"No MEL support, and currently no plugin support or SDK."
This seems like a huge con. A lot of 3D engines have plug-ins for Maya. Off the top of my head if you are using Away3D for flash you need an AWD2 plug-in that is based on python. A lot of other plug-ins use MEL.
Blender is the best 3D modeling/animation package hands down, its free, and its cross platform.
Maya is garbage, its trash piled on top of more trash. The application itself is limited by its legacy and exporting with it usually has a lot of baggage. Getting things to look the same between Maya and your Game Engine is more difficult. The pipeline from Maya to the Game Engine is cumbersome. A lot of extra effort is needed by an artist or technical artist to setup assets and animations for games.
Blender has a better render, assets match almost exactly from Blender to the game engine, there is almost no garbage given when exporting data to fbx, and its scripting language has been Python since the beginning instead of some Python/MEL conflicting nightmare. Blender also forces an artist to use faster modeling techniques since it is hotkey driven. On top of all this you can sculpt and paint in Blender, and you can preplan your model and write notes directly onto your view area with the grease pen.
I have no idea why people still prefer other modeling applications when Blender does it better for free.
I actually disagree with you about blender being the best tool although it's good to some extent, it might be good for your work but Maya is considered a standard in animation studios because of a lot of things one of them is the ability to easily extend the program, the program interface and all of it's function buttons are written in MEL and you can show the code and add new functions easily compared to other tools it's a matter of drag the code from the code editor to the shelve and you have a new functional button, Maya power lies in Animation and Extend ability for studios who want to develop their own solutions and also get all around powerful tool for a 3k price, I remember the days when Maya was sold beyond that price, Softimage which is a powerful tool also, Softimage studios switched to Maya after the release of Maya because it provided a better workflow, most studios that used Softimage back in the day switched to Maya, although Maya is a powerful Character Animation tool, it's not that easy in Modeling and also it has some glitches that should have been fixed long time ago, one of them is the camera based selection not functioning well with ATI/AMD cards, also the shaded wireframe mode when activated with the camera based selection in Nvidia or AMD cards will not let you select points and edges unless it has been deactivated. also you have to code a little bit in MEL to solve some modeling problems, with the release of Maya 2014 NEX modeling tools was integrated to add more modeling tools that ease a little bit the modeling process, however it is known in the game development industry some companies use Maya others use 3Ds Max and some use Both like Epic Games for example search the videos for Gears of War game where there was a visit to the studio the worker stated that they use 3Ds Max for modeling, and Maya for Animation, in the case of Movie industry Maya is used with a lot of other tools including modo, LightWave, Cinema 4D, Softimage, Houdini and anything a studio can put its hand on and purchase to solve the problems they face, however in most cases all of them games or movies or broadcast graphics have to code some to aid on solving their day to day problems.
No, really, they don't. For broadcast graphics and television visual effects, the closest they get to 'coding' is usually writing mathematical expression, and even then they either use macro guide for creating the expressions, or the expressions are written by a TD and merely used by the animators. Broadcast graphics guys usually do even less.