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Report: Facebook wanted to buy Unity game engine to drive VR and AR business

Wants to be a key player in the next major computing platform after mobile
Report: Facebook wanted to buy Unity game engine to drive VR and AR business

Facebook considered buying game engine maker Unity Technologies back in 2015, according to claims made in a new book.

Called ‘The History of the Future’ by Blake Harris, the book tells the story of how virtual reality firm Oculus was founded and how the company, Facebook and the broader VR sector have evolved the technology into a multi-billion dollar industry.

Signalling support

As reported by TechCrunch, an email allegedly from Mark Zuckerberg in June 22nd 2015 to then Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and other execs reveals his interest in acquiring Unity.

This was just a year after Facebook had bought Oculus for $3 billion (at the time widely reported as $2bn).

It should be noted that Harris worked closely with Facebook’s PR team on the book and this particular email was said to have been obtained by him from access the had to more than 25,000 documents from the company.

One of Facebook’s key goals, according to the letter, was to build VR and AR as “the next major computing platform after mobile in about 10 years”.

Zuckerberg noted that Facebook was “vulnerable” on mobile to Apple and Google due to their dominating positions and wanted to ensure Facebook is positioned as a leader for what comes next.

Increasing investment in AR and VR tech was seen as a way of speeding up this process and increasing the likelihood the Facebook would indeed become a major player in this space.

Zuckerberg said to grow its influencer, Facebook would need to make major investments in apps, platform services, development / graphics and AR, rather than simply build everything it needs from scratch. That’s where the idea of buying Unity came in.

The next computing platform

He noted that by buying Unity and investing billions into it, the game engine could help it integrate the software and hardware components of its VR and AR ecosystem. With Unity development support, it might also encourage other engine makers such as Unreal to support its tech for their own customers too.

“Going back to the question of whether it is worth investing billions of dollars into Unity and other core technology over the next decade, the most difficult aspect to evaluate is that we cannot definitively say that if we do X, we will succeed,” read the email allegedly from Zuckerberg.

“There are many major pieces of this ecosystem to assemble and many different ways we could be hobbled. All we know is that this improves our chances to build something great.

“Given the overall opportunity of strengthening our position in the next major wave of computing, I think it’s a clear call to do everything we can to increase our chances.

“A few billion dollars is expensive, but we can afford it. We’ve built our business so we can build even greater things for the world, and this is one of the greatest things I can imagine us building for the future.”

Despite support of the deal at the time, Facebook’s acquisition of Unity never came to fruition. In recent years, Unity has gone on to raise nearly $600 million in funding and is reportedly eyeing up a 2020 initial public offering.