Autodesk And The Price Gouge That's Holding Back The Australian Games Industry

It's the Australian price gouge that no-one is talking about, even more severe than Adobe's or the price of video games in Australia.

Autodesk: it has a near complete monopoly on the software developers use to design and build video games. Compared to the US, its digital products sell for almost double the cost here in Australia. 3D Studio Max, Maya — if you want to develop video games in Australia, and you want to do it via legal means, you must go through Autodesk. You have no real choice, and you must pay an exorbitant amount of money to do so.

The story begins with an anonymous email regarding the local pricing of Autodesk's products here in Australia.

"Is anyone looking into the price disparity of 3D Studio Max or Maya pricing," it began. "They're disproportionately priced but additionally they say it's illegal to use a version purchased in another territory in Australia - to the point of strong arming internationally owned developers whose parent companies make the purchases."

If you want to make video games, and you're serious about making video games for consoles, you cannot avoid using Autodesk products. It's next to impossible. Create an asset, render or character using a Nintendo devkit and it exports to a file that requires 3D Studio Max or Maya — both Autodesk products. The same goes for any major engine. If you're using Unreal or Source, you need to be using Autodesk software.

"It's a monopoly," explains Nic Watt, the Creative Director at Nnooo, and the only local developer willing to speak on the record about Autodesk's local pricing practices. "If we want to make games on any major platform, we have to use their software."

Once upon a time there was competition. 3D Studio Max or Maya — you were on one side or the other. But that all changed when Autodesk, started making a series of acquisitions. After the purchase of Softimage in 2008, Autodesk owned almost all of the 3D software solutions available to developers.

"It was only about four or five years ago that they went through a spree of buying them all," explains Nic. "Before there were competing companies. That kept everything healthy, but now it's all the same."

————-


Take 3DS Studio Max, for example, it costs $3,675 if you purchase it in the US. The same product costs over $6000 in Australia. How is this justifiable?

Nic Watt describes the frustrating process of attempting to purchase Autodesk products during the making of its most recent release Spirit Hunters for the 3DS.

"I got in contact with Autodesk and they told me it was the resellers that set the price locally; that old get out clause," said Nic.

"There was a loophole that let me buy the product in the US, but then there was a big warning sign telling me that I wouldn't get a license basically. So we had to go through an Australian reseller."

Autodesk products are region locked, and this region locking is strict. If you buy a product from the US and register that software in Australia, you won't be able to use the software you purchased. If Australian developers want to buy the products they need to create games, they must go through the local resellers and pay thousands of dollars extra.

One developer, speaking on condition of anonymity, informed us that Autodesk once visited a large studio in Australia, giving them a dressing down for using US-licenses sent to them by their parent company in the US. 'Those licenses aren't legitimate,' they were told. 'You need to buy new ones'.

"Essentially what they've done is sit down in an office and said, 'how do we create a system that allows us to completely control prices around the world,'" claims Nic Watt. "You have to buy your serial number locally and they can tell by the number itself where you've bought the key from. They won't give you a license key if you've bought it outside of the country. As far as I'm concerned that's an unfair business practice. I can't go anywhere else."

——————— We decided to try and get in contact with Autodesk in the US. After hours spent searching for a phone number to call, we were directed to an online customer service representative. This is the conversation that followed...

So, all pricing questions must go through the local Australian reseller. We called Digistor, one of two major Autodesk resellers in the Sydney area, to find out precisely why Australian developers were being asked to pay so much compared to their US counterparts.

"Good question," said a local sales representative. "We don't know. It's something we've raised with Autodesk quite often."

Despite the fact that Autodesk would not comment on Australian pricing, and would only provide contact details for local Australian resellers, Digistor was insistent that it was not in control of local pricing. The sold at higher prices in order to recoup a small margin based on the stock supplied to them by Autodesk.

"They sell to us at a cost and we make a margin on it," explained the representative, "but there's only so far we can discount it in Australia before it's not worth doing for us."

"There's a couple of legitimate reasons for the extra cost, one of them being that the cost of business in Australia is a lot higher. Plus there's less people and less money coming in, so the prices have to be a little higher. You'll find that across the board, Adobe, companies like that, all have a higher price for their Australian software."

We brought up the IT Pricing Inquiry, and the fact that Adobe was named as one of the worst offenders and have been summonsed to explain themselves.

