[size=2]I’m sure that other developers would rather avoid this kind of discussion, but we are actually artists as well as developers. Further, considering that everyone uses our tools in conjunction with virtually everything out there, these issues affect us, too. I feel it’s important that the users know my views since they help to guide us in the development of our tools.
Jrsunshine may be right about one thing, this price drop has a huge potential to backfire. I made a prediction a number of years ago that the big corporations would seriously damage the existing 3D market & greater industry by lowering to ~$1K. But they wouldn’t do this to be malicious, they’d do it out of necessity.
In “ye olden days”, if you wanted to do “high-end” 3D animation, you really only had a few very expensive choices. However, as “mid-range” software emerged and increased in power, there was less justification for the higher price tag on the high-end. Keep in mind that it’s from the “chooser’s” point of view that the apps would be considered over-priced; this is based on the fact that most users never had a need for, nor understood a high percentage of the features in those high-end software. Essentially, they were paying for a good deal of software that they didn’t even use. But slowly, the more advanced features started to trickle into the “mid-range” software. This began to blur the line between “high-end” & “mid-range”. Add to that the fact that the “mid-range” stopped merely mimicking the “big boys” and started innovating. Feeling the major financial pinch, the so-called “high-end” apps had to try to become more competitively priced. Over the years I’ve seen the prices drop from $100K, to $75K, to $50K, to $30K, to $15K, to $7K. Along with that, everyone’s witnessed the “big boys” being downsized, sold, re-sold, and restructured due to loss of revenue.
So here we are at that ~1K range that I first envisioned so many years back. Alias came close with a $2K Maya price, but now Avid has even surpassed my prediction by dropping to $0.5K. From what I’ve read, the users are very happy about the price drops… as one would expect. But they don’t realize the greater implications this has on the future of the commercial 3D software industry. As the larger corps have already realized with their price drops, the market is simply not big enough. Unlike 2D paint software or word-processing, 3D is still out of the periphery of most. All the acquisitions, restructuring, TV commercials, and price drops won’t change that.
Realistically, no one would make such a price drop out of the goodness of their heart, it’s done out of necessity. The price drops are designed to make the software purchase irresistible, generate a quick influx of cash, and create further exposure for the higher cost versions. It’s also anti-competitive; this is a move that’s also designed to clear the playing field, i.e. completely eliminate some competition. Looking at the state of some companies, I suspect that it will. But the price reduction will have an additional affect: it will force most companies to build in their existing, more advanced technologies into the lower cost versions more rapidly than expected in order to compete. This would further accellerate the race to the bottom. Another side effect is that plugin developers may produce low cost plugins for those low cost versions which may circumvent the need to upgrade to the higher cost versions. And since the market isn’t very large (comparatively), expect all companies to have even less revenue as they sell those lower cost versions to a relatively small audience.
Why is all this potentially bad? Sure, it’s not a problem right now as it appears to be “all good”. Everyone will go through a major sugar rush over the next few months to a year. Large corps will move many units and users will get much software on the cheap. But all this doesn’t come for free. Expect less 3D innovation from all huge commercial software developers in the coming years as the sugar lows set in. Less revenue for the larger companies means even more downsizing, restructuring, sales, and re-sales. Some companies (big & small) will disappear and fewer companies means less choice in the immediate future. Further, less revenue ultimately means less marketing, (free) services, and R&D. It’s quite possible that we may be witnessing the very beginning of the end for huge 3D apps/corps.
But it’s not necessarily all bad. The industry must evolve and users will ultimately be the beneficiaries. As the industry will be forced even further toward smaller, specialized, manageable components with standardized communication protocols, smaller & more nimble companies will be the norm. Instead of huge applications published by large corps, new businesses may even emerge that merely combine the components into cohesive larger apps. We’d already anticipated this, which is why our company/products are structured as they are, and it is a belief that will continue to guide our development as we expand.
In the end, there may only be a few companies standing with all their teeth intact… and it may not be whom you would think;)
p.s.: these are my views & observations after having been a “chooser”, user, teacher, and developer of 3D software over the past 15 or so years (man, I feel old). They are not intended to inflame, but to inform.