Epic Games, makers of the massively popular Fortnite game and vocal opponent of Apple’s App Store practices, has bought likely the world’s largest 3D content site, SketchFab.
The stated goal?
Building an open and interconnected metaverse.
“By joining forces, 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,” Epic said today in an announcement.
It’s a major augmented reality, virtual reality, and 3D content move in a time when gaming and productivity are increasingly moving towards three-dimensional spaces. That includes both games played on tw0-dimensional screens as well as games and experiences enabled in virtual and augmented reality glasses or headsets. All of these have a ravenous hunger for 3D objects to place in environments and gameplay, and Sketchfab is arguably the world’s largest repository and marketplace for AR and VR content.
“The Sketchfab team has done an incredible job opening up the world of 3D content on the web and enabling anyone to edit and publish content online,” Marc Petit, VP and General Manager of Unreal Engine, said in a statement. “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.”
On Sketchfab, 3D content creators can upload and sell their scans of real-world objects. Some make more than $1,000/month selling their scans, founder and CEO Alban Denoyel told me in December of 2020.
One even got hired by Tesla and commissioned to 3D scan all new Tesla models.
The site has over four million 3D assets, the announcement says, while Sketchfab’s website says it has more then five million users and eight million regular monthly visitors.
One of Epic’s first moves?
Making the bottom paid tier of Sketchfab free, and bumping all paid users into higher-capability accounts. And, reducing Sketchfab’s marketplace fees to 12% so creators make more from their art and designs.
According to Epic, Sketchfab will continue to operate in a free and open way with all, despite now being owned by Epic.
“Going forward we will continue to enable all of the integrations in place with Sketchfab’s technology, as well as ensure the company’s offerings will remain compatible with each of the different tools and platforms they support,” the company says. “This includes wholeheartedly supporting Unity and other engines. Sketchfab will continue to operate as an independently branded service while collaborating closely with the Unreal Engine team.”
However, this acquisition places Epic’s Unreal Engine in an enviable position of having first-party access to 3D models for its customers, meaning that clients will be able to easily incorporate millions of objects into their games and environments and make them richer, more real, and more varied. As we move closer and closer to an AR and VR-enabled metaverse that incorporates more and more of our play, social, and work activity, that becomes increasingly important.
Sketchfab competitors include 3DExport, TurboSquid, Hum3D, and CGTrader.
It’ll be interesting to see if Epic competitors like Unity, which makes a massively popular gaming engine that is a rival to Epic’s Unreal Engine, or if platform owners like Apple or Google kick the tires on defensive acquisitions.