Unreal buys Sketchfab

Sketchfab was founded in 2012 by Cédric Pinson, Alban Denoyel, and Pierre-Antoine Passet in Paris. They said they founded the company because they wanted to solve the huge challenge of 3D content creation: the difficulty of creating 3D models. The community of content creators and buyers has grown to 5 million.

Sketchfab says they introduced the first web-based 3D player. That’s a pretty big claim, but they did have a very good viewer, which helped them sell their customers 3D models online. In addition, through Sketchfab for Teams, groups can collaborate on content with shared access to purchased models.

Unreal says Sketchfab will continue as an independent company. However, the relationship between Epic and Sketchfab began early in 2021 through an Epic MegaGrant in which the two companies collaborated to better integrate Sketchfab with other Epic tools including RealityCapture and ArtStation. That integration will continue as they develop for 3D, VR/AR platforms.

The business model for Sketchfab has been to offer subscriptions to content creators who could sell their content on the site and the site also took a portion of the sales price for models. Subscriptions varied according to the size of the models and the number of models uploaded to the site. As part of Epic, Sketchfab’s fees on model sales through the store have been reduced to 12% from 30% and the number of business tiers has been reduced.

According to the Epic FAQ on the subject:

The free program gives people 10 uploads per month to showcase models and unlimited uploads for models that are available in the store or downloadable. File size has been raised to 100 MB from 50 MB, and models may be annotated with up to 10 annotations per model.

The Pro plan has been expanded. Users who were previously paying for the Plus Program are automatically updated to the Pro plan which gives them 30 uploads a month. Uploads are unlimited in the case of downloadable models and models in the store. Models can be private and password protected. They can have custom backgrounds and environments. And, users can add up to 20 annotations per model up from 10. The Pro Plan is now $15.

The Enterprise plan will be Sketchfab’s service for large companies and services and fees are worked out on a per-company basis. Companies that were formerly in Sketchfab’s Business plan have been automatically promoted to Enterprise customers. Those deals will be updated in June 2022.

This latest deal is in line with Epic’s previous acquisitions. They are focused on growing the company’s 3D creation tools. The grand plan seems to be to make it ever more possible to create content for game engines to feed on. SketchFab is an example of a tool that crosses many disciplines, art, engineering, and AEC.

What do we think?

We’re not yet at the point where we can create high-end 3D content with pre-made models, scanned models, and use procedural tools like SpeedTree, which was recently acquired by Unity, Adobe’s Substance, or Quixel also acquired by Epic to fill in the gaps. For one thing, some of that stuff is as hard to do as build 3D models. There is a clear drive for tools to make 3D authoring more accessible and someday we will see a time when we can tell our own stories in 3D.