The next development release is going to be released very soon, and with it the first in a major change of how World Machine is developed and released.
I’m going to go into some detail about something a little different — the business side of software development.
World Machine originally was released on a “big release schedule” — every ~3 years there would be a version packing a bunch of changes together and being made available, usually for an upgrade fee. Earlier this year, my frustration with this kind of development model prompted me to put effort into streamlining and adopting a new model that is becoming very popular; that of frequent updates.
Having frequent and rapid feature releases is:
- Good for you: You get to use new features and fixes immediately rather than having things be finished but not used by anyone for months or years until a Big Version is released.
- Good for me: I receive satisfaction when the things I’m creating make an immediate impact on how you can do your work.
- Good for World Machine: Being able to quickly get feedback and iterate on ideas makes every feature significantly better.
What’s not to love? The downside is figuring out how to deal with everyone’s favorite bugaboo…
charging folks for software.
I’m going to broach this subject for a bit as the business side of software is incredibly important — it’s what puts food on the table for me personally, and allows World Machine Software to continue as a small business.
The traditional development model relies on collecting your new features into a glittering pile of goodies, which people are then asked to pay for. This works pretty well; and I have been able to devote myself full time to World Machine for a while now as a positive consequence.
However, it is fundamentally incompatible with the new feature release schedule.
If every new feature is immediately made available to current customers, there will never be a World Machine 3, since all features are instead added to the current version. That’s not quite what I had in mind! Making it even trickier is how to deal with payment for updates and upgrades. We’ve not charged anyone for an upgrade since 2008. Many of the changes since then have been bug fixes that I feel should always be made available.. but the new features since then certainly could have been part of a new release.
I’ve spent much time over the past several months thinking about ways around this dilemma, including options like feature packs, subscriptions, and more. Each route was evaluated by these two guiding criteria :
- Strive to provide the most value to you the customer as possible
- Produce enough revenue to allow World Machine to prosper as a business
With those in mind…
here is the outline of the direction we are pursuing. Some of these are new, and others are simply codifying the way we’ve always done things:
- World Machine purchases come with one year of free upgrades. During this time every new feature or release created is available to you for free. I plan on quarterly releases of useful improvements.
- Your software never expires. After your first year of upgrades is over, you will no longer receive the latest and greatest features. But unlike a subscription, nothing stops functioning. You can also access and re-download any versions you’re entitled to, whenever you like.
- You can pay a small fee to keep upgrading. You can buy another years’ worth of free upgrades any time you like. The renewal price is basically the cost of a major upgrade, but spread out over a number of years.
- You don’t have to stay “caught up” if you don’t want to. People using World Machine constantly for their business or pleasure will likely want to always have an active update plan, but for others, you can come and go as you please. If none of the new features being produced are compelling to you, you can wait to pay until we produce something that is.
- The upgrade purchase is valid for both major and minor releases. Whether its minor improvements or something big enough to cause me to change the Big Number (ie World Machine 3), while your upgrade license is active you will receive it for no additional charge.
I believe that this represents a favorable blend of the best parts of traditional and the more modern “software as subscription” business models. I firmly believe it provides the most benefit to both you as customer, and me as developer. I hope all of you agree!
When does this start?
The first development release of World Machine 3 will be available this monday under the new model.
WM3.0.dev1 is not the end-state of World Machine 3; rather, it marks the beginning of its development. Over the next year, many new and exciting features will be added to WM3 on the dev channel.
What’s even more exciting is that you, the terrain artist, will be instrumental in guiding what features you most want to see appear in WM3. The major version number will be incremented much more quickly than before; I would hope that within another few years we will see World Machine 4 start the same development process…
I can’t wait!