Another Acquisition: Epic May Be Moving Beyond Just Gaming By Acquiring Bandcamp

from the very-interesting dept

We’ve been talking quite a bit lately about consolidation within the video game industry. As is often the case in times of economic strife, the pandemic has led to large entities in the gaming industry gobbling up smaller entities. Microsoft acquired Zenimax. Then Microsoft acquired Activision Blizzard King for a wild amount of money. Soon after, Sony acquired Bungie. Nintendo, being Nintendo, has mostly stayed on the sidelines other than acquiring a company that is geared specifically towards making Nintendo games.

And then Epic Games acquired… Bandcamp?

Today the game maker moved to acquire Bandcamp, an online music-streaming service that revolves around DRM-free purchases of MP3s, FLACs, and other audio files. The news emerged via press releases from both Bandcamp and Epic on Wednesday. As of press time, neither side of the deal has clarified its financial terms.Enter your email to get the Ars Technica newsletter

Thus far, Epic’s growth trajectory has involved acquisitions of gaming studios, software developers, and tool creators, all of which make sense with Epic’s Unreal Engine product. The companies in question have brought Epic tools like superior compression or more realistic virtual humans, which all slot into open-ended 3D-creation systems like Unreal Engine 4 and 5.

But what exactly does Bandcamp bring to the Unreal Engine table? As of press time, Epic isn’t saying. The best hint comes in Epic’s Wednesday press release on the matter, which emphasizes Epic’s “vision to build out a creator marketplace ecosystem for content, technology, games, art, music and more.”

Now, there are a ton of potential strategies behind this acquisition. The most obvious of them would be to fold Bandcamp into Epic’s offerings with the Unreal Engine to make music available via license to those that use the engine to make games. It’d be something like stock footage, but for video game music. Given the wide adoption of the engine within the industry, this makes a fair amount of sense.

But such pedestrian plans are far less tantalizing than the idea of Epic looking to get out of the video game silo and into several other content markets.

Additionally, Epic is doing a bad job of hiding a story that has been brewing in its home state of North Carolina ever since the company acquired and began developing a new 980,000-square-foot headquarters in early 2021. Sources familiar with Epic Games’ dealings have pointed to job listings (not necessarily under the “Epic Games” banner) that blur the line between video game production duties and live-action filming needs. At least some of these positions involve this new, massive physical location, which was previously a mall down the road from Epic’s existing offices in Cary, North Carolina.

That news follows Unreal Engine’s increasingly popular utility in TV and film production throughout Hollywood. Ars Technica has previously covered how beloved film director/producer Jon Favreau favored Unreal Engine as a real-time digital effects system and how UE allowed camera crews and actors alike to frame and preview CGI aspects in the middle of a live-action shoot.

Now that is interesting. While the execs at Bandcamp are saying that the platform will continue operating as is for now, it isn’t hard to imagine what Epic could do with the platform if it truly does want to morph into a multi-type content company. I wasn’t aware, for instance, that some movie director’s use the Unreal Engine for mockups of movie scenes and for special effects. Building a music platform into the engine suddenly makes it far more likely that the engine could be used for something closer to full productions: movies created within the engine and the soundtrack from the Bandcamp side, as well.

And Epic’s own press release on the manner suggests that the company is looking to “build out a creator marketplace ecosystem for content, technology, games, art, music and more.” We’ll forgive that press release its Oxford comma for now, because, while this acquisition gives us some hints at what Epic is trying to build, it will likely be the next one that confirms it.

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Companies: bandcamp, epic, epic games

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Comments on “Another Acquisition: Epic May Be Moving Beyond Just Gaming By Acquiring Bandcamp”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

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The first thought I had was owning Bandcamp would simplify rights issues for streamers. A one stop shop where you can get the engine for your game and music that won’t lead to players hating you for takedowns over authorized music/sound.

After seeing the videos over at Ars, I can see them gathering all of the resources in 1 place. Rather than hope someone can find music that fits your scene, you have access to Bandcamp & can search for the right fit, acquire rights, and have it injected into your shoot.

One would think the next acquisition on the block would be a site specializing in photorealistic artists working in digital media. No more having to get clearances or blur out 100 signs in the background, there were never drawn in. No more having to close down a neighborhood to capture a specific look. Lots of costs savings there.

I look forward to what might be next.

Matteste says:

Epic monopoly

To me, it seems like Epic is trying to make themselves “Too big to fail”. That if they fall then so many other sectors will be affected and that other will want to keep them to prevent the alternative.

This of course also means that they are increasingly trying to make it so that if you want to make a game then you have to go through their channels one way or the other.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

This doesn’t bode well.

I worry that this might lead to the end of buying music on Bandcamp, at least in the traditional sense. Epic could eventually see a “pivot” to some form of streaming-only delivery as the next phase of Bandcamp’s existence. (That might also tie into the licensing-for-movies idea laid out in the article.) Were that to happen, who knows how many indie artists might leave Bandcamp⁠—or even stop making music.

I’d like to hope Epic keeps Bandcamp as it is. But I’ve seen too many of these tech-based mergers ultimately destroy the absorbed entity. In this context, hope is a resource I can no longer afford.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

This is the sort of thing that can go either way. If Epic are just going to leave the site alone and use it as an easy repo for content to use elsewhere or expand into other markets, it might not be the worst thing. Give Epic’s predilection to using free giveaways to drive traffic to its games store, you can even argue that the day where it waives its fees is even protected by the company philosophy.

But, most corporate mergers involve some kind of change in the way they operate, and while Bandcamp was apparently quite profitable already, most incoming management types will want to prove themselves by increasing profits in a big way. Sometimes this works, sometimes they end up driving out the people and the culture that made them successful in the first place.

We’ll see where this goes, but given that the very reason why they bought it in the first place has got so many people scratching their heads, it’s right to be sceptical of where that strategy will ultimately lead. Whatever Epic’s track record on such things, it’s clear that this is a different proposition all over.

Anonymous Coward says:

Epic also owns Harmonix. Harmonix said that they’re gonna be helping to make musical experiences in Fortnite, such as the Ariana Grande and Travis Scott concerts they had before the acquisition. There’s synergy there.

Fortnite also has a Creative sandbox mode. If Harmonix could create some kind of tool within Fortnite to let people make rhythm game experiences with their Bandcamp libraries, or a rotation of songs from artists on Bancamp, that would also be neat.

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