Avatar: The Way of Water Avatar: The Way of Water

Unity Software is laying off 265 workers, or 3.8% of its global workforce, from its Unity Weta Tools division. The company is also terminating a professional service agreement with Weta FX (formerly Weta Digital).

In addition to the layoffs, first reported by Reuters, Unity will shutter 14 of its offices and scale down its remaining locations. The company will scrap its policy that employees must work from the office at least three days a week and will reduce full in-office services to three days per week at most of its locations.

In December 2021, Unity purchased Weta Digital’s tools, pipeline technology, and 275 of Weta’s engineering staff for $1.625 billion. Weta Digital, the vfx studio, was rebranded as a standalone company under majority ownership by Peter Jackson and headed by CEO Prem Akkaraju. The company continued to use the tools and technology owned by Unity on projects such as Avatar: The Way of Water.

As recently as August of this year, Unity still had big plans for the Weta Tools unit and debuted its Unity Weta Tools division at SIGGRAPH. The company will continue to own the technology it acquired and will evaluate the ways to enhance its offerings over time. Meanwhile, Weta FX will have the right to build and extend the IP, and develop its own tools and techniques.

After Unity’s decision was announced, Weta FX put out a statement which reads:

Wētā FX will be extending offers to as many of the team as possible as it looks to expand its research, development, and support functions. Unity will retain ownership of the technology it acquired from Wētā in December 2021 and will be evaluating the best way to enhance its offerings with it over time. The technology will also remain fully available to Wētā FX. Wētā FX will continue to build and extend the IP and develop its own tools and techniques to continue its evolution as a leader in visual effects.

Explaining why Unity made the decision, Weta said:

Unity believes the Wētā Digital team are remarkable, but Unity needs to become leaner as it focuses its expertise on its core business. It also believes it makes more sense for Wētā FX to own full end-to-end production activities directly. Unity will be focusing its expertise and people on other matters, and Wētā FX will be getting support for its use of the Wētā Tools directly from its own crew – a shorter path which makes sense for both companies.

Unity’s layoffs come during a rough patch for the company, which earned the ire of many game developers after changing its pricing models and Terms of Service in September. Numerous developers abandoned Unity entirely, and the company saw a steep drop in share price. In the fallout, longtime CEO John Riccitiello retired and was replaced by interim CEO Jim Whitehurst.

Speaking with Reuters, Whitehurst explained that this week’s changes are meant to “refocus” Unity’s business and that going forward, Unity will “reduce the number of things we do overall.”

Pictured at top: Avatar: The Way of Water

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Jamie Lang

Jamie Lang is the Editor-in-Chief of Cartoon Brew.

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