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Epic buys ArtStation, drops asset marketplace fee to 12%

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Fortnite art by Epic senior concept artist Ben Shafer, on ArtStation (opens in new tab). (Image credit: Epic Games)

Epic Games has purchased ArtStation (opens in new tab), a website that hosts artist portfolios with a focus on digital and videogame art. It's used by a large number of game and film artists, from amateurs to those at the top of their field: Recently featured artists include Anna Podedworna (opens in new tab), who worked on Cyberpunk 2077, and Leticia Gillett (opens in new tab), whose résumé includes Blizzard and Disney. 

The site also runs a marketplace for game assets and digital illustration resources, and as the first order of business, Epic has dropped ArtStation's standard marketplace fee from 30% to 12%, matching its Epic Games Store revenue cut. 

In a promotion tied to the acquisition, Epic has also made the lectures and tutorials in ArtStation's learning section (opens in new tab) free until the end of the year. That includes lectures from pros such as "Visual Storytelling with Kevin Lima" (Disney director) and "Equine Creature Design with Terryl Whitlatch" (Lucasfilm designer) as well as software tutorials and traditional media instruction. (I truly wish I'd had all of this when I was in art school.)

ArtStation says it will operate as an "independently branded platform owned by Epic Games" and that it won't be retooled to, for example, focus entirely on the Unreal Engine.

"You can still use the platform as you do today, and we will continue to be open to all creators across verticals, both 2D and 3D alike—including those that don’t use Unreal Engine," said ArtStation CEO Leonard Teo in a blog post (opens in new tab). "We’ll be actively hiring and growing the ArtStation team. We're committed to improving the platform and now as a part of Epic, we’ll be able to do much more."

Teo also noted that Epic gave ArtStation a grant in 2020 "which helped immensely during an uncertain period." The price of this year's acquisition was not disclosed.

For ArtStation's Pro members (which costs $10 a month), the marketplace fee drops all the way to 8%, and down to 5% for sellers who do their own promotion. The marketplace is used to sell game assets such as 3D models and textures, reference photos, tools such as brushes to use in illustration software, as well as art prints and books.

Since 2018, Epic has said repeatedly that the once standard 30% platform fee—which is Steam's cut for most games—is too high, and that 12% is a fairer number. A recent survey of developers found that they agree: only 6% felt that Steam's 30% cut is justified today.

The acquisition is also in line with Epic's strategy of focusing on services and tools that encourage and help along the creation and distribution of games. For instance, it recently released the free MetaHuman Creator, which allows game developers to customize and export realistic human models that are ready to be animated and used in Unreal Engine projects. The Unreal Engine itself can be used at no cost, and commercial Unreal Engine games don't pay royalties until they make over $1 million in revenue.

Earlier in April, Epic received another $1 billion in investment cash, including a big sum from Sony, to continue work on its vision for a gaming "metaverse."

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley alongside Apple and Microsoft, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on the early personal computers his parents brought home. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, Bushido Blade (yeah, he had Bleem!), and all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now. In 2006, Tyler wrote his first professional review of a videogame: Super Dragon Ball Z for the PS2. He thought it was OK. In 2011, he joined PC Gamer, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. After work, he practices boxing and adds to his 1,200 hours in Rocket League.