On Tuesday, Epic Games, the maker of Unreal Engine and studio behind Fortnite, continued its push into owning a corner of the game- and software-development ecosystem by acquiring Mediatonic, the makers of popular video game series Fall Guys.
The studio, headquartered in London with satellite operations throughout Europe, was formed in 2005 and is mostly known for contract work on licensed games (along with a significant stint making “web” games for platforms like Facebook), only to explode last year with Fall Guys, a quirky, family-friendly twist on the burgeoning “battle royale” genre. The game’s 2020 success was propelled in part by a PlayStation Plus giveaway and high viewership on Twitch.
Steam wiggle room?
This studio acquisition means Devolver Digital has been relieved as Fall Guys’ publisher. In its stead, Epic Games’ ownership of Unreal Engine will be leveraged, as per Mediatonic’s announcement on Fall Guys‘ future:
Fortnite and Rocket League already have tons of features we’d love to bring to Fall Guys—account systems, cross-play, squad vs. squad modes, etc… We’re going to work hard on bringing more of these features to Fall Guys, too!
This comparison to Rocket League is an immediate reminder that Epic has been bullish on the studio-acquisition front, since it purchased game maker Psyonix in May 2019. Within a year of that acquisition, Epic turned the game Rocket League (which originally launched with a $19.99 MSRP) into a free-to-play product, and Mediatonic’s FAQ on its own acquisition acknowledges this possibility by saying the company has “nothing to announce right now” about going F2P. In Psyonix’s transition, Rocket League was eventually wrested away from Steam for PC players, and Mediatonic has, for now, pledged that its own game “will remain purchasable on Steam and PlayStation” and will soon get ports to Xbox and Nintendo Switch. (That language about “will remain purchasable” gives Mediatonic and Epic Games plenty of wiggle room to change the deal going forward.)
Epic Games’ development-acquisition tear has largely revolved around software and tools, not game studios, as evidenced by the company’s acquisition of the hugely popular RAD compression and development suite in January. (If you’ve played console or PC games in the past decade, you’ve seen the RAD logo in at least one game’s opening crawl, if not dozens of them.) And two animation-minded acquisitions, of Hyprsense in November 2020 and Cubic Motion in March 2020, have been paid forward in Epic’s “digital humans” initiative, which revolves around impressive real-time human animations for Unreal Engine games and software alike. These acquisitions have come alongside continued rounds of funding in Epic’s favor, with summer 2020 seeing the studio getting an injection of $1.78 billion.