Unity to acquire Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital in $1.6 billion deal

Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital, the Academy Award-winning digital effects company famed for its work on the Lord of the Rings movies, is to be acquired by Unity game engine maker Unity Technologies for $1.625 billion.

Weta Digital, a separate company from Weta Workshop, was co-founded by Jackson in 1993. It has worked on some of the biggest movies and TV shows over the last few decades, including Avatar, The Avengers, Game of Thrones, and the LotR franchise. The deal will see Unity acquire Weta Digital’s artist tools, core pipeline, intellectual property, and engineering talent.

Weta’s visual effects business will continue as a separate company called WetaFX. Jackson will continue to hold a majority stake in this entity, which is expected to become one of Unity’s main customers.

Two hundred seventy-five engineers from Weta Digital will move to Unity, along with dozens of the New Zealand firm’s tools.

Unity writes that it will inherit Weta Digital’s asset library, including urban and natural environments, flora and fauna, humans, man-made objects, materials, textures, and more. Extra assets will be added as the WetaFX team continues its VFX work for film and TV productions. In addition to the assets being added to its engine, Unity eventually plans to offer the tools it acquires through a cloud-based subscription.

“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,” Jackson said in a statement.

Much of the announcement post references the new buzzword in tech: the metaverse. Unity says the acquisition will deliver tools to unlock the full potential of the metaverse, which will bring the need for more 3D content. “Whatever the metaverse is or will be, we believe it will be built by content creators, just like you,” Unity said.