Tuesday, May 9th, 2017 Posted by Jim Thacker

Autodesk to discontinue perpetual licences of Arnold

Autodesk is to drop perpetual licences of Arnold and move the renderer to the same rental-only subscription licensing model as its other software. The change takes effect on 30 April 2018.

The firm has also discontinued the old daily rental plan for Arnold in favour of new monthly and annual subscription pricing.

The move reverses Autodesk’s policy on acquiring original Arnold developer Solid Angle last April, at which point it told CG Channel that “it just doesn’t make sense” to discontinue perpetual licences.

Sales of new perpetual licences to stop next April, but existing maintenance plans continue
As with Autodesk’s other DCC software, like 3ds Max and Maya, existing perpetual licences of Arnold will remain valid after the new subscription-only policy comes into force.

Customers with perpetual licences will continue to receive updates, so long as they maintain a maintenance plan: once you let maintenance lapse, the only way to get further updates will be to switch to subscription.

In its FAQs accompanying the announcement, Autodesk states that it will “continue to honor [existing maintenance plans] and customers will be able to renew them when they expire”.

In addition, the firm’s recently announced changes to maintenance pricing for its other software, which will see the cost of remaining on maintenance rise by 38% by 2019, will not affect Arnold.

In the FAQs, the firm states that “there are no price increases currently planned” for Arnold, although it adds the not-terribly-reassuring caveat that “this may change at a future date”.

No existing maintenance? You’ll need to buy a new licence
Users with older perpetual licences of Arnold, but no current maintenance plan, will also need to re-purchase the software if they want to continue to receive upgrades after the change comes into force.

On the release of Arnold 5.0 last month, Autodesk did not offer upgrades from previous versions of the software, and according to the FAQs:

“Until April 30, 2018, customers with currently expired maintenance plans will have the option to purchase a new perpetual license, with maintenance, if they want to keep their perpetual license current.”

Daily rental dropped in favour of cheaper monthly and annual options
Rental pricing itself is also changing, with the old option to rent Arnold for $7.50/day having already been dropped in favour of new pricing of $65/month or $600/year.

However, given that there used to be a minimum rental cost of $400 under the old system, that’s actually a price drop: two months at $65/month works out considerably cheaper, and gives you more days’ usage.

The pros and cons of subscription
In its announcement, Autodesk proposes the same benefits for subscription over perpetual licences as it has done for its other software, noting that “subscription offers customers a lower entry price, greater flexibility, and the ability to pay as you go while enabling Autodesk to have a much more predictable business”.

The drawback, if you previously updated your software infrequently – or if paid updates only appeared at long intervals, as has historically been true for Arnold – is that it increases your annual costs.

In the case of Arnold, perpetual licences cost $1,220, including 12 months’ maintenance, so the new subscription pricing is roughly equivalent to repurchasing the software every two years.

For that reason, subscription-only policies often arouse considerable resentment among freelancers, although they remain far more popular with studios – including, Autodesk claims, small start-ups.

In its FAQs, the firm notes that “with the migration to a subscription-only business for [Maya and 3ds Max], we have seen rapid growth in new customers, especially in the small to mid-sized business category”.

A U-turn on Autodesk’s policy of last April
The move is, however, a fairly rapid reversal of the company’s policy on acquiring Solid Angle last April.

At the time, Autodesk industry manager Maurice Patel told CG Channel: “The one thing I will stress is that we’re not going to discontinue perpetual licences for rendering.”

“[Arnold] is a very different business model [to our other software, and] through the nature of how it supports other products, it just doesn’t make sense to do that.”

“We know that many of the customers [who use other] 3D products don’t necessarily want to move to subscription. We’re not going to force [other companies’] subscription agendas.”

In the case of Arnold, those other products include Cinema 4D, Houdini and Katana, the integration plugins for which Solid Angle has stressed that it will “continue to develop and update”.

However, as far as we can tell, there hasn’t been much change in their developers’ own subscription policies.

Although SideFX reduced its rental prices on the release of Houdini 16 earlier this year, it continues to offer perpetual licences alongside subscriptions, as do Maxon and Foundry.

Read Autodesk’s FAQs about the discontinuation of perpetual licences for Arnold

Read the announcement of the new subscription pricing for Arnold on Solid Angle’s website