Epic Games has acquired Sketchfab, an online platform for displaying 3D content. The site has over 4 million files on display and 5 million members. With Sketchfab, companies, designers, and artists can display, share and sell 3D files through a handy embeddable viewer. Sketchfab wants to become the world’s home for 3D content and the Epic acquisition will strengthen this.
Sketchfab co-founder and CEO Alban Denoyel said of the acquisition:
“We built Sketchfab with a mission to empower a new era of creativity and provide a service for creators to showcase their work online and make 3D content accessible. Joining Epic will enable us to accelerate the development of Sketchfab and our powerful online toolset, all while providing an even greater experience for creators. We are proud to work alongside Epic to build the Metaverse and enable creators to take their work even further.”
Marc Petit, VP and General Manager of Unreal Engine, said,
“As the adoption of real-time 3D technology continues to grow, demand for web-based solutions will only increase. We are excited to work together with the Sketchfab team to empower even more creators.”
As a result of the purchase, Sketchfab lowered its store transaction fee to 12%, made all Plus features free, gave paying Plus-tier customers their Pro tier for free, increased the amount of monthly uploads from 30 to 50 for Pro, and got rid of Business plans, replacing them with an Enterprise package. I love that the company immediately changed its pricing because it really signals to users that they’re serious about maintaining the platform and its features much more so than any hale promises.
The company said that, “Epic and Sketchfab will be able to make 3D, AR and VR content more accessible and grow the creator ecosystem, which are critical to an open and interconnected Metaverse.”
Don’t worry I had to look that up too. The Metaverse apparently is a collection of virtual worlds, AR and VR assets, and crypto funny business which is meant to connect us all together. It was inspired by Neal Stephenson’s Metaverse, from his book Snow Crash. Sketchfab will continue to be an independent brand, but will be increasingly integrated into other Epic offerings.
Epic, which you may know from Fortnite, is a gaming company that creates a number of tools that other companies use to make games. Its Unreal Engine is a development software that is used to make games, marshaling the 3D assets made for those games, and making it so that virtual rain rains and virtual things blow up. The physics, rendering, and sound can be created in Unreal Engine, which has about a 13% market share with the competing Unity engine, which has around 48%.
Epic also maintains a store where people can trade 3D assets, such as textures and files, for use in Unreal. The Sketchfab acquisition would naturally bolster that effort. It also hosts the Epic Gamestore, which takes 12% from games companies that ply their wares to gamers there. Epic Online Services is a tool that allows game companies to easily add features like leaderboards and matchmaking on games for different types of devices. Epic also has Twinmotion, which turns CAD files into 360 degree videos, a photogrammetry tool that lets users capture 3D scan content, and MetaHuman Creator, which enables the creation of digital copies of people.
We’d like to think of ourselves as being at the intersection of bits and bytes, but Epic remixes, spreads and reaches millions of people with its tools to use bytes for more bytes. Where we’re working on making the virtual world real, they’re working on making the virtual world better. Unreal Engine is quickly becoming the default way that a great deal of 3D content is being made, such as Apple TV’s The Mandalorian, as well as advertisements for major car companies.
We don’t know the price, but for the Sketchfab team, this is a logical partner for the long term. This gives team members and management perspective to grow and we’re assuming that Epic’s $28 billion market cap meant that the money was good, as well. Apart from, perhaps, a sale to Autodesk, there were few natural partners for the firm. They were cash flow positive, so they could have slugged it out, but this seems to make a lot of sense.
For Epic, this will be just another puzzle piece in its conquering of the 3D world. It seems well placed to be an important toolchain for the capture, manipulation, marshaling and use of 3D assets in many virtual and entertainment environments. If the company collaborated with a 3D printing service or, indeed, bought Mixed Dimensions, it could further commercialize 3D assets and in-game objects. A lot of firms have tried and failed to do this in the past.
But the user base is massive and companies like Epic are giants eclipsing our own leading 3D printing firms. Fortnite has over 350 million users. If only five percent of them would buy a cute, affordable, 3D printed in-game item, then it would instantly be one of the most popular 3D printing applications of all time. Epic could also decide to make it so that all files 3D scanned with an iPhone could become game assets. Or it could work on file fixing for 3D printing, as well. This is one company that can have a huge influence on the future of our industry.
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