Video games and animation software firm Unity is to acquire New Zealand-based VFX studio Weta Digital in a $1.63 billion cash and stock deal.

Unity, which made the software behind the popular mobile phone game Temple Run, is buying all of Weta’s tools, pipeline, technology, and engineering talent.

Unity weta pic

Planet of the Apes VFX by Weta

Weta was founded by The Lord of the Rings director Sir Peter Jackson, and has VFX credits spanning Avatar, Black Widow, Game of Thrones, Planet of the Apes and The Suicide Squad.

Unity said the acquisition would put Weta’s VFX tools into the hands of millions of creators and artists around the world, enable the next generation of RT3D creativity and shape the future of the metaverse.

Unity is betting that the metaverse, which will connect users through augmented and virtual reality, will require artists to work with new tools to build realistic projects.

Weta Digital’s proprietary graphics and VFX tools include Manuka, Lumberjack, Loki, Squid, Barbershop, HighDef and CityBuilder.

Weta Digital’s Academy Award winning VFX team will continue to exist as a standalone entity known as WetaFX, and will still be under majority ownership by Jackson and helmed by CEO Prem Akkaraju.

“Weta Digital’s tools created unlimited possibilities for us to bring to life the worlds and creatures that originally lived in our imaginations,” said Jackson. “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.”

“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,” said John Riccitiello, president and chief executive officer, Unity.

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