Sadly, this has always been their face. You probably didn’t live through the era when Maya cost $16k for a single seat or when its predecessor lived on SGI workstations that no individual user could afford. ADSK talks a good game, but they have always put studio users first and will likely continue to do so in the future. Think about it.
If you’re a matriculating student at an accredited institution then they’ve got your back. You have access to a free, non-commercial EDU license to anything in their toy chest. If you’re a studio user, well, don’t worry about what it may all cost because your boss has you covered. If, however, you’re an indie, a hobbyist, or a low volume freelancer then you just might be out of luck.
As a hobbyist or aspiring artist looking to one day go pro, there’s little way that you can afford the $4k+ for a 3 year license. It’s a lot of money no matter how you slice it; Far worse if you choose to go the monthly route, which is decidedly more expensive.
If you’re a low volume freelancer, the money you stand to make down the line will pay for the subscription cost. That’s true. However, it takes money to make money and that could be a problem early on. Same issue if you’re an indie developer or startup. In fact, anybody earning less than $100k per year might take issue given the sheer number of subscriptions that must be balanced just to fill out a basic artist’s toolbox. Being a pro artist in 2019 just ain’t cheap.
Live in a part of the world where you’re lucky to make $4k a year? Sorry. Try Blender.
If you’re in any of those groups, ADSK doesn’t care about you. Wait. I’m not being mean. Don’t worry. They never cared about you. There’s nothing new about that.
Studios have always been their core audience. That goes as far back as some 25-30 years and the days of them catering to Hollywood films, where the cutting edge CG tech lived. They were never going to cater to individual users or hobbyists back then because there was no money in it. Home users didn’t have the hardware, the financial resources, or technical know how to make any of it worth their while. It’d be a sales failure and support nightmare. Accordingly, they made the smartest possible business decision for the time.
However, it isn’t 1995 anymore. Even with a massive price drop, they haven’t widened their core audience. They still only are about the studios and the students who may soon work in one. Like I said, they make a good show of it. Releasing Maya LT, for example, sounds great on paper. “Hey, indie. Come get Maya. Nice and cheap.” Except, what you get is pretty much the difference between a fully loaded Ferrari and one that’s been stripped by car thieves. It might still technically be a Ferrari, but it sure as hell doesn’t drive like one. You pay more for Maya LT than Blender, yet somehow get far less.
Beyond price, if there were any doubts about who their real audience is and how they want to continue to suck them dry in perpetuity, just look at their history and this thread. Look at the progression of DRM and licensing.
- We have this great app. Let’s sell some copies and make bazillions!
- D’oh! The software is getting pirated. Let’s add serial numbers.
- Hmm. The serial number got copied. Let’s hard lock it.
- They found away around that? Okay. Let’s also force them to activate and check in with remote servers.
- They hacked that too? Let’s go to subscriptions. That’ll show them.
- They’re sticking with the old perpetual versions? We can’t have that. Let’s change the rules and somehow invalidate those old copies.
Next stop? Crystal ball says…
- Great. Computers and internet connections are now super fast. Let’s force them to stream the app. No copy will ever be stored on the client side.
If you’re a studio, you’re probably going to (maybe) give in and do what they ask. You’re making millions (or more) on your end product. Who cares if the DCC app is costing “x” or changing its license in “y” way. The risk is FAR outweighed by the reward. ADSK will keep on pushing the limits because they know (or think) that they’ve got the market cornered.
If you’re in a desert and I’ve got the only bottle of water, I can charge whatever the heck I want. I can even charge you per sip if I know that you’ve got deep pockets. If you’re pockets are (to me) bottomless, I’ll keep on charging you per sip instead of chasing the guy who only has $2 and might never come back. I’m following the money and making the rules, which you’ll follow because you need me and are rich/dumb enough to do what I say.
Like I said, ADSK isn’t showing their true face. We’ve always known what it looked like. We just like it less now than ever before. That’s the risk that ADSK is taking. Companies like Ubisoft and Epic Games are, imo, testing the waters with their investments in Blender. If they invest enough money and can nudge development in the direction that they want, they’ll effectively get the tool they want for a fraction of the cost in dealing with ADSK long term.
ADSK isn’t the only one looking to make the most profit with the least effort. Game companies are going to want to maximize their bottom line too - even more so than they currently do. If Epic & Ubisoft’s investments pay off, expect other developers to chip in to the Blender fund. Their money will silently buy them say in how it gets developed and, ultimately, the community will have a tool that is $0 for everybody (forever) and does more than what ADSK has been gouging them for, also in perpetuity.
To put a slightly political spin on it, ADSK is chasing the big state voters and ignoring the little guys in the middle of hillbilly nowhere. It’s dangerous to ignore any vote. To put it back in art terms, ADSK cannot afford to think solely of the studios. It’s a gamble that may just bite them in the ass. Like I said above, they need to change their licensing and pricing structure going forward. Otherwise, they’re either going to encourage piracy and abuse of the EDU system or outright alienate a large swath of the art community, forcing them into the waiting arms of 3rd party apps.
Will ADSK do that? No. As I outlined above, they only care about studios. They just haven’t considered what would happen if and when the studios stop caring about them.
We see ADSK’s true face. We’ve always seen it. They’ve always shown it. Now, the danger comes in individuals AND studios possibly (one day) turning their collective backs on it.