Toon Boom (consolidation)

sbp-interface

pipeline

har-interface

A change worth noting…

Toon Boom, creator of a variety of software products for digital 2D animation, is apparently moving toward a single source approach with a focus on their top of the line product Harmony.

This is good on several fronts although I admit to feeling a bit sad that a few early entry points into digital animation are being abandoned.  Let me explain a little more about my internal conflict:  😉

First a little background.

I’m most definitely not a fan of hobble-ware.  Hobble-ware is my term for software that is like another product (by the same company) but with a limited feature set not found in the ‘full version’ of the top tier product.  These product are often intentionally restricted in order to maximize profit at the risk of the customer becoming disillusioned when they discover some feature that isn’t available in the product they bought but is available if they upgrade to another product .  Toon Boom has had a number of these products, Toon Boom, Toon Boom Studio, Animate, Animate Pro, etc. etc. some of which are still being sold as of this date but apparently will be fazed out by end of year (2015).  Almost all of these products have recently been purged from their website.

There are several reasons this move to streamline product makes sense and I won’t go into all the various aspects (pros and cons) unless asked to delve further but I’ll mention a few because they are relevant to current trends in software.

Toon Boom’s approach appears to be to get young animtors involved via their Flip Boom software which I posted on a very long time ago.  This is an excellent introduction to digital animation for those who might not have much interest or affinity getting started.  For most it’ll be too basic but for young animators a lot of experience can be gained without the unnecessary distractions of loaded-down-with-endless=features (read:  complex) software.  Toon Boom does have a nasty habit of having potential customers ‘contact us for more information’ which generally equates to ‘you can’t afford it.’  In this case it relates to their educational offering of Flip Boom (and… your guess is as good as mine.  I understand why they do this but don’t care for the practice.  On the plus side, it does cut to the chase and save everyone time chasing after products that no one wants.

The primary focus now for Toon Boom is Harmony and Storyboard Pro which I personally see as two parts of the same product.  In other words, if you purchase one you’ll likely purchase the other. These aren’t cheap but… guess what?  Toon Boom is yet another company that is embracing the software subscription model.  Folks should know that while subscription based software is not the end all and be all it does grant access to high end software that otherwise would not be affordable.

Toon Boom is obviously hoping to cover the full spectrum from start to finish they are also wise enough to recognize.

Rather than go into detail on information readily available online I’ll suggest those with an interest check out their site:

https://www.toonboom.com/products/harmony

Customers feedback doesn’t generally accomplish significant change like this.  This is more of a sign of embracing financial reality. Realignments of this nature often occur when a company is looking for a buyer or investor.  Perhaps that is that the case here?  Regardless, I hope the effort to bring their digital tools to a wider audience while consolidating products will prove profitable enough to continue in this direction.

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About Rodney

Cartoonist and Animator! I'd tell you more but then I'll have to debrief you.
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One Response to Toon Boom (consolidation)

  1. Rodney says:

    I’ll add:

    For those that might be curious what I mean by Toon Boom being able to continue in their current direction…

    In my estimation, Toom Boom still fully embraces the concept of hobble-ware although they have improved in this regard. An example of this is the three different versions of Harmony that can be purchased; Essentials, Advanced and Premium. While it is likely that many folks won’t need the Premium (unless working on a professional project with a team) it’s just as likely that those purchasing Essentials will run up against the need to move to Advanced.

    This marketing strategy has some pluses (primarily that folks can get up to speed learning the tools without extra expense but here’s the skinny: If those that are purchasing have any aspiration of getting into professional work at a studio they’d be hobbling themselves by purchasing anything less than… um… the Advanced… no… the Premium…. no… the Advanced… are you following me here? The result of hobble-ware is confusion and indecision and it’s difficult for me to believe that Toon Boom doesn’t know exactly what they are doing here (from a financial standpoint). They know that many interested parties will balk at the full price (of all the software options) but will be inclined to think the lower end price is a really good deal. This will lead to a painful state for the customer who purchases the low end as they discover some shiny new feature they don’t have access to in the product they purchased.

    There is no doubt that options allow for increased profits but the aspiring animator should very carefully consider what purchasing of intentionally hobbled (limited) software will do. If the purchaser goes into this scheme fully aware that they will need to upgrade later to a higher tier product they they will better understand the features. But if they don’t have a plan going in… they are heading for frustration and possibly even disillusion with the product because it’s not the best that they can get.

    Companies need to very carefully consider what fragmentation of a single product produces. It may reap profits in the short term but will later be recognized for what it truly is.

    Toon Boom does get it right on occasion. A good example of this is Storyboard Pro (although without the concept of a separate Pro version which they started with… if I might say). Toon Boom could very well add Storyboard Pro into Harmony and call it the same product BUT in this case they have a very clear line of delineation that allows for a separate product; because they are very clearly not the same. Better yet, this allows for future financial security. If/when Harmony starts to feel the pressure from competition and can no longer compete the Storyboard software could then be folded in seamlessly. Note that I’m not suggesting this should be done… at present such a merger would make no financial sense (to Toon Boom). Where the customer benefits (financially) is through reasonable access and due to the high cost of development that would easily put software out of most folks ability to purchase this is very likely through subscription, which Toon Boom has now embraced.

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