Too soon? Autodesk cancels 30% subscription price increase

Autodesk had announced plans to increase some subscription prices by 30% on 7 November 2017. Resellers have already passed that information on to customers. Here’s the detail of what was going to happen:

Three Important Changes to Subscriptions with Multi-User Access

Autodesk is increasing prices on subscriptions with multi-user access to reflect the value and flexibility that sharing licenses provides our customers. As part of this change, we will stop selling new subscriptions with multi-user access for select products.

Beginning November 7, 2017:

  • Prices for new and renewing subscriptions with multi-user access for most individual products are increasing by ~17-19%.
  • Price for customers to switch from a maintenance plan to an industry collection with multi-user access will increase by ~30%.
  • New subscriptions with multi-user access will no longer be sold for Revit, Inventor Professional, and Navisworks Manage

This was basically an attack on multi-user (network) licensed subscription customers. It’s not obvious what Autodesk has against such customers. On the one hand, Autodesk states that sharing licenses provides customers with value and flexibility. On the other, it states that it’s going to stop selling such useful licenses! You might think that such cooperative customers would be spared the worst of what Autodesk has in mind, but apparently not.

Well, now they will be spared. For now, at least. The 30% increase is being cancelled (confirmation from Autodesk’s Felice S can be found here). I’ve asked for clarification on whether the other measures are also being canned.

Edit: Felice has confirmed that only the 30% element of the announcement has been cancelled and the other measures are going ahead.

It’s unclear why Autodesk would announce such increases at this stage. It’s obvious that Autodesk intends to rack up subscription prices hugely at some point in the future, but it struck me as unwise for Autodesk to show its hand this early. We know the prices are going to shoot up, not only because it’s obvious to anyone capable of joining the dots, but also because Autodesk has already done the rack-up-the-prices thing with multi-million increases for angry but trapped Enterprise Agreement subscription customers.

Unfortunately, most Autodesk customers aren’t aware of what has happened to Enterprise Agreement customers. Even among those who do, there are some trusting souls who would discard their valuable permanent licenses to maybe save a few short-term bucks in the vain hope that Autodesk won’t later impose massive price increases on them, too. I’m not sure what would give anyone reason to believe that, but I have seen people express such a view. What the 30% increase did was to destroy such a charmingly optimistic belief.

That’s why the price rise decision has been reversed. Autodesk might state that this flip-flop shows that it is responsive to customer feedback, but that would be bullshit. Although it was hardly a popular move, there has been relatively little angst about this. The 5%/10%/20% maintenance price increases have attracted far more public criticism. There’s no sign of those increases being reversed, so Autodesk, please don’t come the “we’re listening to our customers” crap. If you listened to your customers, you’d still be selling perpetual licenses.

No, this increase has been reversed because it became obvious (thanks to feedback from resellers, not customers) that it was badly mistimed. It gave the game away too soon.

Too late! We noticed.

It’s probably more accurate to call this a postponement rather than a cancellation. Autodesk will impose ~30% price increases on its subscription users just as soon as it thinks it can get away with it. And 30% will be just the start. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, how much and how often.

We have also learned that multi-user (network) licenses are distinctly unpopular with someone very important at Autodesk. Why? Because they’re useful to customers! What a bizarre anti-customer culture there must be within parts of Autodesk for somebody to even think this way, let alone communicate it externally.

To sum up, here are the lessons from this episode:

  • If you sign up for Autodesk subscription, you’re going to get screwed. Hard.
  • The writing is on the wall for network licenses. If your business finds them invaluable, you’re also going to get screwed.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

29 Comments

  1. Dave Ault

    Little indicators of huge coming problems for Autodesk are there if you look. My permanent seat of Inventor HSM Pro is up 12-15-17. So I go to the HSM forums to see about latest updates and notice how few machining posts there seem to be. So I go back to 1-1-16 and track them month by month until now. Roughly one forth the number of posts today compared to then and I figure it is because of people like me who are saying not only no but hell no. This by the way includes posts from Fusion360 which was supposed to be the Holy cash Grail for Autodesk. Just nothing but a huge drop off of interest from new and old customers.

    I can’t take anyone serious who is not preparing their exit from Autodesk. In my case once gone always gone because life is to short to put my company at risk from people who see me as an ATM and not a customer ever again.

  2. David Matthews

    As a shareholder I’m always keen to hear the views of customers like yourselves. It feels like the majority of complaints I hear around here are to do with the new pricing model as opposed to the products themselves.

    Unfortunately this is simply the way the software industry is going. To a rental model, that will typically result in paying more over the long run. The companies that succeed will be those who focus on the additional value they provide their customers.

    1. There are plenty of product complaints – which are also ignored. Autodesk treating customers as worthless annoyances is an issue.
      My first year with Siemens NX will cost me six times what Autodesk has in thirty-one years. So pricing models and increases aren’t high on my snivel list.
      The unilateral redefinition of “perpetual” was their failure point for me.
      Haven’t seen any real additional value added since the 2008 release. Unless WTF and ‘what idiot came up with this’ are values.
      Victimized customers leave. New victims arrive. The circle of CAD.

      1. Zoltan Almasi

        “Haven’t seen any real additional value added since the 2008 release. Unless WTF and ‘what idiot came up with this’ are values.” Man, this is bullcrap. I dont even go into details, but Autocad 2018 and 2008 are like BMW and Suzuki.

    2. Christian Schwarz

      Basically watching them break feature after feature for the past 10 years, and never bothering to repair it, asking me to recheck my troubletickets with every service pack release, but never having fixed any of the problems… the new rental for three times the money… is just the final Straw.
      After two hard years I finally made my switch to different software and I am so glad I did. I will never look back… no, thats not right… I will never even consider any autodesk software in the future ever again.

