Sony licenses Unreal 3 engine for PS3 development

Sony inks pact to bundle Epic Games' popular engine with next-gen-console SDKs; company also purchases UK middleware maker SN Systems.


At E3 in May, Epic Games had it both ways. The developer showed its eagerly awaited Xbox 360 game, Gears of War, to a rapt audience at Microsoft's press conference and wowed the crowd at Sony's event with a PlayStation 3 tech demo that featured elements of Unreal Tournament 2007.

Today, the company solidified its relationship with the latter console with a deal that will make the Unreal 3 engine one of the weapons of choice for PS3 developers. This morning, Sony announced that it has "entered into a strategic licensing agreement with Epic Games."

As outlined in their joint statement, the deal has Sony "sublicensing rights of Unreal Engine 3, a complete games development framework developed by Epic Games." By "complete," Epic means that the engine "includes a programmable shaders tool, physics engine, and GUI [Graphic User Interface] based physics attribution tool, along with various other tools, such as scenario development, movie scene development, animation and particle animation tools."

Beyond the "marketing speak," the statement means that now, the "evaluation version" of the Unreal 3 engine, which has already been licensed by VU Games and Midway Games, will come with the PlayStation 3 software developer kits (SDKs).

Given the E3 demostration, the Sony-Epic deal does not come as a major surprise. However, it did further fuel speculation that Unreal Tournament 2007, already in development for the PC, will be ported to the PS3.

While major, the Unreal 3 deal was just part of much greater news from Sony. The company also announced today it was acquiring Bristol, UK-based SN Systems. SN offers a variety of development products, including "an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) consisting of compilers, linkers and debuggers." However, its most famous bit of middleware is its "renowned" ProDG tool, which is currently used in the development of PSP and PlayStation 2 games. SN is also now (obviously) adjusting its middleware suite for PlayStation 3 development.

SN's ProDG tool is also used in developing games for three platforms of one of Sony's main gaming rivals, Nintendo. It is unclear if SN's development suite will still be made available to developers of DS, GameCube, and Game Boy Advance games after the purchase.

"For more than 10 years, they have pioneered the development of great tools for PlayStation content creation," said Sony Computer Entertainment's chief technical officer Masa Chatani. "By combining our experience and skills together, PlayStation will have even-more-sophisticated tools to deliver to content creators around the world."

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