Articulate 360: What Does the New Subscription Model Mean for You?

Articulate Storyline users have been anxiously anticipating the release of Storyline 3. For many months, Articulate has been previewing some of the features, such as the new responsive player. Well, the release came on Wednesday, and it wasn’t Storyline 3 but rather Articulate 360. It’s not just an update to the software, but a complete change to their business model and how you might purchase Storyline moving forward.

How does the subscription work?

With Storyline 2, you paid about $1,399 for the software, and you could use it for as long as you wanted. Called a “perpetual license,” you could still be using the same license five years later. Under that model, when a new version came out, you would have chosen whether or not you wanted to buy the new version or keep using your existing license.

With the new Articulate 360 subscription model, you pay $999 (discounted to $599 if you are already a Storyline or Studio user) for the rights to use everything for a year. Then if you want to keep using it, you would pay another $999 to use it for that year. While your subscription is active, you would be eligible for any updates that Articulate puts out. (And they are hinting that they’ll be rolling out new versions with new features more regularly, instead of waiting several years and doing a big upgrade with lots of features at once.)

If you stop paying your yearly subscription fee, you can no longer access Storyline or the other items in the subscription. You can still use any content you created with them, but you won’t be able to edit that content or create anything new.

So is this a better model for you? It depends. I wrote a blog post a few years ago about the pros and cons of Captivate’s subscription model. Many of those arguments are valid here as well.

One thing that’s very different about the Articulate 360 subscription over the Captivate subscription is that you get more than just the core e-learning authoring tool. Which brings us to the next question…

What else comes with the Articulate 360 subscription?

In short, a lot! In addition to Storyline 360, you get:

Studio 360: Studio is Articulate’s other authoring tool that is template based and very easy to use. However, it is not as robust as Storyline.

Content library: My guess is that a lot of people will want the subscription just for this. Storyline 2 comes with about 25 or so illustrated characters and 1 photo character (with the option for a few more). This new content library comes with many more character options in a library that lets you filter by graphic style, dress style, and age. The library also includes some very professional-looking templates organized into design themes that can help you create a cohesive course (as opposed to individual templates that may or may not work together). These content assets can save development teams a lot of time and money.

Replay: This is a simple application that lets you record your webcam and what you are doing on your desktop at the same time. Then you can publish a movie that switches back and forth between the two or uses picture-in-picture.

Rise: This is a new cloud-based authoring tool that creates fully responsive courses. Storyline 360 has a responsive player, but the slides themselves don’t change based on device size or orientation. With Rise, the whole slide changes. It’s template based, meaning it is easy to use, but doesn’t have the kind of full design control you have with Storyline.

Preso: Preso is an iPad app that lets you create narrated, annotated presentations. For example, you can load slides or other visuals, record what you are saying about them, and make annotations on the screen such as circling part of a diagram with your stylus. All of that gets recorded into a movie.

Peek: This application lets you record quick screencasts on a PC or a Mac.

Articulate Review: This service lets you load your courses online for stakeholder review. Your review team can access the courses and add their feedback.

Articulate Live: Subscribers will have access to live online training. There’s very little information on their website about this offering, so we’ll all have to stay tuned to learn more.

So what if you don’t need all of these tools? Well, that’s one of the challenges of a subscription package–it’s an all or nothing deal. If you want all of these things, then it’s a great bargain. If you aren’t likely to use these other tools, then you might wonder if you are overpaying. At this point, there is not an option to buy any of the elements individually.

Are the improvements to Storyline worth the update?

If you primarily care about Storyline and not all of the extra tools, is it worth switching? The major improvements to Storyline 360 are for the HTML5 output. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes changes that make courses work better in HTML5, there’s a responsive player that is easier to use on touch-screen devices, especially phones, and the accessibility features (Section 508 and WCAG 2.0) now work in the HTML5 output. So if you are going mobile, these improvements are a big plus. But even if you aren’t going mobile, these are still good enhancements. More and more nails are going into Flash’s coffin every month it seems, and Flash content will quickly become problematic in many desktop environments. So it’s good to know that Articulate content is poised to be ready for an HTML5-only world.

There are a handful of other “nice-to-have” features, such as a dial (similar to a slider, but round), new trigger events (such as when objects intersect), and a few others. I like many of these features, but I wouldn’t call any of them significant enough to be worth the update. The main business case for updating is the HTML5/mobile enhancements and the extra elements you get with the subscription.

Is Storyline 360 backwards compatible?

