To understand why ZBrush acquisition makes more sense than XP you must think like a CEO and not an end user.
Buying ZBrush brings with it vast number of completely new customers to Maxon. If Maxon bought XP it would increase Maxon’s customers by a big fat net zero because Insydium customers are already Maxon customers.
New customers and growth are some of the most important performance data for bean counters. Before Subscriptions C4D growth was probably flat if not in decline, so lowering the barrier to entry produced a step change in new users in the accounts. Yes, it pissed off a lot of long time users but companies will happily trade these users for growth.
Buying ZBrush brings a lot of useful IP too. Buying XP not so much, there’s nothing special about XP in the IP sense it’s just a very good plugin.
You also have to look at the cost Maxon would incur acquiring XP and think about the cost of developing an in-house particle system. Acquiring Insydium would likely be very much more expensive than doing it themselves. They have Scene Nodes which is a distribution system add some vector forces and collision and you’ve got a particle system. A new particle system is probably not that far away i.e. less than 5 years at Maxon’s glacial development pace.
XP would add value to all C4D users but at the corporate level it would be a poor investment with limited returns.
I understand Joe Eagar has had a long involvement with Blender sculpting tools so he’ll be up to speed straight away.
Pablo did a huge amount of work on the Sculpting toolset plucking a lot of low hanging fruit and set about adding features that he felt were important for his own Anime modelling workflow. I understand there was a disagreement about whether Blender should focus on lower poly workflows and leave high poly stuff to ZBrush or do both. Ton’s view was Blender should do both. Pablo left and now there’s Joe who definitely sees it like Ton.
There are plans to completely overhaul the painting system. The Everything Nodes project is going to touch every part of Blender but they only have a small development team, smaller than Maxon’s current developer vacancies so it’ll come when they get to it, it is on the list.
I fully understand Pablo’s perspective. He would rather the app be more laser focused. However, I agree with Ton & Joe. The BF has been pushing pretty hard for the past 15 years to turn Blender into a one stop solution. Ton’s goal is to empower the community and enable anybody with a computer and a dream to create their own studio. Lots of people around the world can’t afford $10k+ of apps. They can barely afford basic hardware. BF’s attempt at making Blender as robust as possible and at $0 is really a gift for these artists. Blender might not be the perfect on-stop solution, but it’s an admirable goal in trying to make it the best possible one-stop solution they can. Power to the people. I get what Pablo’s saying, but Ton’s goal (while ambitious) serves the larger community better.
CEOs also have to account for why people are using their products.
CInema4D has two tricks up its sleeve; Mograph and X-particles. X-Particles fills a glaring defect in C4D that Maxon otherwise wouldn’t have to do themselves. However, if C4D is in decline due to the rising popularity of Blender, then it doesn’t take a genius to deduce that Insydium can see where the wind is blowing. Clearly a growth in customer base is what all companies want.
This is a similar scenario to what Apple and Adobe had 25 years ago. Photoshop and Illustrator were the big hit wonders that enabled creatives to choose the Mac over the PC platform. However, the PC market had already surpassed the Mac userbase and Adobe wanted to get in on that action. Apple knew this and tried to entice Adobe to stay exclusively to the Mac platform. Adobe made all sorts of assurances to Apple while secretly working on Windows based versions of Photoshop and Illustrator. The rest, as you know, is history.
So, is it really far-fetched to predict that at some point down the line, Insydium would want to get in on the Blender action themselves? Sure, C4D and Blender are two different software architectures but Blender’s source code is freely available for anyone to view. You get to see all the intricate details of how everything works rather than rely on a subset scripting language or limited C++ repository vetted by the software company. This makes plugin development a whole lot easier. A very intuitive X-Particles for Blender would be a welcome addition to anyone’s toolset. As a CEO of Insydium, I would definitely want to explore avenues to generate revenue. Could you imagine the effect having a superstar plugin like X-Partcles would have on users who use it religiously? At some point, they are going to be scratching their heads as to why they are paying Maxon hefty maintenance/subscription fees if they can get Blender for free and use X-Particles with that instead.
