At some point, Epic Games might need to drop the word “Games” from its moniker and admit what kind of company it wants to be.
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.
The move follows increasingly aggressive steps by Epic to become an entirely new kind of digital media company in the near future.
A quicker way to slap SoundCloud rap into Fortnite?
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.”
While this might sound like Epic wants to acquire Bandcamp’s backend, web storefront, and iOS/Android apps—which are a user-friendly breath of fresh air compared to the continued clunkiness of Epic Games Store—this wording suggests that Bandcamp could be rolled into the Unreal asset sales ecosystem. Want to license and use music in the Unreal Engine project of your dreams? Perhaps future creators would search for tunes inside of Unreal Engine using Bandcamp’s existing tags (“math rock,” “SoundCloud rap,” “sex jazz“) and pay a license accordingly, the same way they currently find textures, assets, or other licensed content.
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.