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Use GIS data in game engines

Game engines offer a highly interactive, visually compelling, and deeply immersive way of viewing your spatial data. Visualizing spatial data in a game engine helps to increase engagement, improve understanding, and optimize the decision-making experience. Game engines take advantage of high-end graphics capabilities on modern devices and utilize hardware designed specifically for extended reality (XR) experiences. Game engines provide premium, high-definition rendering pipelines that deliver simulated world experiences and engaging special effects. The use of high-fidelity assets, physics engines, animation properties, atmospheric, water, and other special effects enables game engines to deliver beautiful, photo-realistic, cutting-edge visuals that appear and operate nearly identical to the real world. Today, we see a growing number of industries, including AEC, defense, natural resources, and transportation, use game engines to power photorealistic, interactive, and immersive 3D GIS applications using geospatial 3D data.


ArcGIS provides a variety of ways to visualize your GIS data in game engines to take advantage of the immersive and photo-realistic perspectives they provide. The ArcGIS Maps SDKs for Game Engines provide developers with a geospatial canvas and access to GIS data in the Unity and Unreal Engine game engines. They are designed to access GIS data through web layers and layer packages which can be created in ArcGIS Pro, CityEngine, or published directly to ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise. In addition, ArcGIS CityEngine can also export to 3D model formats such as FBX, GLTF, Datasmith, etc.

If you want to access web layers or layer packages for use in global or local geospatial coordinate space, we recommend you use the Game Engine Maps SDKs to bring your GIS data into Unity or Unreal Engine.

Alternatively, you can use ArcGIS CityEngine to export urban designs and architectural models and import them into a game engine. You can use game engine editor tools to further modify the models. This also applies if you do not have access to web layers or want to leverage another game engine, such as Godot Engine.

Finally, it is also possible to use the ArcGIS Maps SDKs for Game Engines together with imported 3D models.

ArcGIS Maps SDKs for Game Engines

Currently, the ArcGIS Maps SDKs for Game Engines support the industry-leading developer platforms, Unity and Unreal Engine. ArcGIS Maps SDK for Unity and ArcGIS Maps SDK for Unreal Engine are delivered as plug-ins and provide developers with a global or local geospatial canvas, direct access to GIS data from ArcGIS services and local data packages, and APIs to place 3D assets in a geospatial context.

Once you have downloaded your respective plug-in and set up your game engine project, you add an ArcGIS map to your level in Unreal Engine or scene in Unity. An ArcGIS map contains references to layers of geographic content and is the foundation for all visual mapping applications in both Game Engines Maps SDKs. It combines a basemap for visual context and layers for operational data. Next, you can visualize layer attributes, place objects at specific geographic locations, perform spatial analysis, or immerse yourself in your GIS data in Unreal Engine as well as Unity.

ArcGIS CityEngine

ArcGIS CityEngine is advanced 3D modeling software for designing urban environments and brings powerful procedural city generation and modeling capabilities to urban design workflows. Use ArcGIS CityEngine to generate and model buildings, change architectural styles, edit building features, or enhance 3D context to show current conditions, planned changes, or alternate designs. When complete, ArcGIS CityEngine provides tools to export results as 3D content for use in high-end visualization experiences provided by game engines.

Before exporting from ArcGIS CityEngine, you need to consider the file format that the respective engines prefer:

Game engineFormatDetails

Godot Engine


The glTF workflow from ArcGIS CityEngine to Godot works as expected, including advanced materials, in most cases.



Unity's preferred format is FBX, however, Unity's PiXYZ allows you to optimize 3D workflows for other formats, such as USD or glTF. In addition, there are third-party plug-ins that add support for formats such as glTF. This can be useful to work around limitations of the FBX export, such as handling physically based rendering (PBR) materials.

Unreal Engine

Unreal Datasmith

ArcGIS CityEngine natively supports Datasmith, a proprietary format created by Epic Games to speed up data exchange into their engine. Note that Datasmith is also the preferred format when exporting to Twinmotion

Once exported, the import process into the game engine is simple: in Unreal Engine, you can import a Datasmith file via the import menu; in Unity and Godot, you can drag the file into the project folder.

It is important to be aware of scale. The defaults are as follows:

  • ArcGIS CityEngine: 1 unit is 1m
  • Unreal Engine: 1 unit is 1cm
  • Unity and Godot Engine: 1 unit is 1m


After bringing your GIS data into your game engine, you can further improve the user experience—for example, define the lighting, apply weather effects, add pedestrians, vehicles, animations, sound, and develop UI and game logic. These are often extensive, complex tasks that require game engine knowledge. See the respective game engine's documentation for details.

Required software

You can download the ArcGIS Maps SDK for Unity or ArcGIS Maps SDK for Unreal Engine, from the ArcGIS Developers website. If you're new to developing with our Game Engines Maps SDKs, sign up for a free ArcGIS Developer account, download, and get started. You can use ArcGIS Pro or ArcGIS CityEngine to create scene layer packages. You will need an ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise account to publish ArcGIS services from ArcGIS Pro or ArcGIS CityEngine. If you need to export to various 3D model formats, you will need ArcGIS CityEngine.

Explore the following resources to learn more about using GIS data in game engines.

ArcGIS help documentation

Reference material for ArcGIS products:

ArcGIS blogs, stories, and technical papers


Esri-produced videos that clarify and demonstrate concepts, software functionality, and workflows:


Guided, hands-on lessons based on real-world problems:

Developer resources

Resources and support for automating and customizing workflows:

  • ArcGIS location services—Includes ready-to-use data hosted by Esri

Esri community

Online 3D community to connect, collaborate, and share experiences: