Sony invests £200 million in Fortnite and Unreal Engine creator Epic Games
The makers of PlayStation are now a minority stakeholder in the makers of Fortnite, as the two companies hint at future collaborations.
The surprise deal seems to have less to do with Fortnite, or other ventures such as the Epic Games Store, and more to do with Unreal Engine 5, which was used to provide the first look at PlayStation 5 graphics and a project on which the two companies worked together very closely.
According to Sony, the investment will allow them to increase their level of collaboration, ‘across Sony’s leading portfolio of entertainment assets and technology, and Epic’s social entertainment platform and digital ecosystem to create unique experiences for consumers and creators.’
For their part, Epic Games has now raised the equivalent of £1.26 billion in three separate funding rounds, starting with a £262 million investment from Chinese giant Tencent in 2012, which bought them a 40% ownership stake in the company.
Epic are a considerably different company than they were back in 2012 though and Sony’s money today has bought them a mere 1.4% stake in the company, which if you do the maths means that Epic Game are currently worth around £14 billion (Sony has a net worth of around £69 billion).
Such a small stake gives Sony no control over the company, so what exactly they’re getting out of the deal – apart from investing in a successful company – is unclear, as Unreal Engine has always been multiformat and that’s very unlikely to change.
Working closer with Epic for PlayStation exclusive features would still be a benefit though, especially after the revelation that Unreal Engine 5 was rewritten specifically to take advantage of the PlayStation 5’s faster SSD.
‘Epic’s powerful technology in areas such as graphics places them at the forefront of game engine development with Unreal Engine and other innovations’, said Sony president and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida.
‘Through our investment, we will explore opportunities for further collaboration with Epic to delight and bring value to consumers and the industry at large, not only in games, but also across the rapidly evolving digital entertainment landscape.’
For Epic’s part it’s not obvious if they have any specific plans for the money, as beyond Unreal Engine 5 they haven’t announced any major new projects lately. But clearly they’re now in an extremely privileged position, since they own both one of the most successful games on the market and one of the most successful software technologies.
According to Epic boss Tim Sweeney, the two companies, ‘share a vision of real-time 3D social experiences leading to a convergence of gaming, film, and music. Together we strive to build an even more open and accessible digital ecosystem for all consumers and content creators alike’.
The talk of social experiences and film and music seems like a reference to Fortnite’s Party Royale, which has been successful used for music performances and to show movies – which is likely to be of increasing interest to Sony’s own music and film divisions.
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