Originally posted on 10 September 2021. Scroll down for news of the commercial release.
Autodesk has unveiled Flex, a new pay-as-you go pricing system that will enable users to pay for its software on a day-by-day basis by pre-purchasing online tokens.
The payment model will be introduced for a limited range of Autodesk applications, including 3ds Max, Maya, Mudbox, MotionBuilder and Flame, on 24 September 2021.
Pay-as-you go pricing lets occasional users try Autodesk apps ‘at a lower price point’
Flex enables users to pay to use Autodesk software for shorter minimum periods than the firm’s existing monthly subscriptions, by pre-purchasing usage tokens.
Every time the user then opens a compatible Autodesk application, a fixed number of tokens are consumed every 24 hours.
The number of tokens consumed varies from application to application, roughly in proportion to its subscription price: for example, Mudbox consumes one token per day, but 3ds Max and Maya consume six.
Autodesk describes the pricing as intended for occasional users of an application, enabling “new customers to try our products at a lower price point – no subscription needed”.
Limited benefit for individual artists
The pricing of the tokens suggests that in this context, a ‘customer’ is a studio rather than an individual artist.
Tokens expire after a year, and the minimum number you can purchase is 500, which will cost $1,500.
That’s way higher than the price of an annual indie subscription to 3ds Max or Maya – currently $280/year in the US – so for anyone under the earnings threshold for an indie plan, there’s no merit in switching.
Even for artists earning more than the threshold value for their country – usually $50,000 to $100,000/year – or working on projects valued at over $100,000, there seems to be little cost advantage.
For those users, a payment of $1,500 would allow them to use 3ds Max or Maya for 83 days in a year.
In contrast, taking out three monthly subscriptions for either application currently costs $645, while a one-year subscription is $1,700, so Flex only makes sense if you use the software regularly, but in short bursts.
And for apps like Mudbox, where an annual subscription costs $90/year, Flex would actually work out over $1,400/year more expensive, and would mean wasting a lot of your 500 tokens.
A long-term replacement for multi-user subscriptions for studios?
Instead, Flex seems more likely to appeal to studios with artists using a lot of different DCC apps.
As part of its new named user subscription policy, Autodesk will be stopping multi-user subscriptions to its software on 7 August 2022, making it impossible for multiple artists within a studio to share a subscription.
Rather than having to take out individual subscriptions for every artist who uses a particular software package over the course of a year, studios can now share credits between artists, and between apps.
Whether Flex works out cheaper than a multi-user subscription depends on the number of credits purchased at a time, the number of artists within a studio, and the number of apps they use.
However, even with the price of multi-user subscriptions having risen sharply in recent years, it seems likely that there will still be cases where an old floating licence would have been cheaper.
Updated 24 September 2021: Flex tokens are now available.
The exact prices vary from country to country, and may be significantly higher than a direct currency conversion of the price in US dollars: for example, in the UK, tokens start at £1,410 for 500 (roughly $1,920).
Pricing and availability
Flex is initially avaialble for a limited range of its applications, including 3ds Max, Maya, MotionBuilder, Mudbox and Flame.
Pricing starts at $1,500 for 500 tokens, with the cost per token falling with the number purchased. You can find the number of tokens consumed by each application via the links below.
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