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Game engine maker Unity buys Weta Digital from Peter Jackson

Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has sold his Weta Digital special effects business to Unity, the developer of the popular self-titled video game engine.

The $1.6 billion (around £1.2 billion) deal will see Weta’s formidable suite of VFX tools placed “into the hands of millions of creators and artists”, according to a statement from the company.

Weta’s technology will also be integrated onto the Unity platform itself, which will apparently “enable the next generation of RT3D creativity and shape the future of the metaverse”.

Weta Digital was co-founded in 1993 by Peter Jackson, and has since built a formidable reputation for its special effects work on such films as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Avatar, King Kong, District 9, and the Planet of the Apes reboots.

It has become particularly renowned for its work in creating convincing computer generated characters such as Gollum, Caesar the intelligent chimpanzee (pictured), and Avatar’s Na’vi.

As part of the deal, 275 Weta Digital engineers will move over to the Unity team, as will “dozens” of the New Zealand company’s industry-leading tools.

Despite this sweeping acquisition, Weta Digital’s VFX teams will continue to operate separately under the new name WetaFX, with Peter Jackson retaining majority ownership. The statement claims that WetaFX “is expected to become Unity’s largest customer in the Media and Entertainment space”.

The deal should mean exciting things within the video gaming and virtual reality space, where Unity finds itself in heated competition with Epic Games and its Unreal Engine.

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