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Epic Games bolsters 3D creator ecosystem with acquisition of Sketchfab

Renowned video game developer Epic Games, the company behind the widely-used Unreal Engine and games such as Fortnite and Gears of War, has acquired 3D model marketplace Sketchfab.

Based in New York, Sketchfab has spent the last ten years building its web-based 3D content platform, where users can share, edit, buy, and sell 3D, AR, and VR files. The marketplace is now home to over five million users and four million assets, including objects designed for 3D printing.

Epic Games hasn’t yet disclosed the terms of the acquisition, but has stated that Sketchfab will continue to operate with its own branding and identity while collaborating closely with the Unreal Engine team. By joining forces, the companies will ultimately be able to make the content on Sketchfab’s platform more accessible, all while growing both creator ecosystems simultaneously.

“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,” said Marc Petit, VP and General Manager of Unreal Engine. “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.”

The Sketchfab platform hosts over four million free and paid 3D models. Image via Sketchfab.
The Sketchfab platform hosts over four million free and paid 3D models. Image via Sketchfab.

An Unreal ecosystem

Epic’s Unreal Engine is one of the world’s most popular video game engines, and it’s been around since 1998. Over the past couple of decades, its use has grown beyond just the gaming industry, with applications in special effects, augmented reality, and other 3D media.

However, much like any engine, Unreal needs assets – digital 3D files used to populate video game worlds with characters and props. The company runs its own Unreal Engine marketplace for this purpose, where developers that can’t design their own assets simply buy them from those that can.

While the Unreal Engine marketplace has served as a hub for 3D creators for a number of years now, Epic Games is looking to up the ante. This is where Sketchfab comes in.

Building an interconnected metaverse

Much of the novelty in Sketchfab’s platform is in its accessibility and versatility. As a web-based marketplace, the technology integrates excellently with several major 3D design and publishing tools, including Blender and Maya. It is also already integrated with a variety of Epic Games products like RealityCapture and ArtStation, and entirely compatible with all commonly-used browsers and operating systems, mobile included.

Going forward, Epic Games will continue to support the extensive web of integrations currently in place with Sketchfab’s platform. This includes support for one of Unreal’s primary competitors: Unity.

Moreover, with Epic Games now at the helm, Sketchfab’s pricing policies have already been revamped to be more profitable for the platform’s 3D creators. Specifically, the store fees have been reduced from 30% to just 12%, which is huge for those that rely on the platform as a primary income source.

Additionally, the paid Sketchfab Plus plan has now been made completely free, meaning users will be given more uploads and larger file sizes without a fee. The even-more-premium Pro plan has been improved to provide 50 monthly uploads rather than 30, and the Business plan is set to be retired altogether.

“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,” said Alban Denoyel, CEO and co-founder of Sketchfab. “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.”

Unreal Engine enables users to create highly-realistic digital worlds for games and other media. Image via Epic Games.
Unreal Engine enables users to create highly-realistic digital worlds for games and other media. Image via Epic Games.

Much like the gaming sector, the 3D printing industry also has its fair share of 3D file marketplaces. Earlier this year, MyMiniFactory hosted a crowdfunding campaign for a luxury 3D printed timepiece designed by watchmaking enthusiast Mechanistic. The Tourbillon Mechanica Tri-Axial is a high-end, triple-axis timekeeping mechanism, and it can be 3D printed on consumer-grade FDM systems for less than $100.

Elsewhere, Physna, the company behind the deep learning-based 3D model platform Thangs, recently raised $56 million in its latest round of venture capital funding. Led by Tiger Global with contributions from GV and Sequoia Capital, the financing comes just five months after the company’s last Series B Round, which raised $20 million.

Nominations for the 2021 3D Printing Industry Awards are now open, have your say in who is leading the industry now.

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Featured image shows Unreal Engine 5. Image via Epic Games.

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