A big announcement at Sketchfab today: they’ve been acquired by Epic Games.
Sketchfab, founded in 2012, is an online service that allows participants to share 3D and AR content. Users can upload 3D models and others can view them in 3D, embed them into web pages or even download the corresponding 3D model in some cases. It’s also possible to buy and sell 3D content, although there are plenty of free items on the site.
The site has grown significantly over the years, and now boasts an amazing 5M members, and over 4M 3D assets, placing them at a size similar to Thingiverse.
For 3D printing enthusiasts, Sketchfab is a place where 3D models could be displayed and downloaded. However, by far the bulk of Sketchfab’s content is not targeted for 3D printing, but instead is visual 3D assets. These would normally be used for games or other virtual experiences.
The focus on visual assets generally led those posting printable 3D models to other online repositories that were more focused on 3D printing, although there is substantial downloadable content on Sketchfab.
Now the company is part of giant Epic Games, which is best known for the Fortnite and Grand Theft Auto games.
But this is a bit of an odd combination. What will these two do together? Epic Games explains:
“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.”
I’m not sure what that means, but at a high level, I see that a gaming company now has a powerful outlet for 3D content. It could be that Epic Games sees Sketchfab as a way to market content that would otherwise be locked up in games.
It also looks like Sketchfab will continue, for the time being, as a separately operated company. Epic Games explains:
“Sketchfab will continue to operate as an independently branded service while collaborating closely with the Unreal Engine team.”
Sketchfab has also pledged to maintain any existing integrations. This is critically important, because a large and unknown number of sites have embedded Sketchfab content. Should those integrations break, it would be quite messy and Sketchfab would lose a lot of free coverage.
But there are some other interesting changes:
- Sketchfab is lowering their store commission to 12%, good news for creators
- The “Plus” membership level is now free of charge
- Existing Plus members are automatically upgraded to Pro level, but have an option to downgrade to Plus
- The Business plan is eliminated in favor of the Enterprise plan
I’m wondering if this is the start of a movement by game companies into the online asset repository space? Could we see other game companies acquire large 3D asset collections? Which repositories would be targeted? Would that include Thingiverse?