        1. Christian Schwarz

          As a former 3ds max user, these suggestions might not be of use to you. I have moved all of my main activity to Blender, and so far I am missing nothing important. Though the Switch was about as painful as I imagined it. Wlcm.

  3. George Friesen

    The value for what is being charged is questionable. The lack of software enhancements has prompted us to discontinue maintenance on Autocad and stay on the 2016 version. We are also currently looking at alternatives to Revit.

    1. Chris Dimsey

      Hi George….I’d be really interested to hear if you managed to find something that you see as a fit replacement for Revit, but I guess that could depend on what discipline you are. We are in the structural arena, and I would be keen for any suitable Revit alternative suggestions…? Obviously we have to work hand-in-hand with architects and when they are on Revit, it seems obvious for us to do the same. But as a long term Autodesk multiple perpetual licence holder, I hate being screwed like we all are…

  4. James Maeding

    David, there is no similar market to Autodesk $2000 a year products on rental that I have heard of. The closest ones have a very small user base and are not general use programs. So I see adesk as sticking its neck out, but did you notice they priced things so high, they do ok even if many people leave. That is not a sign of confidence, its an insurance policy. The real problem is adesk does not know if companies will take the time to cancel and re-subscribe seats often enough to “ride” their needs. There has never been a way to ratchet down in slow times before, but now we have it. So let that experiment begin – well, in two years when enough get off maintenance that there is real results. The “deals” will drag on forever.

  5. Dave Ault

    David, How many failing quarters in a row have to happen before you question the Autodesk business model? Does it bother you that Carl Bass stepped down and now a guy who is doing things like cutting R&D budgets and is a marketing guy with basically no inherent understanding of making things is in charge? The only innovation I see from Autodesk for some time is a methodology to increase income from the existing customers by ending prepetual seats. Going on 11 failed quarters soon and no dividends and exactly how does that inspire your confidence?
    As a customer who will be leaving this Dec 15th I can assure you there have been paltry improvements made to the software I was using and promises of improvements still not done years later. Siemens Solid Edge is where I am for MCAD software and they sell to me in whatever fashion I want. More importantly they actually have me as a customer whereas Autodesk does not and will not.

    1. David Matthews

      Thanks Dave for the perspectives. Not sure what you mean about failing quarters. On the surface, things look good and Wall Street appears optimistic about this brand. Adobe went through a similar transition and faced a similar backlash from customers so I expected some of that.

      PTC is going to subscription model and I thought Dassault (SW) was also. So again, with everyone on the same model the differentiator is going to be products and features. I hope Autodesk can at least win customers over in that sense.

      1. Griffin

        The good thing about creating a captive audience is that you don’t need to win over customers through differentiation of products or features. You can just goose the rental price as necessary to keep Wall Street happy.

        1. David Matthews

          Sure, this is a particularly ‘sticky’ industry but I’m sure there comes a point when customers say enough is enough. Maybe not a short term risk but over the long term its possible.

      2. Dave Ault

        David, Stock prices in this market do not mean success as traditionally calculated. Actual income at ADSK drops but since the stocks go up in this fools paradise Autodesk says they are thriving. What benefit do you derive from promoting this business model and who do you work for? I do not know one user I have met that talks this way so you are suspect as to motivations in my eyes.

        My perpetual seat expires on 12-15-17 and there will be no more income for Autodesk from this once happy customer and I am not alone.

        1. David Matthews

          I’m not a user. I’m a shareholder. My investment is tied to Autodesk’s success. Success includes keeping the customers happy, so I come to places like this to hear the views of the customers and learn more about how the business model is being received. Lots of good insight here.

      3. Steve Johnson

        David, there is little resemblance between Adobe’s temporary drop in profits before bouncing back and Autodesk falling off the cliff into huge loss territory and staying there for 2.5 years. How long does Autodesk have to keep bouncing along the bottom before the market notices this isn’t an Adobe-style success story?

          1. Steve Johnson

            The cliff to which I referred is the profits cliff, and there’s no arguing with the facts there; go do an Adobe/Autodesk profits comparison yourself. I did actually use the word ‘profits’ above (in the very same sentence as ‘cliff’), so maybe consider reading more carefully in future before commenting.

            The share price is only relevant to those people investing, and tells us nothing of Autodesk’s profitability (or lack thereof). The share price is going up because more people think the share price is going to go up than think it is going to go down. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy which will continue to feed itself. Until it doesn’t any more, at which point the bubble will burst and those people left holding the shares will be sad and those who got out in time will be overjoyed.

              1. James Maeding

                Zoltan, all you are saying is there is a trend of stock prices going up. We are not arguing that. We are saying they will go down sooner or later, because adesk is starting to eat itself instead of grow. Its a big experiment though, raise prices and lower benefits until the market makes changes, and the problem is the autocad market is rather fragile. One a company uses alternatives successfully, they work hard to avoid the vendors that burned them and the whole autocad monopoly is broken. We are doing that at my company and its working better than we ever expected.

              2. Steve Johnson

                Share price is relevant if you gamble on the market or have stock options. If you don’t fit into those categories, then it’s irrelevant. It’s certainly irrelevant to the point I made that you disputed.

                If you’re going to accuse somebody of bullshitting you need to do better than using a non sequitur to support your position, otherwise it becomes too readily apparent where the bullshit is really coming from.

                But for those for whom share price is everything, taking your advice a couple of days ago would have been unfortunate, given that ADSK dropped $20 after the last earnings call.

  6. James Maeding

    David,
    I think this “rental only” scheme of adesk’s is never going to actually happen. They will continue with their beloved deals at infinitum. They just want the numbers there to make the deals look good. This is like Atlas Shrugged all over again. Where did John Galt go…he left. I think we start calling 3DS Max as TJMaxx since the list price is so ridiculous.

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