The parent company of Unity, one of the most popular game development engines in the world, has made arguably its biggest acquisition of another gaming company yet. The deal, announced on Tuesday, sees Unity taking control of Parsec, a peer-to-peer game-streaming protocol. The acquisition is valued at $320 million.
In the years since Unity’s 2005 inception, its tools have been used to make games for pretty much every console, smartphone, and VR platform imaginable. It’s similar to other publicly available game engines like Unreal, as it revolves around a general toolset that can be used to build video games from scratch or expanded upon as developers see fit. Unity users can then nimbly port finished games across a variety of weaker and stronger platforms.
A recent stock market IPO by Unity Technologies infused the company with cash, which it has used to, among other things, move ahead with company acquisitions. However, Parsec may not immediately seem like a good fit for Unity’s reputation. How does peer-to-peer game streaming tie into someone trying to make video games?
Dev-facing, not consumer-facing
Part of Unity Technologies’ decision is the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced game studios from around the world to adapt to an increasingly remote workplace. Parsec fits into that picture by allowing game makers to efficiently and securely stream their PC and console environments as needed. Sources familiar with the matter have repeatedly pointed to Parsec as an increasingly relied-upon service for game makers, QA testing departments, and other parts of the game industry, so that exact PC and console testing situations can be emulated with minimal button-tap latency issues.
As it turns out, the game-streaming team at Stadia was making the same remote-testing sales pitch to game studios last year, as well. In Google’s case, however, Stadia got caught with its confidential pants down after accidentally leaking an unreleased Ubisoft game in June 2020—shortly before the game in question, Immortals: Fenyx Rising, received a more formal debut.
Parsec’s public face most involves average consumers using Parsec to brute-force some of their favorite games into working online when the games otherwise don’t include native online modes. Parsec isn’t the only service with that sales pitch: Valve in late 2019 rolled out a similar service, Steam Remote Play, as a built-in toggle within its popular PC gaming storefront. But Parsec has long differentiated itself in pitches to game studios as a useful remote-workplace option, which is arguably where much of its latest $320 million valuation stems from.
Epic Games, Unity’s most well-known rival in the game-engine space, has been busy with its own slew of acquisitions, as well. The biggest of these have been full-fledged game studios like Psyonix (Rocket League) and Mediatonic (Fall Guys), though Epic has also spent a decent pile of cash acquiring complementary tools that you might expect to attach directly to a toolset like Epic’s Unreal Engine.
As I wrote in March:
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.