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Sony has invested another $1 billion into Fortnite maker Epic Games, having sunk $250 million into the company in July 2020. That $250M was part of a larger round of funding Epic got in 2021 that added up to $1B, so this new billion from Sony makes it $2B total for building the Epic metaverse so far, and the single largest investments of any company into the Metaverse concept.

Kirkbi, the family-owned company behind The Lego Group, also invested $1 billion in Epic this week. Epic tweeted the partnership of Lego and Epic will “build a fun place for kids to play in the metaverse!”

Søren Thorup Sørensen, CEO of Kirkbi, added, “A proportion of our investments is focused on trends we believe will impact the future world that we and our children will live in. This investment will accelerate our engagement in the world of digital play, and we are pleased to be investing in Epic Games to support their continued growth journey, with a long-term focus toward the future metaverse.”

“Kids enjoy playing in digital and physical worlds and move seamlessly between the two. We believe there is huge potential for them to develop life-long skills such as creativity, collaboration and communication through digital experiences. But we have a responsibility to make them safe, inspiring and beneficial for all,” LEGO Group CEO, Niels Christiansen said in a statement.

Lego has shown a remarkable ability to adapt to different media and wide-ranging content across generations. If anyone succeeds in the metaverse it will likely be them.

Headquartered in Cary, N.C., Epic Games was founded by CEO Tim Sweeney in 1991. In addition to Fortnite, Epic developed the 3D game engine Unreal Engine. Their previous big hit was the Gears of War series. Today the company has some 40 offices around the world.

“This investment will accelerate our work to build the metaverse and create spaces where players can have fun with friends, brands can build creative and immersive experiences and creators can build a community and thrive,” Sweeney says in a statement.

For Sony the investment will advance its “development of new digital fan experiences in sports and our virtual production initiatives,” says Kenichiro Yoshida, Chairman, president and CEO of Sony Group Corp.

Sony is itself a VG giant, with massive hits like God of War, Uncharted, and Marvel’s Spider-Man series. Ratchet and Clank and Street Fighter are Playstation exclusives. Making us wonder how they will appear in the Multiverse.

Epic Games has already created something that has metaverse-like features in Fortnite, with its battle royale shooter growing beyond its original purpose into a social platform where players can play as characters and celebrities from major franchises and watch virtual concerts.

The investment appears conspicuously timed after Epic officially released Unreal Engine 5 last week, an advanced tech that will likely play a significant role in developing whatever non-Fortnite metaverse Epic + Sony + Lego have in mind. Unreal Engine is already being used to create some of the world’s best games on virtually every platform, as well as providing tools for the motion picture community to create stunning visuals in real time.

The new release of Unreal Engine is groundbreaking in a number of ways, including the addition of very sophicated animation and modeling tools, special technology that allows digital assets of any density to be used without limitation, global illumination that updates in real time rather than having to be baked into the backgrounds, and a great deal more.

The quality of the real time imagery produced by Unreal Engine has no peer. Its rendering engine is capable of producing results distinguishable from traditional CGI only by the eyes of highly skilled industry experts. The previous release of Unreal Engine is used as the foundation for Lucasfilm’s virtual sets, as used in The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and in the upcoming Obi-wan Kenobi series, and the new release of the software is head and shoulders above even that. Unreal Engine is far and away the best choice for producing the kind of graphics that will be needed to implement the Metaverse as its currently being envisioned.

The big news for Epic Games rival Unity 3d (Angry Birds, Cuphead) wasn’t money coming in to help them build a Metaverse, it was their own money investing in WETA. WETA (The Batman, Black Widow, Lord of the Rings) is currently one of the only a handful of leading visual effects creators for major Hollywood productions. That may be saying something important about where the chips are falling in this silent battle for the Metaverse. The big money clearly thinks Epic is going to be the epicenter of the Metaverse as it develops and evolves, and they’re putting their money where their mouths are. Industry experts believe that the Metaverse as we saw it in Ready Player One might be a decade away, but the biggest voices in media are already lining up their investments.

And what will Disney do? Kingdom Hearts is great, but maybe they will need to team up also. So far they haven’t said anything about what they’re planning, but with Meta having dropped $10B on metaverse development just in the past year, it’s probably time to pick a direction.

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David Raiklen
David Raiklen

David Raiklen wrote, directed and scored his first film at age 9. He began studying keyboard and composing at age 5. He attended, then taught at UCLA, USC and CalArts. Among his teachers are John Williams and Mel Powel.
He has worked for Fox, Disney and Sprint. David has received numerous awards for his work, including the 2004 American Music Center Award. Dr. Raiklen has composed music and sound design for theater (Death and the Maiden), dance (Russian Ballet), television (Sing Me a Story), cell phone (Spacey Movie), museums (Museum of Tolerance), concert (Violin Sonata ), and film (Appalachian Trail).
His compositions have been performed at the Hollywood Bowl and the first Disney Hall. David Raiken is also host of a successful radio program, Classical Fan Club.

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