This is a sore spot for me.
Cinema4D users who use the software to create game related assets do exist. But let’s face it; almost no one buys Cinema4D specifically for game development. The vast majority of people, prior to entering the game development field, were Mac users who were already using Cinema4D for other purposes; namely motion graphics and broadcast titling in tandem with AE. Given Maya’s buggy state, C4D was the only stable mainstream 3D program for MacOS at the time. The tremendous success of the iOS eco-system and the potential for lucrative payouts enticed many C4D users to try their hand at mobile game development for the first time. Due to the fact that they already had a Mac to publish iOS apps, which was necessary, and already knew C4D, that’s what they used to generate assets. This is the primary base of C4D game developers today.
When contrasted with other 3D animation software used by studios and independent developers, Cinema4D is at the very bottom of the pile. As a Cinema4D user, it is frustrating to see the blistering pace of other 3D applications for game development like Blender and Houdini to include features such as real time viewports, seamless export to other engines and a multitude of amazing plugins to enhance game-centric workflows on a weekly basis. Official support and endorsements from large studios as well as game engines companies further reinforces their legitimacy as proper game dev tools.
Meanwhile, in C4D land, we have been begging Maxon for a fraction of the above for a long time. Rudimentary features that other software developers take for granted such as proper export to Unreal and Unity were slow to be realized; never mind export functionality that is kept up to date. We just recently had an updated UV toolset that while being welcomed several years after the fact, is still subpar. Maxon had a number of opportunities to make Cinema4D a very game development friendly platform but instead did everything they possibly could to avoid accommodating game developers – only getting away with the absolute bare minimum. It is as if is Maxon tosses a rare bone to us in a begrudging acknowledgement that we exist.
I would like to think that Maxon will turn a new leaf and take game development seriously but given the history of lost opportunities, I’m skeptical. Among them was the early lead Maxon had with Bodypaint 3D. It could be best described as a precursor to Allegorithmic’s Substance painter. It took years for the competition from The Foundry and Allegorithmic to finally emerge and take the real time projection painting crown from Maxon; time that could have been used to really bolster the capabilities of Bodypaint.
Why does Maxon neglect game development to this extent? Perhaps it’s cultural. German thinking among businesses circles is traditionally conservative. The management at Maxon may see video games as low brow activity. They want to showcase architects, commercial/feature film VFX artists but treat game developers like Kryptonite. It would be ironic if true given some of the amazing game engine technology that has come out of Germany.
Maxon’s focus has been on AE and motion graphic industries. Not an unwise move at the time but over reliance on this is starting to cost them. Other packages are catching up to include mograph feature sets and software like Houdini has surpassed the hard technical ceiling which limited C4D. Pricing is also an issue; there is still no indie level fee structure that other competitors have embraced that bring indie developers to their side.
Perhaps most worrying at all for Maxon is the aggressive inroads that Adobe is making towards making 3D more accessible in its own software. I am specifically referring to Adobe Dimension which is being worked on by the former Mixamo team and Allegorithmic. Adobe is famous for squeezing out middlemen to limit their reliance on third parties; the 3D -> AE bridge could well be their next focus for full independence. I suspect that before long, we’ll see full integration between Dimension and After Effects. This would leave Maxon in a precarious position. I suspect that’s why Maxon is now pivoting to other areas and may explain their acquisition of Red Giant both as a means to branch out while signaling to Adobe that if Cineware is compromised, so too will Red Giant support for AE.
At the moment, I’m in doubt as to Maxon’s ability to expand its base beyond the loyal customers that it already has. Even if they were to start focusing on game developers today, it may already be too late. The momentum has shifted in favor of Blender for general purpose use and that entrenchment is only strengthening. 10 years from now, we may all be asking, “Remember the days when we had to pay for 3D animation software with standard features? Now we get it for free and buy just plugins.”