Nope. You can open/import Storyline 2 content into 360, but you can’t open/import 360 content into SL2. This is fairly standard for e-learning software.

Can you still buy new Storyline 2 licenses? Will there ever be a Storyline 3?

Yes and yes. And I quote from Articulate Sales Support: “No worries. Our perpetual software isn’t going anywhere. We’ll continuing selling it alongside 360. It’ll just be a little behind feature-wise.”

If you are not interested in the new subscription model for whatever reason, you can still buy a Storyline 2 license. Perhaps you are on a large team who is on Storyline 2 and you don’t have the funds until next fiscal year to upgrade. But now you have a new person on the team. You can’t put her on a new 360 license because her work would then be incompatible with everyone else’s. Instead, she can get a Storyline 2 license. Eventually, Articulate will come out with a Storyline 3 using the perpetual license, and it will have the features found today in 360. But it’s likely to be several months before that happens.

Will E-Learning Uncovered be publishing a Storyline 360 book?

I’m SURE this is the most burning question on your mind, and the answer is YES! The target release date is December 15.

What do you think?

We’re curious to hear what you have to say. What are your thoughts on the new Articulate 360 subscription model?

Diane Elkins
Diane Elkins is the co-owner of E-Learning Uncovered, as well as Artisan E-Learning, a custom eLearning development company specializing in the use of Storyline, Captivate, and Lectora. Diane has been in the eLearning industry since 2001, speaks regularly at national conferences about eLearning, and is co-author of the popular E-Learning Uncovered book series.

28 Responses to “Articulate 360: What Does the New Subscription Model Mean for You?

  • Ha! Another book — you are such a glutton for punishment! Maybe Tim would be interested…


    Were you on the beta team Diane?

    Q: where does engage and quizmaker fall in the shakeup!

    • Diane Elkins
      5 years ago

      Hey Michael,
      Fortunately, the book changes aren’t too extensive this time around. When the UI changes, that’s what’ really gets me! (Since I have to do all new screen captures even when the features aren’t new.)
      Yes, I was on the beta, mainly testing the accessibility features in the HTML5 output. Studio is part of the new Articulate 360. The main change is the responsive player. I haven’t had much time to play with it though. Will probably start working on an update to that book in 1Q.

      • Michael Fimian
        5 years ago

        Sounds like a plan Diane… Nice to hear that the updates will be minimal…

        Will it be offered in a color version as was the C9 manual? Getting a lot of use on my iPad and PC laptop…

        Dec 15, eh? Think I’ll ask for it for Christmas…


  • Christine O'Malley
    5 years ago

    Thanks Diane,

    Helpful information. It sounds like Storyline 2 is not going to receive any updates for awhile. I’ve experienced myself and noticed several comments on the Community where folks ask about updates – but we are still waiting. I find that to be a bit discouraging but your post explained that they are waiting… hmmm.

    I guess I’ve been spoiled by Trivantis and the more frequent updates to Lectora!

    Kind Regards,

    • Diane Elkins
      5 years ago

      Hey Christine, they’ve de-emphasized the updates to the perpetual license (moving from SL2 to SL3) because they are promoting the subscription model. From what they tell me, new releases of the perpetual license will be fairly infrequent, but updates to the subscription will be more frequent.

  • I have a couple thoughts on this and am interested to learn more about what others think. I was shocked at the subscription price. $1000 a year is a lot! While the $1400 perpetual license is more up front, most people will be able to use that software over two or three years bringing the per year cost down much lower than the subscription to around $500 – $700 / year range. Hopefully the access to all the other tools is worth that difference. This range is still more expensive than Adobe’s subscription model at just $360 / year. ($29.99 / month) As a new Instructional Designer this will cause me to look much more seriously at Adobe’s offering.

    The second thing is, as far as workflow is concerned, how often do you want your tool to update? One of the issues I’ve already experienced with web-based tools and with the Adobe Creative Suite is that frequent updates mean frequent re-training. It can be frustrating to log in in the morning to get to work just to find that your tool updated over night and features have changed, menus have moved, etc. It seems that having a consistent tool and workflow that you can rely on to get work done on a daily basis is more important than frequent feature updates.

    As I said, I’m new to the industry so I’m looking forward to see what more seasoned vets’ take is on this as well.