For that reason alone, an Insydium purchase would make sense for Maxon. Recall that companies often buy other companies to deny competition access to that IP. It was a strategy that worked for Autodesk for two decades and allowed them to remain the dominant player in the game development and architectural space despite releasing buggy AF software.
X-Particles isn’t the be all and end all for Maxon but it would secure a vital resource they can exclusively keep for themselves. It’s more of a strategic long term security consideration. Especially with the looming threat of Blender on the Mac being fully optimized for M1 Max thanks to Apple’s bribe money to the Blender Foundation.
Zbrush would likely just remain a standalone product rather than something Maxon would strip for IP to integrate into C4D. To get their money’s worth, they would have to end the free updates for life deal and make it subscription only. That will, of course, drive more users towards Blender and put more pressure towards the rapid pace of development for the sculpting toolset there. What dividends Maxon gets will depend on how they play this. I know that Pixologic wanted a bigger development team and this is why I suspect they sold out to Maxon.
The irony of all this is that the writing is on the wall. Blender will become the dominant 3D package that gives everyone the expectation that they shouldn’t have to pay for base 3D software and just buy the plugins they want. They can take or leave other areas of development as they like. Remember Mudbox? Autodesk stopped development because ZBrush users were getting all their updates for free. There’s no way to drive users away from a product that is essentially free for life with a one-off investment that has amazing functionality. Even a bad UI is no deterrence. It’s just hard to compete with free.
Just like Sega releasing exclusive game IP for consoles they once competing against, we may end up in the world where monolithic companies like Autodesk and Maxon end up writing plug-in functionality that was popular on their own 3D packages for Blender.
You are not acknowledging that Maxon benefits from XP without needing to buy it. XP exists whether Maxon owns it or Insydium owns it is irrelevant to most people. I would argue that XP has kept Maxon relevant in the Mograph field and it did so by not being a Maxon product.
The Blender community is a very different community and marketplace than C4D’s. There’s certainly a lot of money to be made in Addons but from $10-$30 Addons. Blender only really allows Python plugins which really hook into features already in Blender, I can’t see a single threaded python particle engine being anything other than a waste of time. A large amount of development has been done on Blender’s next-gen nodal particle engine which was put on the backburner so that the developers could focus on geometry nodes for the latest Blender Open Movie. I tested the preview builds and it blew XP out of the water in terms of performance only Houdini performed better in my testing.
Blender users tend to be more technical focussed and there’s a whole community out there providing free node groups for geometry nodes, this will happen for the new particle system too. No one can compete against that. It really is the difference between open source software that it breeds community generosity.
Not sure what you mean when you say Apple’s bribe money to BF? Apple spent huge sums and resources making sure Metal was supported in Redshift and Octane. Apple isn’t stupid and can see how popular Blender has become since 2.8 released and they’re only interest is making sure they are able to sell M1 Macs to Blender users.
ZBrush will almost certainly remain a standalone package, I expect its architecture is entirely incompatible with C4D’s internals so there would be little mileage in any cross pollination other than a GoZ Bridge that worked but even that is doubtful as they haven’t even made Redshift feel like a native renderer yet. C4D’s sculpting tools will lay dormant now, why bother with them when Maxon really wants to sell ZBrush in the Maxon One suite. Why bother with a modern render engine in C4D when you want to sell Redshift as an extra? I can’t stress this enough, C4D is not the focus, Maxon One is the focus now.
I think Blender will continue getting better and more popular but they simply do not have the funding and resources to compete against Maxon One or the Autodesk suite. Sure they punch well above their weight but if you need ZBrush you need ZBrush not Blender. Blender could be amazing if more people contributed to the development fund but a lot of people leave it to the rest of us to do that. Ton has always say if you want the feature quicker you have to contribute but people don’t. That’s the curse of FOSS too.
If the Insydium guys wanted to diversify XP for themselves they’d write a standalone version which imports USD scenes then outputs USD particle scenes or even renders via Cycles. This would be compatible with all DCCs and future pipelines that support USD including Blender. I think Insydium has a massive business in the C4D ecosystem and they’ll continue to do well even if Maxon produce their own particle system and that will be their long term focus. They’re good at packaging up Houdini type tricks into plugins that less technical biased C4D users can manage. I can see thisbeing their business model going forward as they themselves rely less and less on XP as the main product and their Fuse suite becomes the focus.
Insofar as X-Particles remains a C4D exclusive, dividends will be paid out to Maxon. From the day this ceases to be true, it could be devastating in terms of customer retainment. I thought that much was obvious. Ensuring X-Particles remains a C4D exclusive is the whole point of an acquisition; moreso than just including it in a Maxon One subscription. Maxon would be protecting its flanks as it were.
You argue that X-Particles would simply stagnate and drive away customers. I say that people continue using C4D even though it has long since stagnated regardless because it is still more accessible than the competition. It would take a number of years for those who use X-Particules religiously to abandon it for Houdini unless a separate Blender plugin is made available – in which case, the transition from C4D would only be made that much easier.
Bribe money is tongue and cheek way of saying Apple was began funding the Blender Foundation at the same time as they introduced the Mw1 Max. Not a coincidence. Apple doesn’t care one bit about the spirit of Open Source given how proprietary they are. What they do want is to ensure their M1 Max not only remains a top contender but also one that surpasses AMD/Intel if they can get a fully optimized Blender going on Metal. Recall that 3D has often been Apple’s Achilles Heel and the lack of Nvidia support (CUDA) was a major reason for why Mac Pros were abandoned in favor of Windows systems by 3D animators and VFX artists.
Maxon certainly gains an immediate userbase from Pixologic. But how are they going to turn that userbase into regular paying customers, some of whom have been getting free updates for over 15 years? Most individual Zbrush users often just use Zbrush itself and sometimes a 3d animation package for retopology and game export. So they get Cinema4D with Red Giant/Redshift/Cycles included in their subscription. Big deal. Maxon is going to have to do a hell of a lot more than just revamp the UI. Buying Insydium would have at least provided a tangible form of long term security – I don’t see how Pixologic can give them this let alone recoup their investment.
When Maxon dropped pro render and bought Redshift, I had hoped it would become the default renderer included with cinema 4D. Since the subscription continued for Redshift as a separate product, I fear they would do the same for X particles.
My only hope of good from all this is that Maxon forks off a version of ZBrush that’s useable by normal people. The UI and workflow is absolute dogshit, and a version that looks and feels more like Mudbox would be just great – not mention looking more like a Maxon product.
If you love the ZB UI, then good for you – personally I hate it.
XP is only a big deal in C4DLand, every other 3D DCC has either their own particle system e.g. nParticles in Maya or a 3rd party particle system which everyone uses e.g. Thinking Particles for Max etc.
XP is designed to work in the C4D context of Parent/Child effectors in the Object manager most other DCCs have very different ways of working. XP exists because Maxon allowed TP to die a slow death.
You’re putting words into my mouth, I didn’t say anything about driving away customers I just made the obvious point that the one thing Maxon does well is to allow parts of C4D to stagnate and XP in their hands would share the same fate.
The way Maxon gets regular income from new ZBrush customers is to turn them into subscribers, follow the same gameplay as they did with C4D, make perpetual licenses very expensive (just to say they still have perpetual licenses) and then incentivise the uptake of subscriptions. It’s a well worn path by now.
If Maxon messes with the ZBrush UI then they lose a lot of customers. For the casual user the ZBrush UI is a mess but for those full time sculptors that live in it 10 hrs a day it makes sense and they love it. You go changing UIs at your peril.
I think you’re putting far too much weight on how special XP is. Again, the Maxon CEO wants to grow new users not make existing users happier. A much more likely target for acquisition is RealFlow, an app with a large cross platform user base. This is how the corporate world thinks, they have bigger agendas. Maxon now sees itself as an ersatz Autodesk buying up key technology. XP is a great plugin but it’s not key technology and it doesn’t have a cross platform user base.
