Why Autodesk’s rental won’t make big money from pirates

Why Autodesk’s rental won’t make big money from pirates

One argument I’ve seen in support of the all-rental software model is that it will rake in lots of cash from those users who aren’t currently customers, i.e. pirates. Here’s an example (Carl Bass, November 2016):

We believe some of these people were previously pirating the software and now have a much more affordable option with product subscriptions. This is consistent with the fact that emerging countries are some of the fastest growing areas for product subscriptions. In other cases, these new users have been using an alternative design tool and could now afford software from Autodesk.

Putting aside the correlation-does-not-imply-causation thing, rental simply isn’t a much more affordable option than perpetual licenses. On the contrary, it’s much more expensive (except for short term use). Repeating an #AlternativeFact doesn’t make it any more true.

The idea that people who had been using non-Autodesk software have switched over to Autodesk in bulk because of rental is silly for that very reason; it’s much more expensive now than before. The fact that Autodesk’s previous attempts at rental both failed miserably will tell you all you need to know about its effectiveness at attracting new customers from the competition.

There’s an unspoken assumption that Autodesk software is the best available, therefore everybody would be paying for it if they could. Having spent some time examining AutoCAD-competing products recently, I can assure Carl that such an assumption is not remotely justified.

Back to the anti-piracy theme. The idea that rental will win significant amounts of business from pirates is unlikely for the following reasons:

  1. Pirates are largely cheapskates. They want to pay nothing at all; only a minority will be attracted by software with any  cost associated with it.
  2. The cost of Autodesk’s rental is way too high to attract pirates. It’s too high for most of us who were used to paying Autodesk’s already-high maintenance fees, let alone those who are accustomed to paying nothing at all. Adobe’s rental prices may be low enough to tempt some pirates; Autodesk’s aren’t.
  3. There’s another unspoken assumption here: that rental software won’t/can’t be pirated. The best that can be said about that is that it is charmingly optimistic. Try a Google search on, say, Adobe Cloud Cracked  for a reality check on that score.

Even if it’s impossible to pirate Autodesk’s rental software (it won’t be), it still doesn’t follow that pirates will rush cash-in-hand to Autodesk. Here’s what they would be much more likely to do:

  1. Pirate non-rental releases of Autodesk software.
  2. Pirate non-Autodesk software.
  3. Use free non-Autodesk software.
  4. Pay for low-cost non-Autodesk software.

There might be a small trickle of ex-pirates among Autodesk’s new renters. More than that? Dreaming.


  1. ralphg

    It was bizarre that the Autodesk CEO postulated that “because Adobe was successful, we will be, too.” Autodesk’s subscription pricing is an order of magnitude higher (Adobe’s price for ALL their software is dirt cheap), and the customer bases are as different as you can get (steady CAD users vs. contract creatives).

    1. Simon

      Things aren’t looking good for Adobe now. They have lots of competitors and whilst in some respect their products might still be better in some areas, no one wants to be held to ransom.

  2. Definitely agree with you on this, very few people that pirate the software will be jumping to pay the subscription fees. Especially since I can’t imagine that the “Pirates” are large or successful engineering or design companies. I would gues it’s mostly students, freelancers, hobbyists etc.. that will just switch to cheaper or free software as you mentioned. And that’s assuming they don’t just stick with their existing copies indefinitely.

  3. Will

    Autodesk’s rental model actually makes piracy much more easier than before then again it lowers the bar on pay as you go. Leaving piracy and legitimacy divided.

    Also note Autodesk doesn’t concern itself with thieves and scoundrels its major piracy hurdle lies in businesses that pirate their software.

    Why did they switch to a subscription model?

    In the past Autodesk have suffered from people trying to sell their CAD/Max licenses on places like Ebay. This was making Autodesk lose money in the millions according to them, after several people filed law suits against the giant for end users right to resale.

    They changed their game to sub based licensing and also because the times had already switched over to cloud.

    I recently got a Maya LT sub I’m quite happy with paying the monthly rental on it, still much better than paying $8k a year for it. Lets face it 3d software is expensive, in the long run subs are not as bad as we once believed them to be.

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