"I saw that," said the representative. "They've had to bring down some of their pricing, so who knows what's going to happen on this side of things."

Clearly Digistor feels powerless to change the pricing of Autodesk products in Australia.

——————- Speaking to the ACCC, it appears as though — for now — it is powerless to make any real changes with regards to Autodesk's price gouging. We were sent a simple statement, attributed to an 'ACCC spokesperson which stated the following:

Businesses are free to set their own prices as long as they do so independent of their competitors and in a way that does not mislead or deceive consumers.

This applies despite the region locking, despite the fact there are no real alternatives for developers in this country if they want to make 3D games for modern consoles.

"It affects our competition in the world marketplace," explained Nic Watt. All other calls to other developers remain either unanswered, or they declined to comment.

"While a couple of grand on a project that costs five million isn't a big deal it does add up — if you have 10 or 20 artists that's a lot of money.

"It has a massive affect on us. You have to imagine some people are saying, 'I can get a torrent of this for free'. I'd quite happily pay American prices, but when you want to double the price just because I live in Sydney, it's hard to care about being loyal to that company. I want to be legitimate, but when you're doing that, you're asking people not to respect you.

"But if they can sell software for almost double the price in Australia and get away with it, why wouldn't they do it? There's no incentive for them to stop unless the government steps in."


Comments

    Wait... back-up a bit.

    So a single corporate entity has managed to buy out BOTH 3D Rendering Tools required for creating software/games? Last time I checked there wasn't there anti-monopoly laws in place for these kind of shennanigans?!

      It's done off shore, so crappy laws like anti-monopoly laws in Australia have no jurisdiction overseas.

      If there were any smart 3-D tech heads around, they should be trying to make a new 3-D program to wreck in the money.

        Houdini is an alternative option, though that's mostly used in film and not so much in games. Still, since it uses Python as its scripting language, and works across Windows, Mac and Linux, I can see it potentially gaining some traction.

        Artists that I know of complain about it a bit because the way it goes about doing things is different to Max and Maya, but it's not too bad once you've got the hang of it.

          I'd say Cinema4D would be a more appropriate counter. Houdini is excellent , but its fairly laser focused on vfx flash and sparkle. Cinema4D is a more rounded 3D modelling, texturing and these days sculpting (R14 has a zbrush style sculpt tool) toolkit, but your still paying an arm and a leg for a tool that whilst it more or less does everything maya and max do, doesnt have the same trained userbase. If Maxon ever had the sense to drop this tool down to under $1K, it would eat autodesks market alive. I'd say blender COULD be a contender but for the fact that nobody can afford to spend 20-30K per artist downtime getting people trained up to use its totally berk UI.

        Last time I checked US and EU had their own anti-monopoly laws as well....

        There are plenty of alternatives: Sculpture, Blender, ZBrush.

          The problem is for most of the major engines, such as the aforementioned Unreal and Source, they write all their plugins for Maya or Max. If you use something else, it's usually tough luck.

            So from an economic standpoint, I guess the question is whether the plugins are more valuable than the cost of the Autodesk licenses. For a small studio, the answer is probably yes. For a moderate size studio, it is debatable.

            If a number of developers collaborated, then perhaps they could share the cost of the required modifications (Blender being Free Software means anyone is free to do such modifications).

              I mentioned Houdini in an earlier post above. While Houdini isn't free, it has very easy scripting capabilities with Python so I can potentially see that gaining some traction in the near future. We'll see.

              Last edited 25/02/13 10:16 pm

              Blender isn't really in the race for professional 3D because of its user interface. I hear fans always defending it, and pointing to the fact that its free, but they miss that training people to use an insanely unintuitive piece of software will end up costing more than the software the staff already knows (pretty much anyone who studies 3D in uni will learn Max and/or Maya) is always going to cost more than the price saved on the software. Blender is such an expensive option when you factor in training, and for that reason alone, its just not in the race..

                SO the real problem is- Blender needs to be customisable.
                I think someoen already tried this with GIMP - modifying the shortcuts and commands, to make it Photoshop compatible. If the Blender functions could be re-mapped to Maya keys, would that help?

      They already had one, then they bought the other.
      And who's going to stop them from doing so?