    • Diane Elkins
      5 years ago

      Hello, Tim, You don’t sound “new”! I agree with you on both points. Captivate was already a less expensive solution, and this makes it more so. One thing to consider is the total cost of ownership (to use a car buying analogy). The real cost comes from the hours it takes to create a course. I tend to be faster in Storyline, so would that alone make up the price difference? Something to consider.
      I’m curious to see how often they come out with updates. If I am in the middle of a project, I’m not likely to want to install the update and have to retest everything. Yet, I’m always in the middle of some project! I like that we’ll get new features more often, but the pragmatist in me is a little nervous about the testing involved with frequent releases. (Is it OK to be excited and scared about SL360 at the same time?!?)

  • Can’t say that I’m thrilled with the changes. I’ve been using S2 for a while now, and I’ll be training a co-worker on it soon. I have a subscription to that gives me quite a few characters, and I was able to purchase the one set of S2 characters when I bought my license last year, so characters is a non-issue for me, given the annual price it’ll cost if I switch over to S360.

    • Diane Elkins
      5 years ago

      Lucy, it is a bit of a mixed bag! I think there’s a lot that’s good about it, but I think there will be a lot of folks like you where the change is tough to justify. One of our concerns is version control with a team of contractors. Some may want to stay on the perpetual license and some may want the subscription, but the files won’t be compatible.

  • I’m happy to see a subscription, but not happy about the $400 price hike in year 2. I use both Storyline and Captivate, so already have access to eLearning Brothers characters. So that’s not helpful. But we’re going to give it a try and see what our budget looks like next year. I hope they reconsider pricing . . . Captivate is only $29 month, or just under $350 a year. HUGE difference!

    • Diane Elkins
      5 years ago

      It is a big price tag! You do get more for it than just the authoring tool as with Captivate, but if you don’t necessarily need those other tools, it can be a tough pill to swallow. Remember that you can keep with the perpetual license model. They will be coming out with Storyline 3 that you can just buy and keep. But it will be several months before that happens.

  • I have to say that the commitment aspect of the subscription model of Articulate 360 feels almost like Articulate is asking us to enter into a marriage, where we vow to support them on an annual basis for eternity.

    Unlike a subscription model like Adobe Creative Cloud, where many of the files outputs can be manipulated by other tools (e.g. “Wav” files in Audition, “mp4” video files from Premiere, even Photoshop “psd” files can be edited in tools like The GIMP), Storyline files really can only be edited in the version of Storyline that they belong to. So once we take the leap into Articulate 360, there is no looking back.

    • Diane Elkins
      5 years ago

      Thanks for the comment. I think there is a definite risk whenever you enter into a subscription service. It seems to be the way the software is going. Everything from our web platform to web conferencing to file sharing to project management software is all subscription based. Changing course would be a big deal for any of them. And now Storyline is added to that list. I know we are in for the long haul, so the risk is fairly limited for us, but I can see why it is a concern for some.

  • It’s very frustrating that this continues to be PC-only – the FAQ description on the website I find also slightly condescending “Articulate 360 isn’t just for Windows PCs” – not specifically but it’s JUST FOR WINDOWS OPERATING SYSTEMS so it’s virtually the same thing. So if you have a Mac, not only do you need your subscription but you also need to fork out for a Windows OS.
    Articulate looks like it should work on a Mac with all of its design focussed elements. I was hoping that the 360 would come with a Mac OS version. Maybe with 720? 😛
    I have Storyline 2 and, at this stage, I’m not sure I could convince my School to pay for a subscription.

    • Diane Elkins
      5 years ago

      Hello, Jamie,
      I’m hearing more and more clamor for a Mac version. I’ll be curious to see if it’s on their roadmap at all.

  • Hi Diane, very informative article. Thanks.
    I have a query in mind from company point of view, whether the licensing policy is same for storyline 2 and 360? Meaning, if the licensed user moves out of the company, will the subscription model is transferable to other user in the same company? If it allows, it might still be an added advantage.

    • Diane Elkins
      5 years ago

      Hello, Subodh,
      I can’t give you an official answer, but I would imagine they’d have the same policy. And if you have enough people to get the new team license, it’s my understanding that there’s an administrator-type access that makes it easier to transfer licenses. The folks on the Articulate sales team can give you the official answers, though.

  • Tim Frankon
    5 years ago

    Review looks like a under featured version of

    • Diane Elkins
      5 years ago

      Hey Tim, thanks for the comment. I know a lot of our custom development clients are very interested in this feature. We haven’t had a chance to try it out ourselves yet.

  • racquel
    5 years ago

    Ha! Love where this discussion is going because I too believe Articulate 360 can do much better in pricing their product. In fact, my company has been fighting to purchase the Articulate software and nothing to anyone’s avail due to the pricing. Yet Captivate was not a bad option either and the similarities were actually close. See the blog for example:

    I believe there needs to be a subscription service on a serious note though, as even companies today are looking for most cost efficient way of using elearning services.

