Thursday, January 24th, 2019 Posted by Jim Thacker

Adobe acquires Allegorithmic

Adobe has acquired Allegorithmic, developer of the leading texture authoring packages Substance Painter and Substance Designer, for an undisclosed sum.

All of Allegorithmic’s 140 staff are expected to move to Adobe, with founder and CEO Sébastien Deguy set to “lead Adobe’s 3D initiatives” in the future.

The news has prompted a huge volume of feedback on CG industry forums, much of it centred around the future licensing and development of Allegorithmic’s software.

Below, we explore the reasons for the buyout and analyse some of those key concerns.

Why does Adobe want to acquire Allegorithmic?
Although Adobe is better known for its 2D software, Allegorithmic’s products join a growing suite of 3D tools.

In 2017, the firm launched Dimension, a compositing and rendering package aimed at “graphic designers, not 3D experts”, followed last year by AR authoring tool Project Aero, which is now in private beta.

From that point of view, many of Allegorithmic’s tools seem a good fit: Substance Painter has a reputation as an artist-friendly application, and has integrated directly with Dimension from the start.

Project Alchemist, Allegorithmic’s upcoming next-gen material-authoring tool also fits with Adobe’s target user base of traditional designers moving into 3D, with Allegorithmic telling CG Channel that the software would “give newcomers … an easier transition” into the world of material editing.

Adobe’s press release describes the buyout as providing “Adobe’s core customer base of designers [with] a new set of tools for 3D projects” via Creative Cloud, its online subscription platform.

“We are seeing an increasing appetite from customers to leverage 3D technology across media, entertainment, retail and marketing,” said Adobe chief product officer Scott Belsky. “Creative Cloud is the creativity platform for all and Substance products are a natural complement to existing Creative Cloud apps.”

Why does Allegorithmic want to be acquired?
From Allegorithmic’s point of view, the risks and benefits of going from a small, agile, independent developer to part of a huge multinational company are more finely balanced.

In posts on the company’s forum, Substance Painter product manager Jérémie Noguer said that the company was motivated more by the potential for future growth than short-term financial gain.

“This is not about money [per se] but about having the resources to build the greatest tools we can,” he said.

“We have been profitable for a few years already, but a structure like Adobe brings us plenty of [benefits like] human resources, offices to house new hires, weight in face of giants like hardware manufacturers, and many other things that would simply be extremely hard to manage by ourselves.”

Noguer also commented that Adobe has been a board-level investor in Allegorithmic for two years, and that the acquisition “just happened organically”.

“At the end of the day, it made sense for us … to realise our ambition, and [for] Adobe to finally enter the 3D world properly,” he said.

Allegorithmic’s preview of Project Alchemist. Jérémie Noguer commented that development of the upcoming material authoring tool “could benefit from several research subjects currently ongoing at Adobe”.

Writing in a personal blog post on Medium, Sébastien Deguy described himself as both optimistic and “scared as frack” about the move.

“The fact that I will have a boss for the first time, that we’re switching from a 140-strong team to a family of 21,000: this is all very exciting, full of unknowns and opportunities, and like all changes in life, a bit scary,” he said. “Still, I am definitely willing to take the plunge and the risk.”

Will the buyout mean the end of perpetual licences of Substance Painter and Designer?
The news has prompted an enormous volume of feedback on CG community forums – at the time of posting, the thread on the Allegorithmic forum is up to 35 pages – the vast majority negative, or at least sceptical.

One major area of concern is the future of Allegorithmic’s existing software licences.

Adobe was the first major company in the CG market to move to a rental-only licence policy, and many artists, particularly freelancers and small studios, have never really forgiven them for it.

While supporters argue that subscriptions make it possible to rent tools on a per-project basis, reducing the cost of software you use infrequently, detractors claim that for staple tools, the reverse is true.

Whereas perpetual licences enable users to choose to skip annual upgrades, under an Adobe-style subscription policy, you have to keep paying for software in order to continue using it.

For many users, the fact that Allegorithmic didn’t go down the rental-only route was a major point in its favour: while the firm does offer rental deals, their Indie subscriptions follow a ‘rent to own’ model, in which payments eventually lead to a perpetual licence.

While Allegorithmic has said that “when it comes to licensing, nothing changes for now”, it’s hard to imagine that it will continue to be able to offer perpetual and rent-to-own licences in the long run.

According to Adobe’s press release: “Allegorithmic tools are already offered as a subscription service … and in the future Adobe will focus on expanding [their] availability via subscription.”

On the Allegorithmic forum, Jérémie Noguer confirmed that the firm would announce new licensing options later in the year, but commented that “they will be cheap and have a lot of value”.

Will the buyout slow the development of Allegorithmic software?
Another area of concern is the long-term future of Allegorithmic’s tools.

Although Substance Designer and Project Alchemist sit well with Adobe’s stated aim of ‘democratising 3D‘, Substance Designer – a more traditional and much more technical 3D tool – is a less obvious fit.

And while both Substance Painter and Substance Designer have Linux editions – a key platform in the 3D industry – none of Adobe’s other, more design-focused Creative Cloud tools do.

In his blog post, Sébastien Deguy points to examples of products that Adobe has acquired and maintained successfully, like Photoshop, After Effects and online portfolio service Behance.

Detractors cite tools that were acquired then discontinued, like 2D graphics editor Fireworks, or that seem to have been sidelined, like Mixamo’s 3D character creator Fuse, still in beta two years after its acquisition.

In his forum posts, Jérémie Noguer said that all of Allegorithmic’s software would remain available in the immediate future, including the Linux editions.

He also noted that the old Mixamo development team “built Adobe Dimension … and will go back to working on Fuse when Dimension is [further] along”.

However, another issue raised by users is not simply whether Allegorithmic’s products will survive, but the pace at which they will be developed in future.

Many would argue that large, generalist companies like Adobe simply don’t innovate as fast as small, specialist firms like Allegorithmic.

Noguer acknowledged these concerns, but also offered a memorable response to the more extreme scenarios being predicted by forum users.

“We’re all for listening to feedback,” he said. “But for the love of the holy spaghetti monster, please stop predicting a future we know much more about than you do.”

Allegorithmic’s latest customer shoreel. Its title – ‘Made With Substance, Made With You’ – reflects the sense of personal investment that many artists felt about the company and its user community.

Not just a practical but an emotional concern
Ultimately, whether Adobe’s acquisition of Allegorithmic benefits its users can only be judged by the releases it puts out over the coming years.

However, the intensity – and sheer volume – of feedback posted online in the hours following the announcement are testament to the esteem in which the firm was held.

For many, Allegorithmic was a company they loved not simply because it produced good tools, but because, in an industry dominated by giants like Adobe and Autodesk, it felt like a beacon of independent spirit.

Of all the hundreds of user comments posted on the company’s forum, one seems to us to sum this up this sentiment particularly well.

As 3D artist Virgil Sisoe put it: “People pay Allegorithmic because they really want to do so. People pay Adobe because they are forced to do so.”

Read Allegorithmic CEO Sebastien Deguy’s blog post discussing the firm’s acquisition by Adobe

Read Adobe’s blog post on the deal

Read user reactions to the buyout on Allegorithmic’s forum