The Maxon CEO answers to Nemetschek and they will want to see significant returns on their investment in terms of record profits and new user growth. I have worked in corporate circles for my entire career either in corporations or making content for them, I’ve seen what financial results are important to these people and what drives them.
There’s only so much you can do with a particle system, Insydium know this that’s why they’re branching out into different areas with Terraform and Meshtools so they themselves are less reliant on XP. Moving to Houdini taught me a huge amount about particles and you quickly learn at the most basic level they’re just points and a bit of vector maths. It’s very simple to create many of the XP particle modifiers and forces, most are just a handful on nodes in VEX. There’s a lot in XP that makes good demoreels material but 90% of the time most people use very basic setups in production but nothing that is worthy of a buyout from a corporate strategy point of view.
The time for buying XP was a few years ago when Maxon was only C4D, they have much bigger fish to fry now that they are Maxon One, the game has changed. I’ll be interested to see who they buy next because it’s a dead on certainty that they will in 2022.
That’s why I suggested a fork of ZBrush. If Maxon wants to broaden its appeal, they could – for example – take ZBrush Core and make it look like C4D. It wouldn’t be that hard to rationalise the workflow, tidy up the UI and include more industry-standard controls and menus. If the move is popular, roll it out to Core’s big brother.
Maxon has just overhauled the look of C4D, so clearly they messed with UIs at their own peril. And didn’t Blender 2.8 do the same? No real peril if it’s a clear improvement.
Anyway, it’s just an idea… Maxon will probably do what it now does best: absolutely nothing, except marketing and monetisation.
Every time companies muck about with the UI it almost always ends with long term customer dissatisfaction. Autodesk had a massive fallout with their Flame customers after they ‘tidied’ up the UI ruining years of ingrained muscle memory, Avid is terrified of changing their UI even though it’s an impediment to getting new users, we know how well the C4D UI overhaul went with no obvious benefit to the user. There’s a lot of things wrong with C4D but the UI wasn’t one of them.
Blender throughout its history has changed its UI regularly often with vitriolic backlashes. Many still hate the 2.8 UI and left click selecting was seen as heresy but until that arrived Blender was an App I downloaded tried it for about 2 mins then deleted it thinking it was an absurdity. I think it could be argued the 2.8 UI/UX changes are what have lead to Blender’s rise in popularity despite going against Ton’s long and deeply held beliefs in right click select. Blender 3.1 has evolved in significant ways to 2.8 with lots of quality of life changes like the drag/search while in the geometry node tree. You can drag a noodle out, let go and a search will open like the commander in C4D to find the next node. It’s super efficient to work like this.
Done well UI/UX changes can have a massive impact on the App, Blender went well because the overwhelming majority of people thought many of its idiosyncrasies just had to go. BF had been swimming against the tide for too long.
UI changes have to be done with very clear objectives in mind and a very deep understanding of user workflows with evolution preferable to revolution to keep everyone with you. ZBrush is the ‘marmite’ App you either love it or hate it. If you love it the UI is fine and makes sense and any rash changes to tidy it up could be counterproductive for the ROI. Is ZBrush another Blender which if only it had a sensible UI would be even more popular than now? That’s a multimillion dollar question. (I wonder how much was paid for pixologic?)
I agree, marketing and monetisation is the least risky way forward which is what they’ll do.
I’ve been messing with ZBrush this afternoon, and there are so many weird, idiosyncratic elements that are simply stupid interface design – and so much of the workflow is counter-intuitive. I really think Maxon could start tidying it up without breaking any functionality. It would make it easier to learn, easier to come back to (how many times do people open up ZBrush after a few months away and have to relearn the damn thing?), and hopefully open it up to a new audience – or people who just gave up with it the first time around.
I doubt if many artists would complain if ZBrush had proper open/save dialogs, a less obtuse layering/subtool system, easier UV/texturing, and quality of life things like non-modal panels and mouse wheel zooming built-in! There’s so much power here but God, it’s tough to get to grips with if you don’t use it day in day out, day after day.