      They are not the only software, they are two of the best from personal experience and it makes sense for devkits to work with just the two most popular 3D softwares. But it isn't a monopoly and its up to the devkit creators to decide what programs to work with. They are too expensive in Australia though and i hope something happens to bring the price down.

    our government needs to start recommending piracy in these cases. these businesses wont talk about the gouging? fine - don't pay them anything.

      Nice suggestion but not practical..

      No one will work/publish your stuff if your working off an illegitimate build. It's not like were talking about RPGMaker stuff here. This is actual commercial works. Your opening yourself, the company and your publisher to a world of fines and legislation if you do that.

        I know of an example where autodesk sued a civil engineering company for not having the correct number of licenses for thier autocad product, so it seems like they are pretty hot on about this issue.

        Although i'm sure lots of people have pirated autodesk products for home use....

          Students who register can get maya and max for free! Autodesk aren't half bad...

            I'm one of the students that can do that. I don't think the student versions have access to all the features of the programs.

              They are fully functional, they just don't allow you to use them for commercial work.

            Are there any "field of use" restrictions on those copies? If you can't use those licenses for commercial work, then they aren't really relevant in this situation (if anything, they are there to prop up their market position among recent graduates).

            This is a marketing ploy, and it's part of the problem. People get all of their training on Autodesk products, meaning that when they get into the workforce they only want/are able to use Autodesk products.

            Same reason Microsoft gives everything away for free to students and small businesses. It's nice, yes, but don't be blinded to the massive commercial advantages it brings to them.

          From what I remember AutoDesk Gave up on fighting people pirating AutoCAD products for home use making thier focus for lawsuits anyone who uses the software in a commercial situation.

        I've actual had the thought that the Government could make using unlicensed software legal under specific circumstances. i.e. if it incorporates regional pricing. It would have to be well thought out, but its the only thing I can think of to bring an end to this nonsense. It's not great for anyone in Australia.

          If Americans were charge $6,000 would it still not be great for anyone in Australia? If people didn't think it was worth the $6,000 then they simple would not buy it and buy another product, or use an older format of the program.

            That's the problem. There isn't another option. If you want to create 3D content that is still relevant in the ever advancing industry, the only programs that will work are supplied by Autodesk. They are the only programs powerful and broad enough to do all of the complex things you need to do, and are the only programs that your potential workforce will be trained to use, and that will integrate well with the current game engines on the market. As for older versions, software licenses aren't like cars, you can't buy an old used license from somebody, and it would be very hard to find anywhere that still sells anything older than the 2012 version of any Autodesk product.

              Then the 6,000 dollars justifies the price tag the industry is prepared to use to get "programs powerful and broad enough to do all of the complex things you need to do". If it wasn't, they simply would not buy this product and buy others.

              Let's not forget, $6,000 dollars may seem high. But when put into perspective that a person could earn who knows how much... (30k to 120k a year?) All due to this one program, is more then enough to justify the investment.

                @HH: You've missed the point the US *price* is 3k. US developers can have TWO people working on those assets for the price of ONE AU developer. It's a matter of commercial protectionism. These are industry tools that *must* be used by any serious developer.

                Its not a matter of buying *others*. These tool sets are your *only* options and to double the price for the same software for other regions is frankly predatory pricing/protectionism. Any developer that is not based in US has to pay for the overseas license... even US publishers cannot use a US license for a studio thats not based in US! This is overall a *bad* thing especially for local developers who must fork out the 6k unless they wish to relocate to US.

                  If Americans were charged $6,000 would it still not be great for anyone in Australia?

                  We are not Americans, You have to realize that our industry (much like a lot of things) is much smaller here which would mean doing business with us is much riskier.

                  Either HH is a troll from Autodesk or simply clueless. As a 20+ year user and owner of Autodesk products suggesting that the smaller size of our industry makes us riskier to sell to is simply ridiculous. Especially when talking about a product that is purely digital. There's no magical import tax that warrants double the price the US pays. Simply put Australia is a wealthy country and Autodesk (along with other software companies) have known they could get away with price gouging for a long time. There are other packages out there that are not as overpriced, but moving to a new tool is not an option for artists that have invested years in mastering one application. Plus the reality of being familiar with the tools that Australian VFX companies have made huge investments building pipelines around. It will be interesting to see if their bad attitude to the government asking for an explanation encourages the government to apply some real pressure to them to bring their pricing closer to parity with other countries.

                  @HH The industry is not charging us as Australians $3000 extra. The company that provides the software is, and they are not actually doing any business with us with regards to creating assets for games. If it were say, Nintendo, charging 6k as opposed to 3k to have an Australian dev on staff on the basis of smaller, riskier industry then there would be grounds to charge extra. Having The company that owns all of the tools say "because you live here you will pay 200% of our RRP" in accordance with our resellers in your area (which with an online store you can download from makes that point moot) is big bags of horseshit.

                @HH: A price increase in another region is acceptable. Because of external factors such as labor, etc. However we have an FTA w/ America so you cannot use Taxation as a full excuse, none of these products are produced here, their usually digital only products. So exactly *why* is Australia worth twice than any other region? You can only use those external factors for so much.

                And if the price was in US was 6k and we got charged 6k we wouldn't be complaining would we? Because thats parity. But the point is that it's *NOT* worth 6k. The price is 3k. Even taking into account fluctuating exchange rates thats doubling of profits for a *license*. We are not talking about a physical mass produced product here. We're talking about software.

                  @Nexi(wouldnt allow me to reply to his comment for some reason) actually if you read the article correctly, Australian companies are forced to have their prices that high because autodesk sells them the product keys and the companies have to make a profit margin and i highly doubt Australian trade laws would allow a 200-250% profit margin from resellers on software not to mention the fact that autodesk wouldnt have a bar of that either so they would have to be buying their products from autodesk for around 5k, so really it is just autodesk being a monopoly

                That's like saying if water suddenly started costing $10 a litre (literally everywhere - so that it jacked up the price of anything else that uses water too) the price tag would be justified because everyone still drank water. Having a monopoly on essential tools gives them unreasonable power.

                Presumably prices are more gouged in australia because doing so internationally would make it much easier for a rival to develop similar software (i.e. in Australia they're selling to a pop of 20 million vs 300 million in US, so just selling to australia won't be profitable but selling everywhere would be).

                Last edited 25/02/13 5:32 pm

          the govt would run into World Trade Org snafus very quickly.

            Agreed - but we've really got to start asking about the way our laws are set up at the moment. Given how little content we are actually able produce due to non-competitive situations like this, it makes me wonder if we get a sum benefit from copyright and patents. I'm not saying the laws actually need to be changed, but we need to start thinking in local content producers interests, not American.

      It can't recomend piracy, naturally, but what it CAN do is start recomending parallel importing which is protected under australian law. Buy it from the US at the half price, and if Autodesk gives you any lip about it, grab them by the hair and drag them in front of a judge until their attitude improves.

        Anyone complaining about a $6,000 software license is not going to be able to fight a legal battle against a corporation.

    pixologic also forces people to buy from a local reseller. Fortunately the increase in local prices is much more modest. Some $50-100 extra ( +$700 ), depending on what the reseller feels they can squeeze from you.

    "“There’s a couple of legitimate reasons for the extra cost, one of them being that the cost of business in Australia is a lot higher. Plus there’s less people and less money coming in, so the prices have to be a little higher. "

    That sounds pretty dodgy to me. First - the cost of business in Australia is a lot higher? But it seems like all they've got in Australia is resellers. They're certainly not developing it here, and by the look of that chat log there, their support isn't located here. So if we're talking digital pricing, we're downloading the same software from the same servers that was developed in the same place and is being supported in the same place as everywhere else. Is there really any additional cost they incur here in Australia other than the reseller's margin? And presumably that margin doesn't (or at least shouldn't) apply to a digital purchase?

    And less people and less money coming in means prices "have to be a little higher"? No, less people means you make less money here than you make in a larger market.

    Last edited 25/02/13 1:26 pm

      I dunno..."What is your regarding about?" sounds pretty Australian to me.

        What for you're talking this about? Sounds that sentence un-Australian in for me.

      There is at least one Auto desk office Australia.

      The cost of doing business here is not higher by any significant margin. An office in Sydney will cost you roughly what an office in New York will cost you. Employee wages follow similar lines. The Australian post and Vfx industry is the same except US and UK companies expect us to be cheaper. Since our dollar has been so strong it has made it that much harder to compete. So we have to lower our prices to keep overseas companies coming here expecting lower costs.

        Seeing as the cost of living in Sydney and Melbourne is amongst the highest in the world, and wages have largely followed the CPI of late, what's your source for offices and employee wages being roughly similar between here and New York?

      "Is there really any additional cost they incur here in Australia other than the reseller's margin? And presumably that margin doesn't (or at least shouldn't) apply to a digital purchase?"

      You may be buying an Autodesk product, but you're buying from a resellers supply chain so they are fair in placing a margin on there if they're selling. Particularly if they also provide support/returns or FAQ for the product.

    I was under the impression that engines such as Unity were compatible with all consoles.
    http://unity3d.com/unity/multiplatform/consoles
    Is it a case of the Autodesk applications being preferred development environments or are there actual constraints put in place by console makers. Also does this in turn mean that the console manufacturers are creating a monopoly that Autodesk are able to exploit?

      unity is an engine, not an asset modeller - they even have an asset store for pre-made assets.
      if you want something custom, you are going to have to model it yourself - and thats where autodesk comes in, as the owner of the defacto industry standards

    I use their autocad products. Not sure how they compare price wise with OS though.

      $4,195 vs $5,175:
      http://store.autodesk.com/store/adskus/en_US/pd/AutoCAD_2013/productID.243327600
      http://store.autodesk.com.au/store/adsk/en_AU/buy/AutoCAD_2013/productID.244832900

      Since my other comment is awaiting moderation (probably due to links), the price is $4,195 US vs $5,175 AU

        wow 20 % huh. I wonder how much we pay given our licensing arrangment? I just tell the boss 'blah I need this' and it happens :P

          The funny thing is I work for a software company, and I was talking with one of our sales guys and we apparently pull the same shit... Different pricing for Australia customers... Part of me just wasn't surprised.

        If you are going to compare like for like the prices are:
        Maya 2013 US$3675.00 (AUS$ 3575.00) for the US digital download and
        Maya 2013 US$5138.00 (AUS$5175) for the AUS digital download.

        Which makes the AUS price 1.4 times as expensive as the US price.

        Last edited 25/02/13 4:11 pm

          Is that for Autocad though? I'm actually getting different prices now, $4,195 in the US, $5,925.00 (which I presume is including tax)

        @soulblade64 you are comparing prices of autocad2013 which is used for engineering and architecture not Maya or 3DS Max which are used in films, tv and games for 3d modelling.

    I'm curious what effect AUSFTA (Australia-US Fair Trade Agreement) - summary on Electronic Commerce (ok, fine, Wikipedia) says "Electronic commerce: The parties agreed to co-operate on mechanisms to facilitate electronic commerce, not to impose customs duties on digital products and for each to apply non-discriminatory treatment to the digital products of the other."

    Seems to me that by charging a higher price in Australia, simply for being in Australia, on the goods of a product from America they're applying discriminatory treatment to digital products.

      The FTA is an agreement between governments not to impinge upon trade between themselves. It doesn't directly affect companies business practices.

        Cool, I thought that might be the case (the governments not being private entities) but it's interesting nonetheless that they (Aus/US Governments) agree not to do this kind of thing, but businesses are free to go for it.

    There are new programs that are starting to get attention. Cinema 4d, Modo, zbrush among many others. The problem is that they don't offer the complete package quite like Autodesks products do but they are getting better with every update.

      Most studios use ZBrush for generating high resolution models to convert into normal maps. It's only a high res modelling and texturing tool though. There are still a lot of aspects of game art that couldn't be done without one of the all-round packages like Max or Maya.

      I'm less familiar with the other two but I know there are a few game artists who swear by Modo.

    Blender? It is just as viable for the titles that the Australian industry is currently creating. 2.66 was just released with even more features.

      Many people brought up blender. But most developers I've spoken to claim you could get away with using Blender for iOS but that's about it.

        I would suggest you check out the blender site, and some of the showcases they've done. Hardly limited to just iOS.

      My friend in animation loves blender, but he tells me its an additional tool, not a replacement for MAYA or 3D studio.

    While also disproportionately priced compared to the US, autodesk isn't quite as unfair on people starting up. They offer free software to students, with a licence that remains valid for 3 years (even if you're no longer studying). I'd say this provides an opportunity for people to get on their feet using their software. Other companies don't offer anything like that: adobe, the foundry and imagineer provide basically useless personal learning editions or demos.

    The high cost sucks and should go, but compared to the other design software companies, they're much better.

      Actually... thats a standard industry/marketing practice such as demoing.

      They can "afford" to have people w/ free licenses to get students used to the software tools because the cost will be recouped once the license expires because you will *need* the software. Sure it can get you started in that 3 years but if you want to continue publishing you *will* have to pay that huge license fee!

    We were told by Autodesk "what choice do you have?" when we queried their costs, fact is we do have a choice, we use Cinema4D as our 3D tool now and Blender is an option. Zbrush, 3DCoat, Blender, C4D etc. more developers should stop thinking that Autodesk tools are the only ones that can be used, just because they were used a lot does not mean they should continued to be used.

    Thanks for this, Mark! With all of the IT Pricing Inquiry news I was surprised Autodesk hadn't been mentioned yet. They're by far the worst offenders, and with them now owning all three of the big 3D software packages (3ds Max, Maya, and Softimage), there really is no other option but to use their software. There are still a couple of mostly unknown small competitors around, but their offerings are nowhere near as powerful or broad. I have no idea how they have managed to get around anti-monopoly laws.

      I think the problem there is it's quite a niche market when compared to something like Photoshop, hence it not coming up yet.

    Honestly the government really needs to start bringing in regulations into the Technology sector to avoid this price gouging, especially with the advent of online distribution meaning shipping is next to nothing.

    I use Lightwave myself, it suits my game dev needs just fine :P

      Lightwave is still being developed? That's pretty much the first time I've heard of it since I was in uni... longer ago than I care to think about. Is it still split into two different applications?

      haha nice.. found a lightwave 2.5 CD in our software library the other day =) also Electric Image Animation System is still about: http://www.eias3d.com

    Developers should get together and help improve open source options such as Blender into truely competitive package. The issue is that, Autodesk is industry used products, hence Universities which are given these products for free under student liceneces (which students can get) which they then teach students, who are now trained modeling in Autodesk, which results in companies not switching because all their current and incoming talent are already trained on autodesk products.

    A open source solution will force Autodesk into line in terms of pricing much like how OpenOffice and LibreOffice is making Microsoft pick up its game. There are some open source modeling projects, but they need increased industry so the industry can improve it much like OpenGL and many programming languages.

    So they need to go Blender or some other freeware util, there are a lot of them... (and then we can watch Autodesk claim that their profits are being eaten by pirates)
    The Autodesk purchase would actually be almost nothing for a full studio anyhow... For an Indy or hobbyist the price is mad, but for a propper studio the cost of a few licences when looking at the PC hardware and wages of the staff would be a drop in the bucket.

      It's not just the tools though. A lot of the game engines have plugins designed for max/maya to port models/animations/whatever into a format that the engine uses. The same plugins likely do not exist for blender or other programs. So you could create your assets in blender, but depending on the engine, you might have to port your work into max/maya anyway to turn it into appropriate format for the engine.

      At least that's how it used to be. I haven't done any modding in a few years.

      Exactly! Your average 3d artist probably earns at least $1500 a week on a long term contract and it takes about two years to bring a game to market. That's $150,000 in wages, compared to $6000 for the software. Next this bozo will be complaining that he has to pay Australian artists $1500 a week when Indian 3D artists are only paid $400 a week. It is basically the same argument.

        $1500 a week on average? Your figures are so far out they're verging on the insulting.

        Here's the 2012 Gamasutra game developer salary survey results. Keep in mind that Australians typically learn considerably less then their US brethren.
        http://www.gamecareerguide.com/features/1108/game_developer_salary_survey_2012
        .php

        Last edited 25/02/13 4:32 pm

          From that article - "This year, we learned that the average salary across the entire game industry is $81,192, hovering near the same level as 2010's $80,817 reported average.". What's $80,000 divied by 52? $1538 per week. Seems I was spot-on.

            That's a figure based on all disciplines. The average artist salary according to that survey is about $65,000 and that figure is significantly skewed by art directors who make a lot more than the typical artist or animator.

            As mentioned, it's also primarily a US-centric survey and there's always been a signifiant discrepancy between what we earn and what the US folks get.

            There's also the fact that most of the local games industry is now made up of tiny indi studios living on instant ramen.

        The issue is the pricing makes it a barrier to entry to indies and start-ups.

        There is no justification for the price discrepancies between us and the US. What they are doing goes beyond the concept of market bearance (i.e. charging the maximum price they think they market will bear) - they are effectively engaging in profiteering by artificially limiting supply through geo-locking and leveraging their market position to get away with massively inflated prices.

        The price of labour here vs US vs India is a completely different argument.

        Sorry to break it to you... Im a 3D animator/artist in the games industry here in Australia and I earn $45,000 a year before tax. So no where near $1500 a week.

    "Take 3DS Studio Max, for example, it costs $3,675 if you purchase it in the US. The same product costs over $6000 in Australia."

    Wow really? I work for a mechanical engineering company and we recently picked up a pretty massive bundle of Autodesk programs through a reseller for about $10k. This included all your different disciplines of autocad and revit and stuff but it also has 3DSMax, to my personal delight as I want to play with a real copy of it. I guess they're fine giving it away for cheaper if you're spending up on a whole bunch of their other expensive programs too!

    AUTODESK ANZ OFFICES
    Australia
    Level 5, Building C
    11 Talavera Road
    North Ryde NSW 2113
    Australia

    Tel: +61 2 9844 8000
    Fax: +61 2 9844 8044

      They don't set prices, that comes from head office in California or from Montreal (Media & Entertainment). All you are going to do is piss off the poor temp receptionist.

        +1

        If you missed it from the article. It's a wonderful way of dodging the question. All pricing enquiries must be directed to the reseller. The reseller can only quote what the overseas head company states any other enquiries must be redirected to the head company.... who then promptly say since its about pricing has to be directed to the reseller...

        Standard red-tape tactics =/

    Isn't it because of BS like this that makes the cost of doing business higher in Australia?

      Yes! +100 internets to the only comment that seems to nail it on the head!

    I worked for Autodesk for more than 5 years, until they screwed me in the worst possible way in 2009. I hate their foul, black guts but in this instance I have to come to their defence because no-one is making a killing selling 3DS Max for 6 grand in Australia. In any event, it is a trivial cost in the overall scheme of bringin a game title to market.

    Here are a few facts. Before Autodesk Acquired Maya it was US$8000 (around A$11,000 here). Now it is the same price as 3DS Max ($3500/$6000), substantially cheaper than it used to be. SoftImage was even more expensive but it too is now substantially cheaper. Even 3DS Max is now much better value than it used to be. It has always been US$3500 but over time they have bundled at least an extra $10,000 worth of 3rd party stuff into it. So Autodesk's acquisition of it's former competitors actually led to lower prices for everyone. (Yes, in desperate efforts to remain viable, both Maya and Soft had lower price versions but they were stripped out and mostly only suited to training. If you wanted all the fruit, you had to pay through the nose for it.)

    Whilst Max, Maya and Soft might be the three best known players, products like Newtek Lightwave (all the CG in Titanic and Babylon 5) and Maxxon Cinema 4D (absolutely ubiquitous in the broadcast TV industry) are excellent, full-featured alternatives that are a bit cheaper. There is also Houdini, which is way more expensive than anything else out there.

    Locally, in 2003 we had 7 or 8 value-added resellers in Media & Entertainment but over time they pulled out one by one, until now there are only two. Those who have gone mostly relied on Autodesk for the survival of their business but no-one makes enough money form Autodesk sales to do that. The two who remain are much larger companies who sell lots of other stuff and do Autodesk because it is a good fit with their overall business.

    It costs a lot to set up to become a VA reseller. Resellers have to provide trained support staff and they have to spend a big chunk of change every year on marketing. That is why licenses are region-locked. In the US, Autodesk provide support so resellers get a smaller mark-up than here. The US also has a massive CG industry so they probably sell 100 times more product there. When you sell 100 times more product, you can afford to make a lot less on each one and still be profitable. If you talk to any customer in the industry, they will tell you it is worth paying the extra for the convenience of local support.

    Bottom line - no-one is getting rich selling Max or Maya here for 6 grand and even if they were, we've still never had it so good. So stop carrying on like two year-olds because I really hate having to defend Autodesk after the way they treated me.

      Bottom line - no-one is getting rich selling Max or Maya here for 6 grand

      Simple solution, stop selling Autodesk products locally. Sell them digitally from the USA, and support it form the USA. If there truly is demand for local support, people will be willing to pay for that, they might even be able to pay for it with the money they're saving on Autodesk licensing, hell the support companies would be making a better profit in that case as well.

