Peter Jackson sells Weta Digital to gaming company for $1.6bn

10 Nov 2021

Image: Weta Digital

Weta Digital’s Oscar-winning visual effects teams will remain under majority ownership of the Lord of the Rings director.

Weta Digital, the visual effects company that has worked on blockbuster films such as Lord of the Rings and Avatar, will be acquired by video games software company Unity.

The deal will see Unity acquire Weta Digital’s tools, pipeline, technology and engineering talent for more than $1.6bn.

Weta Digital was co-founded by award-winning New Zealand film director Peter Jackson, best known as the director, writer and producer of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies.

The company is also behind the visual effects in Planet of the Apes, Game of Thrones and Godzilla vs Kong. The team has earned six Oscars for visual effects, 13 Academy Scientific and Technical awards and six visual effects BAFTAs.

As part of the deal, Weta Digital’s visual effects teams will continue to exist as a standalone entity known as WetaFX and will remain under majority ownership of Jackson.

“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.”

Gaming platform Unity provides software to create, run and monetise interactive, real-time 2D and 3D content for mobile phones, tablets, PCs and consoles as well as AR and VR devices.

The company’s technology is behind games such as Pokémon Go and Call of Duty: Mobile. Last year, the company acquired Irish software company Artomatix, with plans to create 100 jobs in Dublin.

In its latest earnings call yesterday (9 November), Unity reported revenue of $286.3m in the third quarter of 2021, an increase of 43pc from the third quarter of 2020.

Unity’s president and CEO, John Riccitiello, said the company’s strong performance was driven by innovation in data science, vertical growth and the company’s strides in bringing real-time 3D technologies and tools to as many creators and artists as possible.

“We are proud to announce our intentions to acquire Weta Digital as we aim to bring their dozens of tools and assets to creators around the world,” he added. “This sends a powerful message: all types of creators and digital artists can turn to Unity to create rich, interactive content and build experiences regardless of industry.”

The proposed acquisition is expected to close during Unity’s fourth quarter 2021 and is subject to customary closing conditions.

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Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic