Epic Games' The Matrix Awakens, an interactive tech demo for its upcoming Unreal Engine 5 platform, has amassed more than 6 million downloads since the company released the free software on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S consoles on Dec. 9.
It's an impressive figure for what largely amounts to a short, trailer-like experience that doubled at the time as an advertisement for the fourth "Matrix" film. But The Matrix Awakens represents, in Epic's eyes, the future of its business. It acts as a showcase for the the real-time blend of cinematic storytelling with unprecedented levels of photorealism. It also gives players a peek at the shrinking distinction between real and computer-generated imagery that could dominate both future big-budget video games and the avatars and other assets that populate the metaverse.
The software was created using some of the most cutting-edge video game development tools ever made, and those tools will be released more widely to the game development and Hollywood visual effects communities later this year with the public release of Unreal Engine 5. “We’re on the cusp of really not being able to tell the difference between reality and the virtual world,” Epic CTO Kim Libreri, who worked as visual effects supervisor on the original “Matrix” trilogy, told Protocol in December. “As we head into the metaverse, think of the possibility of games, experiences, stories that are generated in real time.”
"It’s too early to say exactly how the metaverse will take shape, but we see it as a shared social 3D world with persistence, discovery, moderation, and commerce," the company wrote in a blog post published Wednesday. "It will be an evolution of the internet as we know it, and its foundations will be built on real-time 3D technology."
Epic is also releasing some metrics for its Unreal platform ahead of the planned spring 2022 release date of Unreal Engine 5. The company says it now has more than 500 million Epic accounts across its PC game store, which includes Fortnite, and its Unreal platform. And 48% of games currently in development for next-gen consoles are using Unreal tools.