Nasdaq-listed Unity has bought Weta Digital's technology unit for US$1.63 billion (NZ$2.28b).

Unity, a platform for creating and operating interactive, real-time 3D content said it has entered into an agreement to acquire Weta Digital’s tools, pipeline, technology and engineering talent. 

The deal involves US$1 billion in cash and the rest in stock. 

“By combining the power of Unity and Weta Digital, the tools and technology that built characters and scenes from the world’s most iconic films such as Avatar, Lord of the Rings, and Wonder Woman, will enable an entirely new generation of creators to build, transform, and distribute stunning RT3D content,” said John Riccitiello, Unity chief executive. 

The move means that Weta’s visual effects tools will be accessible to artists around the world as they “shape the future of the metaverse”, according to Unity. 

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

“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,” he said.  

“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.”

Under the deal, Unity will obtain Weta’s 275 engineers that are known for designing, building, and maintaining Weta Digital tools and core pipeline.

It will also own dozens of industry-leading tools such as Manuka, Gazebo, Barbershop, Lumberjack, Loki, Squid, Koru, and more, as part of Weta’s production pipeline and data platform for interoperable 3D art creation, making it easy for hundreds of artists to work together.

It will also have a library of thousands of assets the WetaFX team will continue to accumulate. 

Weta Digital’s Academy award-winning VFX teams will continue to exist as a standalone entity known as WetaFX and is expected to become Unity’s largest customer in the media and entertainment space. 

WetaFX will still be under majority ownership by Jackson and run by chief executive Prem Akkaraju. 

Joe Marks, Weta chief technology officer, will join Unity as chief technology officer of Weta Digital. 

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