        So "support it from the USA" - have a business-critical problem today and maybe you get the right answer overnight from the other side of the world. Absolutely brilliant if you are Maxxon or Newtek because they'd make a killing if Autodesk did that.

        Then you suggest that instead of outsourcing support to resellers, they should outsource it to yet a different 3rd party provider, another company that customers have to form a relationship with and who have to make money from the customer. You're not in business, are you?

          Yes, I am.

          Many, many companies work this way in the IT world. Plenty of open source projects are supported this very way. It's a pretty simple model, but I understand if it goes over your head.

      ALL professional software (at least in the VFX/games industry) has been getting cheaper. Our $5K package now sells for $1500. Autodesk gets no special credit here. Regardless of how good the app is, the fact remains, they're gouging the Australian market.

      To be clear, we all agree the local dealers aren't getting rich (I know a few of them). They get a margin, but it's not even remotely close to $2500. It's purely the wholesale cost that Autodesk charges that results in such a drastic pricing difference, and Autodesk refuse to comment. They (and the others) need to be hauled before Parliament and asked to explain themselves.

      If they won't play ball, we need to remove the restriction of trade: amend the Trade Practices Act to make it illegal to block overseas licences, much as we did with CDs etc. That will level the playing field somewhat.

        Can you prove any of this? No, you just assume that because the price is different that they must be. Do you think the lease on the offices in Sydney and Melbourne is teh same price as the leases on offices in the US or Asia or anywhere else? Do you think labour costs are the same here as in the rest of the world? Do you even know how Autodesk's accounts work or how they arrive at their pricing structure? No, you just see two different prices and make the self-centred assumption they are doing just to gouge you. Grow up, they can do whatever the hell they like and customers will either pay or they won't. As I said, no-one is getting rich out of it, Media & Entertainment are lucky to break even most quarters. If you want to complain about something legitimate, complain that Maya costs as much as 3DS Max, even though it has only half the number of developers working on it and they have to support multiple platforms.

    One developer, speaking on condition of anonymity, informed us that Autodesk once visited a large studio in Australia, giving them a dressing down for using US-licenses sent to them by their parent company in the US. ‘Those licenses aren’t legitimate,’ they were told. ‘You need to buy new ones’.

    That kind of practice should be illegal. I'd like to see action taken to prevent these kind of monopolistic practices from continuing in the IT Pricing Enquiry. There is no difference between a software license purchased in the USA to Australia. Consumers (including corporations) should have the right to purchase from anywhere in the world in a globally competitive marketplace. Any attempt to place restrictions on where consumers are allowed to purchase products from should be met with the harshest of penalties.

      I hope said "large studio" refused to pay and only pay the difference in price for an Australian license rather than have to abandon their US licenses and purchase all new licenses (double win for Autodesk). If so this should definitely be illegal and downright scumbaggedness.

      Of course there is a difference. US resellers have orders of magnitude more customers, they sign different contracts with much lower costs and they can afford to halve their margin and still make twice as much money. It would be completely unfair to local resellers who work their arses off just to cover costs.

        If the large studio decided to send all support requests through their US arm, why would that matter though?

        It is one thing for the Australian resellers to refuse to support out-of-region licenses. It is another thing to claim that those licenses are illegitimate.

        If they can't compete they shouldn't be in that business. It's only a matter of time before that business model fails if they're constantly being propped up by anti-competitive behaviours and laws.

    It seems simple: pirate the software for your Australian artists. Have artists in the US (just find some avid modders) say they worked on the game as freelancers with legit copies. The US blokes are happy to get legit software for doing nothing while you still get the work done without paying unreasonable prices and Autodesk can't call bullshit on you!

    Then see how financially viable it is for Autodesk to inflate prices here once studios start doing this!

      Autodesk gets court orders and conducts police raids all over the world on a very regular basis. All it takes is one competitor who loses a pitch to someone who is rorting the system and you'll be out of business in a month. If I ever got wind of someone doing that, I'd be on the phone in a heartbeat.

    You know I always wondered why we have so few and so short lived game designers here. Guess this explains a lot.

    if you want to develop video games in Australia, and you want to do it via legal means, you must go through Autodesk. You have no real choice, and you must pay an exorbitant amount of money to do so.

    Sorry, I call bullshit on this. There are plenty of other 3D modelling tools that have already been mentioned in the comments. The price disparity sucks definitely, but there are other choices out there that can get the job done just as well.

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