Maxon has announced it intention is to acquire Pixologic. The deal, which is still subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close later this financial quarter. Financial terms were not disclosed.
As part of the buyout, Pixologic founder Ofer Alon and the firm’s staff will join Maxon.
Development of ZBrush, Pixologic’s industry-standard digital sculpting software, will continue after the deal closes, and perpetual licences are expected to remain available.
A cornerstone of visual effects, animation, game development and concept art pipelines
For over two decades, Pixologic has been one of the key players in the DCC software industry, essentially on the strength of a single application: ZBrush.
On its release in the late 1990s, ZBrush quickly became an industry-standard for sculpting organic forms – characters, creatures and even environment assets – in both the visual effects and games markets.
Entertainment franchises on which the software has been used recently range from Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Disney’s animated features to God of War, Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry.
More recently, the software has also become a key tool for sculpting models that will eventually be fabricated physically, including toys, collectibles and coins.
Along the way, it has added toolsets for 3D painting, hard-surface modeling, and even soft-body dynamics, but at its core it remains a specialist sculpting application.
Despite newer rivals like Mudbox and 3DCoat, and the introduction of sculpting toolsets inside other DCC applications, including Maxon’s own Cinema 4D, it remains a must-learn for any aspiring character artist.
A defiantly idiosyncratic application from a deeply idiosyncratic developer
Yet despite its ubiquity, ZBrush remains an idiosyncratic application, with a defiantly non-standard interface.
Artists have proven willing to learn its unique workflow, in part because of the power and depth of its toolset, but also because Pixologic is itself a very idiosyncratic company.
Equally importantly, it has followed a non-standard financial model, in which upgrades to ZBrush are free.
Even people who bought the very first version of the software in 1999 have received free upgrades ever since, with future development funded simply by the growth of the user base.
Can ZBrush retain its unique qualities as part of Maxon?
So on learning of the proposed buyout, we suspect that many users’ first question will be: will the ZBrush team be able to retain its unique qualities when it becomes part of Maxon?
Maxon is itself a pretty community-focused company, via user events like its 3D and Motion Design Show.
In addition, the pace of development of its other major recent acquisitions, production renderer Redshift and the Red Giant family of effects plugins, has been largely unaffected by the change of ownership.
However, it’s also a company that is increasingly focused on a subscription-based business model.
Sales of perpetual licences will continue, but no news about free updates
In the brief online FAQs on its ZBrushCentral website, Pixologic addresses the issue directly, commenting: “We are anticipating that perpetual licenses [of ZBrush] will continue.”
Whether future ZBrush updates will continue to be provided free remains an open question.
According to the FAQs: “As much as we would love to pass on more details right now we are not permitted to do so until we receive regulatory approval and the transaction has closed.”
Pixologic expects ‘innovations for decades to come’
Pixologic has reassured users that it is “looking forward to new ZBrush innovations for decades to come”.
“ZBrush has been my passion for over two decades,” commented Pixologic founder Ofer Alon. “I can think of no better home [than Maxon] for the future of ZBrush and its community.”
Pricing and availability
The latest version of ZBrush, ZBrush 2022, is available for 64-bit Windows Vista+ and macOS 10.14+.
New perpetual licences cost $895; subscriptions cost $39.95/month or $179.95 for six months. At the time of writing, Pixologic is offering a seasonal discount on new licences.
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