About Autodesk Maya's licensing model (Complete, LT, Indie)

Article / 11 February 2020

I love Maya, I've been using it for about 15 years now. Before that I was a Max user but as soon as I saw Maya's marking menus and the UV editor, I switched in a heart beat.

I worked on multiple AAA titles in Maya, I wrote a bunch of Mel scripts, I taught Maya to students for the last 6 years. I think Maya is the best animation program out there and definitely the most well taught out modeling program when it comes to user interaction. You can basically do everything is just a few marking menus. Nothing comes close and if anyone tells you differently it's because they never used marking menus to their full potential!

About two years ago I went freelance so I had to start purchasing my own subscription. I knew it would be expensive but I felt it was the right thing to do and support the developer. You might find this obvious but from where I'm from, paying for software is not that common, people prefer... alternative methods of obtaining it. Lucky for me, the first version I payed for was 2017 which was chock full of new modelling features with Update 4 bringing a whole to UVing as well. But then 2018, 2019 and now 2020 came out. I'm not saying there aren't any new modelling features but they seem to be too little to justify the yearly price. There were a bunch of animation and under-the-hood improvements that I'm sure animation artists love and that will have a positive impact on the future of Maya's modeling but for the most part, 2017 Update 5 is the last great modeling update. 

While I was getting disappointed with this slow progress, last year I got a call from Autodesk Support and had a chance to talk for quite a bit about how I use Maya and what I think the direction of the program should be. It felt like a genuine conversation and I'm really glad they gave me a chance to speak up. One of my issues was that Maya is a huge program with a ton of features but that there are individual artists and small studios who only use it for certain things and for which the subscription fee is too much. I also complained about how useless Maya LT is without Python scripting. I was told it's an issue a lot of users have and that Autodesk is working on it. Why would Autodesk call me? Well, like I said, here in Romania, paying 2000E/year for a license is almost unheard of so they didn't have many clients to choose from I guess!

Not long after this call I see an announcement for Maya Indie and I'm getting excited!


But then I click on the link and I see that Maya Indie is a pilot program only available in the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This left me disappointed, confused and even a bit offended. I understand that they need to test how many people would switch to Indie and how this would impact their income but I don't understand why exclude areas like Eastern Europe where piracy is rampant and such a drastic reduction in price would get people to buy the license which would otherwise pirate it. I mean, yeah, they would loose the income from people like me, but I'm sure they would more than make up for it with new subscriptions. The offended part comes from the fact that last year, people in the "western" world got a nice price cut for Maya when people from less developed countries got nothing! 2000E or piracy! It's offensive because if I dare to ask the same per hour rate as somebody from the US or UK, I get served the same "but you live in Romania, life's cheaper there, your rate is too high!" So while these "poor souls" who live in a developed country got to keep more of their income, I didn't just because Autodesk is afraid selling cheaper software wouldn't make them more money.

I of course asked Autodesk about this in December last year and they told me they do not have any news about the Maya Indie program. My current subscription expires at the end of February and I'm left with quite a painful dilemma.  Should I extend my subscription for another year and risk overpaying, should I switch to a monthly subscription and pay them more money while expecting Maya Indie to come out?  Thankfully I got a response from Autodesk Support in January stating Maya Indie won't be available world-wide for at least another year! So now I'm forced to either pay 10x more than some of my anglo-saxon colleagues who probably earn at least 4x more than me in one year or accept the limitations of LT.

I don't feel like this type of discriminatory practices should be left without challenge so personally I'm doing the following:
1. I am renouncing my full Maya subscription and promise I will never reactivate it unless it's in the form of Maya Indie and at a decent price.
2. I will purchase a Maya LT for the next year in hopes of being able to live with the crippling omission of Python and plugins.
3. I started a thread on the Maya LT Ideas forum proposing that Autodesk just ditch LT altogether and make Maya Indie available world wide. You can read more here and vote if you think it's something wort pursuing:
4. Next year, when the LT license expires, I will only continue to pay Autodesk for Maya Indie and nothing else. If that is not available until then I will just give up LT as well and just switch to Blender. I'm already incorporating it into my pipeline for non-Maya tasks anyway.

The image attached to this post is modified by me by adding the green text at the top. Of course this is not Autodesk's opinion on the matter, it is solely mine. I don't think Autodesk's intention is to discriminate but I hope everyone understands how this looks like it to me or other customers in the areas where Indie is not available!

Late edit:
It seems other people have the same complaint as me and are making their voices heard.
Also please consider voting these Ideas: