And everybody except the targeted audience gasps at the price of 95K for Face Robot Designer and 15K for Face Robot Animator.
People in the OSS and free software world like to talk about free speach vs. free beer. Well, it seems to me like the ever widening 3D application userbase likes to have its free lunch.
Thursday, March 28, 2002 Alias Wavefront cuts the price of Maya down to $1,999 and $6,999 for their Complete and Unlimited versions respectively. To me, this was the start of a democratization process to bring inexpensive professional quality 3D content creation software to the masses. Then came out the learning editions, the tiered pricings and since August 2004 you can even get an XSI version for $495.
Then comes along Face Robot and people are aghast. They’ve quickly gotten used to their free lunch. They clamor for innovation yet they aren’t ready to back-up the company that provides such leading edge innovation.
I can’t even start to imagine the amount of research that was poured into Face Robot and that R&D cost needs to be offset by Softimage. They aren’t, after all, a non profit buisness. And if a product can help you achieve the same quality output in less time, or a better output in as much time, considering the size of animation teams involved in photoreal character animation projects, 95K isn’t that much a big deal.
And let’s not forget that Face Robot is a highly specialized tool.
If memory serves, Behavior was initially around 15K-20K. I don’t really have to remember, I wasn’t the one who coughed up the dough. The Buzz team I worked with at the time was among the first to use Behavior in a commercial advertisment context. As an early adopter of the technology we were one of the customers that helped Softimage offset R&D costs. This brings me to two points.
1 – Behavior is still not being used all that much. Face Robot, like Behavior is a very specialized tool and for most studios, would be nothing more than an experiment. After toying around a bit that studio would go back to their bread and butter shot that doesn’t include a human face or a crowd. Face Robot is aimed at projects, not studios and the studio that has a project to warrant the use of Face Robot should have the budgetary envelope for it as well.
2 – Look at what has happened since Behavior hit market. It is now included with every purchase of XSI Advanced. Behavior has been democratized fairly well by now so who knows where we’ll be later on down the road with Face Robot. For now the people that have already done their bean counting know if this technology is what they need.
The rest of us can wait for the R&D investments to be offset and the competition to heat up in, what is for now, a Softimage only arena.
After all this is what this all boils down to: how much are you willing to pay for exclusivity, new products and most of all: innovation.