Currently an easy dozen open engineering jobs, several of the positions look for multiples. If you think Maxon should put more effort into developing their products please spread the word, we are always looking for talented developers and we are growing.
We’re talking about a plugin so vital to one aspect of Maxon’s DCC that has long been neglected that should its developers take interest in other DCCs, it could adversely affect their userbase who are reliant on this plugin for particle systems. Particles and simulations are a key ingredient in many mograph projects – C4D’s claim to fame.
Imagine if Maya was dependent on third party developers for their animation and rigging toolset; or if 3dsmax was dependent on a third party for their modeling stack. That’s how critical XP is for Maxon as a mograph powerhouse. Is it the end all and be all? No. But downplaying its importance would be a grave mistake.
Other DCCs have particle systems, sure. But how many are as intuitive as XP? Simulations are among the more difficult tasks in 3D. Recall that C4D’s target audience are graphic designers who want to add animation and 3D visualization to enhance their end product. These individuals have no interest in writing any kind of code, wiring up nodal systems or learning vector math. C4D’s premise is that it conceals a lot of underlying complexity by making common tasks a drag and drop affair. XP is quite possibly the only reason some customers are using C4D at all rather than Houdini and it would be wise for Maxon to keep it exclusive within its own ecosystem.
You said “If you were Insydium how would you like to see your life’s work end up at Maxon, over your dead body perhaps?”. When you follow it to its logical conclusion, one can surmise that long term neglect and possible reduction of the customer base who grow increasingly satisfied with lack of updates is probably what someone who makes such a statement is referring to.
With respect to growth, I do not believe it should come at the cost of losing existing customers. Sometimes you have to shed some dead weight that will never be satisfied no matter what you do but your current customers are people who are already familiar with your product. They use it and their use of it provides promotional benefits. Retaining existing customers is much easier than the amount of marketing and effort required to bring new customers on board. They are low hanging fruit and ignoring them in favor of growth would be a fool’s errand.
Pixologic customers who are already subscribers may stick with it providing that nothing changes. Converting perpetual users is going to be a whole different ball game. Right now, I don’t see any incentives for them to do so post merger. The ones that spend 10 hours a day in ZBrush won’t be interested in a more expensive Maxon One subscription that gives them access to software they will never use like C4D/Red Giant/RedShift. Maxon has to offer something substantially better to convert those who have gotten use to free updates for life. Direct Marvelous Designer integration with Zbrush maybe?
From professional point Cinema 4D´s own sculpting was not that good so why not replace it with Zbrush tools.
Same with other companies, if some company does not want to develop something then they buy a company which has already the solution.
I’m sorry that my refusal to provide you with the validation that you seem to want is upsetting for you.
We are discussing a scenario of hypotheticals. This includes the assumption that Maxon has the option to buy Insydium. That’s what we do here on this forum outside of answering specific questions.
You’ve also put a lot of words into my mouth. Never did I suggest that XP would cease to exist sans an acquisition. What I did say is that Insydium, at some point, may be tempted to branch out to Maxon’s rivals, chiefly Blender to gain mass market. If they succeed in creating a very intuitive system that anyone can use for a decent result in Blender, users who bought C4D just for XP will begin revaluating the wisdom of continuing to pay maintenance/subscription fees to Maxon.
You just stated earlier that Maxon allowed Thinking Particles to languish. XP is filling in a gap which Maxon has neglected. You even said XP helps Maxon make money indirectly by serving as a point of attraction – so why bother with further development of TP then?
That’s isn’t competition by anyone’s standards but rather that it is more of a tacit acknowledgement on the part of Maxon that XP has particle simulations covered while they focus their efforts elsewhere.
XP is a tax write off for me. I’m certainly not desperate for a break with something that is a rounding error out of my total expenses. I’m looking at it from the vantage point that Insydium is a worthwhile acquisition for Maxon for reasons previously outlined.
By your logic, the average driver on the road has no business owning a vehicle at all because they are not a mechanic. How elitist!
Apparently, you’ve forgotten who one of Maxon’s target audiences are: the non-technically minded artist. That generally includes graphic designers, photographers and traditional 2D artists who have expressed interest in including 3D as part of their pipeline to compliment their work without the need to be a computer science engineer – people who lean more towards the left side of the brain. Exercising creativity to their client’s satisfaction is their focus; not tinkering around with the intricacies and the machinations that govern 3D software. If it were otherwise, they would have entered a different field like VFX and architecture. Why should anyone feel the need to fit your definition of what being a true artist is?
Many students in North America do not continue their math education beyond the grade 10 level. Math is not a prerequisite either for graphic design or visual arts studies in university. Unless it is required in their day to day activities, much of that high school level vector math is forgotten – if they ever took courses in it at all. After public speaking and insects, math is among the more uncomfortable subjects for the average individual. Clearly, innumeracy is not a good thing but it is a reality that most people just dislike math despite that it is all around us.
Does it really surprise you then to know that most AE users never write their own scripts (more than 60% just use templates and nothing else)? Or that most game devs don’t write their own shaders? 3D is a made up of an endless list of specialisations. Rocket science isn’t for everyone; that’s why division of labour is the bedrock of every civilization.
For years, Maxon has been running whole advertising campaigns focusing on just this very issue – their most recent being “3D for the masses” when they announced Maxon One. Maxon wants 3D to become accessible to all; whether they are a sophisticated user or not.
A portion of these customers may actually take up coding/math and eventually outgrow the ceiling limitations of C4D. These are people who usually graduate to much higher paygrades with $5000 jobs or above. For sub $2500 jobs, C4D and XP has everything you need. Others are content with staying as “noobs”, since 3D is just one aspect of their pipeline rather than their primary focus and that is perfectly fine.
As I said earlier, buying up IP and tech that have no synergy with their original product is what is known as the shotgun approach. The bump in userbase from these acquisitions is just that; what matters is whether they maintain that concurrency long term.
If a company has too much diversification, that is when neglect becomes a real possibility as diametrically opposed interests compete for the same pool of resources. Adobe/Autodesk serve as cautionary tales here. Cinema4D playing second fiddle to the rest of Maxon’s portfolio would certainly spur a loss of confidence in the same vein as The Foundry’s Modo.
I can see studios staying with a Zbrush subscription as that might be cheaper than retraining. Individuals and one-man-band companies who have owned perpetual licenses forever, on the other hand, will likely not give another dime to Maxon.
They, like some Adobe CS6 holdouts, will stay with their current version forever unless Maxon does something incredibly stupid, like nullifying their licenses in an attempt to force them onto mandatory subscription. Eventually though, they’ll seek out other alternatives which may lead to the demand that spurs the development of Blender’s sculpting module at breakneck speed.
ZBrush has always been known for its frustrating UI setup and many had expressed a desire to seek alternatives as early as 2010. People loved to sculpt but hated using Zbrush.
3D Coat’s voxel sculpting was innovative but suffered from performance issues and it was difficult to control the mesh density on export. Andrew, the creator of 3DCoat had also committed a severe blunder by including in his EULA a request that his product not be used to create work that would be antithetical to his Christian values. Although this was removed rather quickly following customer backlash, it left a last impression that still haunts 3D Coat to this day.
Therefore, the great hope was that Mudbox, with its very intuitive interface and GPU accelerated display would be the answer every disgruntled ZBrush user was looking for. While Mudbox was still behind Zbrush in feature set, it had all the fundamentals in place and even in some areas, such as rock sculpting, was superior. The price point was good too, at $199 USD.
Unfortunately for Autodesk, Pixologic continued to rapidly pile feature after feature; charging absolutely nothing for it. Converting Zbrush users under those conditions was impossible, so Mudbox development was quietly abandoned. Had Zbrush charged for upgrades, the calculus for customers might have been different; even if they were dealing with Autodesk. We will never know how the landscape would have changed had Mudbox reached its full potential.
So, yes. I think a lot solo users would have been less inclined to stay with Zbrush had there been no free lifetime upgrades.