
......Thought it said "Unity is bullying-" >_> lol
@NoTinderLife Yeah, the Avatar sequels are now going to be Switch exclusives 😅
Amazing how far Peter Jackson has come from doing movies like brain dead, bad taste and meet the feebles. To now one of the biggest movie people of all time, wonder what this venture will bring.
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