Weta Digital is being closed and 265 jobs are set to go following its 2021 sale to San Francisco-based video game engine developer Unity.
The US$1.6 billion (NZ$2.3 billion) acquisition was designed to commercialise Weta’s visual effects tools and put them into the hands of creators and artists worldwide on subscription by integrating them onto Unity's software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform.
Weta Digital’s award-winning VFX team continued as Wellinton-based Weta FX, Unity’s largest customer in the media and entertainment space and still under the majority ownership of Sir Peter Jackson and Dame Fran Walsh.
As part of the deal, Unity acquired 275 Weta engineers who architect, build and maintain Weta Digital's tools and pipeline; a foundational data platform for interoperable 3D art creation; and a library of thousands of assets that the Weta FX team was to continue to develop.
However, the deal included a professional services agreement with Weta FX which was terminated by Unity following a September revolt by game developer against the company's efforts to impose new fees and policies for the use of its software.
Unity also reportedly closed 14 offices around the world after it announced a loss this month.
According to the FX Guide web site, Weta FX has pledged to rehire some former staff from shuttered Weta Digital.
In a statement to FX Guide, Weta FX said Unity would retain ownership of the technology it acquired in December 2021, however, the technology would also remain available to Weta FX, which would continue to build and extend it and to develop its own tools.
The New Zealand registered Weta Digital entity was amalgamated with a newly registered Weta FX in late 2021, according to Companies Office records.
Unity CEO John Riccitello retired in October as the company's share price fell. Former IBM president Jim Whitehurst is now interim CEO.
The 265 employees repesent 3.8 per cent of Unity's global workforce.