  • I’ve wanted to use Articulate Storyline as the primary e-learning authoring tool. However, it’s always been cost-prohibitive for me and every employer I’ve worked for in the past few years. Why does Articulate refuse to offer monthly subscriptions like Captivate? If you work in higher education, even with the 50% discount it still is expensive.

    • Diane Elkins
      5 years ago

      I think it is a tough pill to swallow, especially for independent contractors. For a while, Adobe let you do the monthly subscription with a month-to-month commitment, which was really nice for people who might have one project on Captivate for a few months, but then move to a project using a different tool. But then they switched it so that even though you pay monthly, the commitment is still for a year. A lot of other SaaS companies let you do a true monthly plan and then give a discount if you commit to a year. I like that model best instead of requiring a year’s commitment.

  • I am not sure I am fully understanding Articulate’s business plan. They had this great eLearning product that was popular. But then, introduce an extremely expensive subscription plan with an updated Storyline that has features that the current Storyline does not. So they have now fragmented a popular eLearning software tool. Now, if I get 360, and decide it’s not for me, it is possible that those projects won’t work with their own stand-alone product of the same name. And if I don’t get 360, I get to see them tout all of these amazing features that the 360 version of Storyline has gotten, while us customers who only purchased licenses, get left out until we have to purchase the next version.

    I also found it interesting that two days after I received the announcement of Storyline 3, I get another email telling me why I shouldn’t buy Storyline 3 but purchase their subscription service, Articulate 360. They are pitting themselves against themselves. I just don’t understand that strategy.

    All of this, at least for me, is doing the exact opposite of what they want. It has me researching competitors. I downloaded the free trail of the new Adobe Captivate, and am strongly considering switching products because of Articulate’s fragmented and frankly confusing design. Also, for less then $999/year (the cost of Articulate 360), I can get an annual subscription of Captivate, and Adobe’s entire creative cloud suite, which include Photoshop, After Effects, and others. Those products are a lot more useful to me then what Articulate 360 offers.

    If Articulate had an option to purchase Storyline 360 for $30/month to match Captivate, and their individual licensed versions of Storyline were never different then the 360 product, I might consider that.

    I am just not sure what Articulate’s plan was here.

    • Diane Elkins
      4 years ago

      Hey Joe, thanks for your comments. I think you bring up some very valid concerns. I got the same email trying to “talk me out of” buying SL3–I thought it was strange. As an external vendor working with lots of clients and lots of contract developers, it has become very confusing for us to keep track of versions and features. We are on a project right now where two team members are on 360, but one had the latest update and the other didn’t. The one with the earlier version couldn’t open the one made in the latest version. They definitely made their product harder to buy and use (which isn’t typically their M.O.).

  • Nice posting. It sharpens the idea about articulate360. Thanks a lot. Keep it up.

  • I have used Storyline 1 and 2 at my workplace for years, but ones I decided to go freelance that is absolutely out of my reach for a while. I mean 1000$ a year ( a year) is just a lot.
    I’m not from US and that price was shocking for anyone who is trying to get legit sw to work with.
    I love Storyline but I made the decision to Adobe only cos of that yearly plan with no way of monthly payment.
    I’m so sooo disappointed in a way a company treated people who are creative and try to get into ID business. As its not enough hard business by its self.

    • William Everhart
      3 years ago

      Yes, Adobe is much more aggressive on their pricing with the subscription model. It is certainly more affordable for individuals like yourself just getting started on their own. Consider what services you are trying to provide for your customers? Do they need elearning content built with a specific software? In order to reach a broader audience you will have to invest in multiple softwares (Captivate, Storyline, etc.) so don’t let that get in the way of making great content. Start with what you can afford and promote your services with keywords that include the software you currently have. Hopefully you will soon become flush with clients and the money to afford additional software purchases. Then just add those to your keywords and broaden your reach even further.
      Good luck in your endeavors and Thank You for taking the time to comment.

  • James m
    2 years ago

    I pay the subscription for Adobe Captivate and Adobe Creative Suite. So I’m getting all of the graphic design software, video editing software and e-learning design for a little over $1000 per year. To purchase this subscription doubles my cost and the only thing it does is add a different authoring tool.

    I cat justify the cost to my manager. Storyline is the only tool I would use so hopefully they’ll come back and separate that and create a tiered subscription.

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