I seem to have found myself in an opposite position. With ADSK going subscription only in 2016, I’ve been forced to turn my back on Maya.
$195/month doesn’t seem like a lot. However, I feel that it’s going to be more expensive for me in the long term. I’m one of those guys who will buy a license and hold onto it for a few years, opting to avoid the risk of introducing a newer, buggier version mid-project. I might hold onto a single version for 2-3 years. On a subscription, in that time frame, that means my cost would be anywhere from 27%-91% above my base investment of a perpetual license. Every dollar counts, as far as I’m concerned.
I’ve already got enough overhead and barely tolerate the idea of having to rent the Adobe suite. I do that out of necessity and the recognition that there are few realistic non-Adobe alternatives. On the 3D end, ADSK isn’t the only game on the block. Granted, they’re in the largest studios and have the broadest support. However, those can’t be the only issues for me going forward.
I need to have as much faith in the developer as I have the product. Where ADSK is concerned, they’ve soured the milk a bit; just enough to turn off some long time users. Between that change from sales to rental and the way they’ve handled some of their key non-Maya products in recent years, I’ve lost confidence in them. I’m no longer absolutely confident that they’ve got their customer base’s best interests in mind anymore.
For me, the switch to LightWave was not made lightly. I weighed several options including going back to Cinema 4D, which I had previously used for 8 years, or moving to Blender, which is right on the edge of being ready to play in the bigs. In the end, I couldn’t go with C4D simply because its focus has shifted over the years; Great if you’re keen on motion graphics, but not so great if you’re not. I also couldn’t quite make the leap to Blender because, functionally speaking, “close enough” isn’t quite enough just yet.
I see LightWave as being in a unique position atm. First off, as of 2016, it’ll be one of the few remaining high-end 3D apps to still be sold with a perpetual license. Second, NewTek has seemingly made a real commitment to getting LW’s development back on track, suggested (in part) by their recent switch to annual version numbers. Third, while it might seem a little desperate, their recent price drop suggests that they’re “hungry” for the market share. Finally, they’ve really stepped up their game on feature updates lately, which also shows their desire to compete again.
I’m not being overly optimistic where LW is concerned. I do understand the concerns. NewTek still has a ways to go before they can make up any of that ground lost to ADSK while they were futzing around with CORE. They sorely need to improve their relationship with 3rd parties too; Even Maxon’s 3rd party support is better these days. LW also needs to upgrade or replace a few of their older features. LW als needs to move toward an integrated workflow too. (Not that the modeler/layout workflow is bad. It’s just dated.) LW is far from perfect and could stand some modernization/polish. I don’t deny any of that.
That said, while ADSK maintains overall dominance, I wouldn’t quite count LW out just yet. It’s still a valid option for certain markets, especially TV productions where they have to pump out more and more near-film quality on increasingly anemic budgets. Assuming that NewTek continues on its current path, LW’s future looks the brighter than it has in years.
I can understand why people have made LW their secondary app, but I can easily also understand why some would opt to now make it their primary. For a certain segment of artists, LW might now be the right app at the right time. Plus, with a week still left on their super low $695 cross-grade pricing offer, now’s as good of a time as any. (Even at the full $995, it’s still a steal. LW 2015 offers some pretty solid bang for the buck.)
Do I see myself as still being a LightWave user 5 years from now? Hard to say. I do know that I don’t count myself among the ADSK faithful anymore. They might “be the game,” but it’s gotten harder and harder to play their game in recent years. Rental was the last straw for me. It might be great for large studios, but I’m not a large studio.