One company owning most of the 3D animation software market will have plusses and minuses, says Will Strauss.

For a sad computer geek like myself, the announcement last week that Softimage was being sold to Autodesk signalled the end of an era.

The technicalities are: Avid will trouser $35m and Autodesk “intends to continue developing and selling Softimage's core product line, while integrating certain Softimage technology into future versions of Autodesk solutions and products.”

But the emotional resonance is: the 3D animation software market for TV, film, advertising and games is now effectively controlled by one company.

Once upon a time there was at least three competing 3D products: Alias Wavefront's Maya, Softimage's XSI and Discreet's 3D Studio Max.*

Several name, ownership and version changes later we have those same three products (ish), packaged differently and all owned by the one company: Autodesk. So now we have Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3ds Max and now, presumably, Autodesk XSI.

It is clear that Avid was making no profit from XSI so the deal might well have saved the software from extinction. And Autodesk has certainly caught up on some useful R&D.

But from an operator's point of view less competition could mean less choice and less price benefits. Not having competitors is bad for consumers, I am told. Which is why we have the monopolies and mergers commission for the rest of the business world presumably.

As far as I can see it's inevitable that we will eventually see all three major 3D applications disappear as they are merged into one, maybe two, iterations.

It's disappointing on one hand because the 3D world has gone through huge changes in such a short space of time, and each product - when competing with the others - has moved things on a step.

So to lose one or two - even if their spirit carries on - might feel like wiping out a bit of history. And it might slow overall development. Maybe I'm just being sentimental.

XSI fans will hope that Autodesk continue to hold the product in high esteem and don't relegate support and development of it to third place in its pecking order. While the rest of the market will hope that the prices don't go up and that competition from other products helps to drive the development of 3D apps on.

There are plenty of positives. With the knowledge and experience from the 3ds Max, Maya and Softimage XSI teams being in the same place for example, all three products should benefit from shared, improved features going forward.

And with nearly all the market share going to one company, Autodesk should do alright out of it financially, which means that hopefully they'll continue to put money into development.

Still, it does feel like the end of an era.

Is the sale of Softimage to Autodesk a good thing? Have your say below.

Whether you think its rose-tinted glasses or just the natural progression of things, you'll probably appreciate this:

*Plus Houdini, Lightwave Modo et al.