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Autodesk is cutting the cost of developing 3D animated models for games dramatically by launching a light version of its Maya 3D tool for indie and mobile game developers. It now costs just $50 a month to rent it.

Autodesk Maya hands

Above: Autodesk Maya hands.

Image Credit: Autodesk

That pricing could help attract droves of new independent developers who focus on making 3D animated objects and characters for their mobile and online games. The new stripped-down version of Maya also brings Autodesk into the digital age. Like many other developers of high-end software, Autodesk is adapting to the new popularity of light versions of programs for mobile and app development.

The company is introducing Autodesk Maya LT 2014, a lighter version of the Autodesk Maya tool. Developers can use most of the full version of the tool to make any kind of 3D animation, with all of the features of the full Maya. But they can only export a model with a limited number of polygons, the shapes that make up a 3D image. Developers can export models up to 25,000 polygons, which is a level of animated sophistication that matches that found in many mobile games.

If you couple this with pricing, you have a unique solution for the growing numbers of indie developers making games, said Maurice Patel, the manager of the media and entertainment industry practice department at Autodesk in San Francisco, in an interview with GamesBeat. Maya has been used to create everything from video games to Gollum in the The Lord of the Rings and the blue aliens in James Cameron’s Avatar.

“We looked at the casual mobile game space and saw increasing adoption at the high end of this market,” Patel said. “But the challenge was price. So we went to gaming events and test products. We think the monthly rental will make a big difference.”

The tool is aimed at the creation of professional-grade 3D content for mobile, PC, and web-based games. Game developers are viewed as a key part of Autodesk’s clientele, which also includes makers of media and movies. Many of those developers can’t afford to buy expensive tools, even as their needs for 3D animation keep on growing. The rental price could be appealing because many of the projects don’t last for a long time.

“This is similar to fees they pay for other tools in this market” such as the Unity game engine, Patel said.

Among the users of the new Maya LT are Phyken Media, creator of the mobile game Wizard Ops Tactics. Kunal Patel, president of Phyken Media, said his small team jumped at the chance to use the new version of Maya and still grow expenses and headcount at a comfortable rate.

The Autodesk Maya LT 2014 is available now for Mac and Windows at a cost of $795 for a perpetual license, or $50 a month on a rental basis. The normal price for Autodesk’s full Maya is $3,495. Even at that price, Maya has thousands and thousands of developers.

“This is part of a broader strategy for the democratization of our product,” Patel said.

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