CARY – Epic Games plans to open an office in Detroit later this year, but not for video game development.

Instead, Epic is looking to expand a relationship with the automotive industry through its Unreal development engine that already is used by Ford and other firms. Unreal is one of the world’s most popular game development engines, and Epic has invested heavily to expand its use for 3D as well as very photo realistic computer graphics.

Unreal logo

A year ago, for example, Epic worked with Porsche and chip developer Nvidia to unveil a very realistic Porsche 911 Speedster concept car in CGI.

The move is the latest expansion by privately held Epic, the creator of the globally popular Fortnite franchise. Epic recently moved into esports and has beefed up its executive team with recent hires after closing on more than $1 billion in financing last year. Epic is now valued at several billion dollars.

“You can only understand how the industry will develop and what it needs if you’re a part of the project and you’re where the stuff is happening,” Heiko Wenzcel, who leads what is called the Epic Detroit Innovation Lab, told Crain’s Detroit Business.

Wenzcel, who joined Epic in March, said Epic will hire between 10 and 15 people for the lab.

Crain’s notes that Epic’s Unreal is already used by Ford and Audi. At Audi dealerships, for example, “configurators” are used for vehicle design that are “accurate down to the last lug nut,” Crane’s notes.

At Ford, Unreal was used to help unveil a 2020 Ford Explorer model prototype at an auto show.

“We’re looking for the most cost efficient way to achieve our objectives,” Garett Carr, global auto show and events manager at Ford, told Crain’s. “And if Unreal is the most efficient way to communicate what we’re trying to communicate, that’s what we’ll use.”

Recent Epic headlines from WRAL TechWire

Epic Games bringing popular Rocket League franchise into its ‘family,’ store

By hiring esports Overwatch League exec, Epic Games moves to expand its empire

Report: Epic Games adding high-profile finance exec to lead corporate development