Thursday, November 08, 2007

The two eras of PDF gaming

Those of you who have listened to the chat I had with Daniel Perez on his Digital Front podcast will recall that I made an assertion that Daniel found somewhat surprising: that the last big innovation in PDF publishing was the short-form PDF, courtesy of Phil Reed.

Daniel himself says in his comments after the interview that he WANTS to disagree with that, but really can't.

Now, I wasn't attempting to say that there has been NO innovation in PDFs with that comment but when I was talking about changes, I was talking about BIG changes.

If you think about the PDF market, for years we were following the template Monte laid down in his early PDFs: take an under or un-explored area of the game and expand on it.

New magic rules, new PrCs, rules for tournaments. Make your PDF about the size of a small print book (64 pages).

That was the format pre-Phil.

The system in place at RPGNow helped perpetuate this structurally, with their minimum price point, someone had to buy a small PDF *and* something else, but still, mostly we wrote this way because, consciously or not, we were following Monte's lead.

Phil took a completely new model. Instead of picking a large un-explored area and fleshing it out, he would take small aspects of the game and give them a little more detail: new diseases, new mundane items, etc.

And of course, once he had several out, the minimum price point worked in his favor.

Instead of tacking on a 1.50 book at the end of an order, customers could now make their entire order up of Phil's little PDFs, meaning he got to keep all that money.

As Phil's company rocketed up the sales charts, other publishers began to imitate his model the way they'd imitated Monte.

So in terms of big innovations, we've had the Monte Era and the Phil Era.

What's next?


James M. said...

I wouldn't refer to them as eras, as that implies that one end and the next begins. Rather call them paradigms, which can co-exist.

Daniel M. Perez said...

Why, oh why, did you not bring this up on the interview? Am I gonna have to get you back on the show? ;-)

I'm going to mention this post and link it from the TDF forums, and I'll probably bring it up when I record my thoughts to play after Phil's interview in this week's episode (nice segue, eh).

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