Adobe's move to CC and a "software as a service" model is still met with much controversy. This is in no small part due to the lack of any perpetual license ownership choice for those (many) who want one. Such is not the case with Autodesk's release of Mudbox 2015, a powerful CG 3D sculpting tool originally developed by artists of Weta Digital for Peter Jackson's King Kong. This release comes with the option of a subscription -- starting at $10 per month and scaling out to an annual plan -- as well as the option for a traditional perpetual license. Read on for more on Mudbox 2015 and Autodesk's Desktop Subscription plans.
Autodesk Mudbox 2015
Autodesk is the developer of industry standard design tool AutoCAD, as well as the widely used 3D modelling & animation programs Maya and 3ds Max. Having earned an Academy Award for its Technical Achievements, Mudbox complements the modeling aspect of such programs with its specialized 3D sculpting and digital painting capabilities.
As part of an ongoing commitment to equip indie game makers and artists with powerful, accessible 3D tools, Autodesk announced that its Mudbox 2015 digital painting and 3D sculpting software is now available as a Desktop Subscription license for $10 USD a month.
Of course, game developers aren't the only "indies" Mudbox can empower -- the software was originally developed for use in film visual effects, after all. Here are some of Mudbox 2015's features, with the following videos showcasing "symmetry options for retopology, efficient layer grouping, & enhanced interoperability with Maya for Ptex," respectively:
Obviously Mudbox is a tool for use in a chain -- it's not like you're getting an end-to-end 3D package for $10 a month -- but it's still a powerful one with a unique place in that chain. Now, it's also a tool widely accessible to even more artists than ever before.
Autodesk Desktop Subscription
As mentioned, Mudbox 2015 is available for $10 monthly, but also goes for $250 annually or $500 for outright purchase. This pricing actually puts monthly subscribers at a kind of advantage -- the uncrippled 30-day free trial may be enough for new users to get into using Mudbox, but it would still take them another 50 months (over 4 years) to pay the $500 of an all-at-once purchase. The flip side of the coin would be reaching that mark and realizing you could've paid up front and owned the software forever instead of starting at "square one" after 4 years, having shelled out $500 anyway. Updates and upgrades can complicate matters and make this kind of budgeting a bit murkier, but in any case, these prices seem reasonable enough for serious consideration by those in the 3D animation or VFX fields.
In terms of its Desktop Subscription options, here's how Autodesk breaks down [PDF] the payment-plans available. Note that, because it retails for much less than something like 3ds Max or Maya, the quarterly pay-as-you-go option isn't available for Mudbox:
With this variety of subscription schemes, Autodesk allows flexibility in getting the best bang for your buck over whatever time frame you may be dealing with. This seems to make quite a bit of sense -- especially since those who would benefit from an all-at-once purchase still have that option. Desktop Subscription extends to 3ds Max and Maya, which retail for about $3700 each. Alternatively, either can be rented for $200 a month or $600 quarterly.
Ultimately I think more and more software will start to offer "monthly rental" options, which could help put powerful tools in the hands of more artists. The caveats of a subscription only model have been articulated quite a bit, but given the option for permanent licensing as well, many of those downsides are alleviated. If more software packages do become available "as a service," a best-of-both-worlds approach like Autodesk's here may result in happier users -- and probably more of them -- across the board. For a more in-depth exploration of Mudbox's features, and Desktop Subscription pricing information, check out the links below.
What do you guys think? How does this multi-option approach to licensing compare to what you want as a software user?