Starbreeze announced the acquisition of Nozon, a Belgian visual effects studio that created PresenZ, a sophisticated visual effects tool that adds six degrees of freedom (6DoF) to cinema quality visual effects for VR.
It’s no secret that Starbreeze is betting heavy on VR. The company announced during E3 2015 that it had acquired InfiniteEye and unveiled StarVR, a VR HMD with side-by-side screens and an ultra-wide 210-degree field of view. Then, in September 2015, Starbreeze partnered with Tobii to bring eye tracking to the StarVR HMD.
Starbreeze doubled down on its virtual reality aspirations in 2016. At the beginning of the year, Starbreeze joined the Immersive Technology Alliance. In January, the company revealed plans to open Starcade, a VR arcade built to leverage the StarVR HMD. In May, it revealed that it's building cinematic content for its premium VR HMD. And in June, the company revealed that it fostered a manufacturing deal with Acer to produce a limited volume of HMDs this year that Starbreeze plans to install in Imax theaters. Full production of the StarVR hardware is expected to begin in 2017.
The deal with Acer didn’t slow Starbreeze's hunt for companies that can offer potentially beneficial technologies and expertise. Over the summer, the company acquired ePawn for its NFC tracking technology—specifically an NFC tracking carpet that can be used for room-scale VR installations.
Starbreeze’s latest strategic move involved purchasing Nozon, a visual effects studio building tools for cinematic VR creation. Nozon was founded in 1998, and over the last 18 years, the company produced multiple award-winning visual effects scenes in movies and custom tools to help create them. Nozon’s latest custom tool, PresenZ, is designed to add 6DoF to pre-rendered 3D content. The company wants PresenZ to be “the format of the movie of the future.” In other words, Nozon believes that PresenZ will enable fully immersive cinematic 3D rendering for films. Imagine walking around in a Pixar movie. That’s the dream PresenZ hopes to make reality, and it’s why Starbreeze dumped piles of money onto Nozon’s lap.
Starbreeze purchased Nozon for 7.1 million Euros (4.6M in cash, 2.5M in Starbreeze shares). In addition to the initial cash influx, Nozon’s founders will benefit from shared earnings. Starbreeze agreed to a ten-year “earn-out” period, during which the founding partners will receive a percentage of revenues generated by Starbreeze’s use of PresenZ technology. The “earn-out” period begins once Starbreeze has recouped 2 million Euro from its initial investment. Starbreeze expects the acquisition to have an immediate positive impact due to Nozon’s ongoing VFX business, which generated 2.5M Euro in 2015.