Unity buys Peter Jackson’s special effects studio to develop metaverse

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The Weta Digital special effects studio, one of the most renowned in the film industry, is to be sold to Unity. The latter will rely on the technology of the studio created by director Peter Jackson to develop the “metaverse”.

The American company Unity, based in San Francisco, will acquire the New Zealand special effects studio Weta Digital. Created by Peter Jackson in the early 1990s, this studio has built a solid reputation in the world of cinema by working on the special effects of blockbusters such as the Trilogy of Lord of the Rings, King Kong, Avatar, The jungle Book, Jumanji: Next Level or many Marvel productions (The avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Black widow, The Eternals…), as well as series like Game Of Thrones. A well-filled CV that convinced Unity Sofware to announce its intention to buy Weta Digital for an amount of 1.6 billion dollars, or 1.38 billion euros. The transaction, which is expected to be finalized before the end of the fourth quarter of 2021, should allow Unity to develop the metaverse.

The word has been trending for a few months – we can even speak of buzzword – and has aroused the interest of many companies. The metaverse is even presented as the next Internet revolution by Mark Zuckerberg who has a strong interest in this parallel digital universe. The manager of the Facebook and Instagram platforms, WhatsApp and Messenger messaging and Oculus virtual reality headsets has even renamed in October his company in Meta. Unity Software does not want to miss the boat and has therefore decided to get its hands on the technology that Weta owns, even as this software specialist is losing money. As a reminder, the company is at the origin of the Unity multiplatform game engine, one of the most used in the video game industry.

Director Peter Jackson will remain the majority owner of an independent film effects company called WetaFX. © Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

The competitor of the Unreal Engine thus offers itself a reinforcement of choice and can hope to continue its diversification in the cinema. Its game engine had indeed been used for the film. The Lion King released in 2019. “We are delighted to democratize these cutting-edge tools and bring the genius of Sir Peter Jackson and the incredible engineering talent of Weta to life for artists around the world.”, assures John Riccitiello, President and CEO of Unity. By combining the power of Unity and Weta Digital, the tools and technology that built the characters and scenes of the world’s most iconic films, such as Avatar, The Lord of the Rings and Wonder Woman, will enable a whole new generation of creators to build, transform and distribute RT3D content [technologie 3D en temps réel] breathtaking “.

Unity recovers tools and engineers from Weta Digital

As part of this agreement, Unity will acquire the technology and various visual effects (VFX) tools from Weta Digital. The firm will also welcome the studio’s 275 specialized engineers within its Create Solutions division. In contrast, the press release confirms that the VFX teams will continue to exist as a standalone entity dubbed WetaFX. This independent film effects company will remain owned by Peter Jackson and is expected to become Unity’s biggest customer “In the field of media and entertainment”. When asked, the New Zealand director said: “Together, Unity and Weta Digital can pave a way for any artist, regardless of industry, to take advantage of these incredibly creative and powerful tools. Providing aspiring creators with access to Weta Digital technology will be nothing short of a revolution, and Unity is precisely the company that will bring this vision to life ”.

If the deal appears to satisfy both parties, it will still need to be approved by regulators. According to Variety, the deal involves a check for $ 1 billion and the payment of $ 625 million in stock.

With this deal, Unity recovers powerful tools that have proven successful in many big budget movies. The acquisition of Weta Digital could allow the company to change dimensions without being limited to Hollywood. While the world of cinema is increasingly interested in real-time 3D, Unity sees wider and stands ready “To shape the future of the metaverse” without detailing its plans. “Whatever the metaverse is, we believe it will be built by content creators”, says Marc Whitten, senior vice president and general manager of Unity Create.

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