Autodesk sucks

After Krystian’s post on how badly Microsoft treats their potential customers, here’s a rant on how much Autodesk’s licencing policy sucks.

Not stricktly a gaming issue, I decided that it still fits into this blog because most assets you’ll see in today’s commercial games are created with their tools. Not to advertise for them, just stating how this relates to the blog.

One last disclaimer: 3ds max is a trademark, property, product and whatever is relevant for Autodesk’s lawyers. I’ll be using the term “3ds max” in this post for brevity’s sake.

I’ve been using 3ds max for years, most intensively during my time at the NEON Studios as a production character artist. When NEON Studios closed, I purchased the program to continue working in the industry as a freelancer.

There, the bullshit starts.

In the USA, the package costs about 3500 USD, or ca. 2615 Euro at the current rate. Adding 19% German sales tax, we’re at about 3111 Euro for comparison. Now get this: I paid 5.057,50 Euro and it was a good deal including the subscription (which I’ll discuss later).

There is simply nothing that justifies a 60% premium, and even if there was, Autodesk would be doing a terrible job communicating it to the customer.

Even better: the EULA (end user licence agreement) states that the licence is only valid in the territory of purchase, so buying 3ds max in the US wouldn’t make me a legal user in Europe.

As is, the message is clear: “F**k you, rest of the World!”

Now, I started studying at that time, so of course I looked for an educational program. Indeed they offer a educational licence for about 130 Euro, but you cannot work commercially with it. “That’s OK for a student!” one might say.

But consider this: a student wants to learn the program because of its popularity in the games and movie industry, but his school only teaches Cinema 4D (like KISD). Say he actually buys an educational licence (because students always buy the software they use) and let’s further assume that he becomes quite proficient with it, getting him a small freelance job for a local cinema, ruling out the possibility for a game studio to let him use their licences.

Strictly speaking, the student’s educational licence is no good in this case. So what are his options if he was to go 100% legal? Buy the 5000 Euro commercial licence? Yeah right, the budgets barely covers the rent. Reject the inquiry? How else should he start his career? Let the client buy the licence? Ridiculous.

Thus, the message here is also clear: “*uc* you, students!”

Look at Adobe. They offer an “in-between” educational licence which is more expensive than the poor student version but still much cheaper than the regular one (~1000 Euro vs. ~3300 Euro for the Master Collection), while allowing commercial usage.

Back to my story. I bought the full licence with the so-called subscription, which means you get all the bonus extensions and even major releases for about 500 Euro during a year. I got the subscription without extra charge because a new version was announced but not yet released then.

So I bought max 9 and got 2008 and 2009 when they came out. But I’m allowed to work with the older versions only as a benefit of the subscription. With the subscription expired, version 9 and 2008 cease to work. That wouldn’t be a problem if the files were at least partly backward compatible, like other formats. Not every studio updates to the latest version immediately and for their entire pipeline, unlike what Autodesk might be wishing. I don’t know what disadvantage Autodesk would suffer for users to work with versions they once paid money for.

Now, Autodesk is kind enough to allow me to enter subscription again, but not without charging me an extra 100 Euro “penalty”. For what? For not being permanently “loyal”?

Again, the message here is pretty clear: “F*c* you, existing and returning customers!”

Sadly, I’m in this too deep already. Go save yourself with Blender!

P.S. I just saw that the German price for 3ds max 2009 is now ~4600 Euro incl. tax. Price reduction is, of course, a good thing for new customers, but it makes the penalty for returning customers all the more insulting.

Yu-Chung Chen

Yu-Chung Chen is a designer working primarily on video games. He studied at Köln International School of Design and has contributed to a number of published games. Currently he works as a freelance UI designer at Keen Games.

8 responses to “Autodesk sucks”

  1. Krystian Majewski

    This is some serious trouble. And I’m whining over 80€ Wi-Fi Sticks.

    I’m REALLY surprised about this. I was assuming that if you pay 5000€, you will get the treatment royale with Autodesk helping and supporting you every step of the way. If they don’t do that, what exactly are you paying for? Jeez, this is really disappointing.

    Like Veronika bought Micrsosoft Office the other day. I tried to nudge her to use open source office suits but she wasn’t happy with them. While they work well in Windows, they have some crappy Mac intergeneration. So she paid 140€ for it, it was MORE expensive then the Windows version (why?) and it turned out to be an empty box with the CD in a paper envelope. What a turn-off.

    I will also check out Blender now. I was shocked when I found out that it is only 20MB! That totally blows my mind. 3ds max is HUGE in comparison. Just starting 3ds max may take longer then starting the whole PC. When I downloaded Blender, I thought it was only some web-installer or something but no – the whole program is only 20MB and it’s free and has features very close to 3ds max.

    I wonder if Autodesk will survive much longer with this strategy and in this kind of competition.

  2. Max Puliero

    Yeah You are right!

    Me too I started to learn Blender 1 years ago and now is my main 3d app for character development.


  3. Free Microsoft Points

    I have been using it for some time but no good result.

  4. Keith Parker

    Rock on Autodesk users of the world!

    Big Brother Autodesk (1984) has taken over the designers ability to make an honest living! Their socialist company wants to control you with subscriptions! We the slump in the ecconomy over the past few years and years to come, won’t they help the little man out? Do they feel it is their job to govern the free design community? Yes in-didi! just pay another $1,000 and we will let you use the software you already purchased. I am fed up with all of these stinking fees!!!!
    who will come to our rescue?

    I’m out!

  5. Grandmaster B

    The autodesk situation is even worse.

    - The 100,- late renewal fee is only available 30 days after your subscription ran off.
    (”so you finally found out that without subscription you are screwed? – we are happy to have you back but it´ll cost you another 100,- extra ;-) )

    - There is no cheap way to get back into subscription after the 30day late renewal period. The only way then is to buy an upgrade-version which still is very expensive.

    - you are not allowed to sell your license which you paid for in full! (is this even legal?)

  6. Dell Anderson

    AutoDesk sucketh royally! I started with 3D Studio (DOS!) and after upgrading 4 times in 4 years (nearly $800 each time) and having to stand on my head while juggling faxes to authorize each dongle, I vowed never to buy AutoDesk products again. Unfortunately, I also purchased SoftImage XSI Essentials 5.11 BEFORE they were purchased by AutoDesk. This software used a blue iButton dongle which I accidentally smooshed when moving my office workstation around yesterday. It is not a huge loss because I never really used XSI that much and now use Maxon’s Cinema 4D Studio (& moving towards a little Blender to avoid the license upgrade treadmill). However, I wanted to keep all my paid-for tools available ‘just in case’ and was dumbfounded to find that AutoDesk no longer supports re-activation of a 2006 product with “permanent” license. I suppose I can try and solder the dongle, but now I just want this dirty little software off my computer!

  7. mark r.

    Autodesk sucks. I won their software in a competition in which they got free publicity and now it has expired for no apparent reason I know!!! Their tech support is awful! “Indian givers” no offense to Indians

  8. Meh

    Autodesk is now suffering 60% losses in shares and has now booted almost half their development teams. What does that say about a company so bloated that even after buying out all the big names has trouble keeping afloat? Hell their pricing structure has not changed since the MS DOS era. And WTH would we wat to buy a 90 day trial to demo their software for $200?

    I moved onto:

    Blender 3D

    No need to look back these packages deliver everything you will ever need, be that hobby or industry or both. Best of all no subscription garbage, and 90% of the time you can get straight answers from their dev teams.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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