- Snap, the parent company of image-messaging app Snapchat, quietly bought U.K.-based PlayCanvas, a 3-D game engine startup for mobile browsers and social media, last May, according to Business Insider. The acquisition may mean that Snapchat plans to add casual gaming to its platform and let third-party developers create games for the app.
- Disney, Nickelodeon and gaming giant King are among the companies that have used PlayCanvas technology to develop games. The company's engine is entirely browser-based, unlike authoring tools from Unity and Epic Games, and optimized to run on low-powered devices like smartphones, per TechCrunch.
- PlayCanvas' graphics engine is also used by vehicle maker Polaris and engineering group Trelleborg to show 3-D images of products, PlayCanvas says. The company was founded in 2011 and raised $590,000 from investors like Microsoft Accelerator and DC Thomson Ventures.
Given that Snap's acquisition of PlayCanvas happened nearly a year ago, it may mean that the U.K. startup's technology has already been incorporated into Snapchat's platform. The companies aren't commenting on acquisition details, leaving people to speculate how PlayCanvas fits in with Snap's plans to beef up features for Snapchat's 187 million users.
Snap may have incorporated PlayCanvas' technology into its Snap Lens Studio, which lets developers create augmented reality (AR) effects instead of depending on Snapchat's in-house creative teams to do the work. The acquisition also may mean that Snapchat will soon build out its platform to include casual gaming and more AR features using the tech. To build scale in these services, Snap will have to harness the creative talents of a wider group of developers who currently make apps for platforms such as Facebook, iOS and Android.
This isn't Snap's first acquisition — and likely not it's last, either. Recent buys like Zenly, an app that helped smartphone users map the location of friends in real time, and Placed, which helps advertisers track and measure in-store ad attribution, have mostly focused on services for customers, including users and advertisers. The PlayCanvas acquisition, however, appears to be aimed more at software developers that create games or other apps. This may signal that the company is looking to build out its features focused on helping developers, especially after Snap hired the Swiss team behind Strong.Codes last year to block people from copying software code.