Monday, January 08, 2007

Phil Reed: 10 questions

The first time I saw Phil Reed's name on a product was back in my GURPs days. He was influential in a number of GURPs lines, including Transhuman Space and Gurps WWII. Later when he was gearing up Ronin Arts at RPGNow, I realized this was the same guy and was a little starstruck.

These days, that little company of his is a juggernaut of PDFs second only to WOTC and I'm just jealous. In an effort to let folks know about the people behind the products, I'm going to leverage my vast resources and contacts in the RPG industry and interview some people you might not know but have probably bought products from if you're an avid gamer.

First up, Phil Reed of Ronin Arts.

1. What do you see as the “next big thing” in gaming?

“Big thing in gaming?” Most likely some new type of collectible game. We’ve had collectible, card, collectible dice, collectible miniature, collectible toy . . . but to be honest, the collectible toy game has yet to be done properly. In fact, I’m going to go with collectible toy game as the next big thing in gaming. It’s only a matter of time before someone puts together a killer collectible toy game.

2. RPGNow and Drivethru recently merged. What do you think this means for the PDF market?

I think it means a significant decrease in revenue for a lot of the smaller PDF publishers as well as an outbreak of new PDF sales sites. We’re already seeing some of this, as PDF publishers report lower earnings and sites like Your Games Now have already hit the market. The merger has yet to have a positive impact on the market and I’ve yet to see anything that makes me believe that it ever will. This merger has been responsible for a lot of “behind the scenes” discussions between publishers as well as some very public events; like Atlas Games and Worldworks leaving the new “OBS” for other, more “publisher friendly” waters.

3. Related to question #1, where do you see PDFs specifically headed in the next year.

Most likely a slowdown in small PDF releases, as publishers turn away from the PDF market and return (or visit for the first time) to the print market. Sites like Indie Press Revolution and Key 20 have gone a long way toward giving gamers centralized locations to buy game books not normally found in game stores. After all, as much fun as it can be to buy a new game from a publisher it’s a hell of a lot more fun when you can find one location for all kinds of new, wacky, “indie” games. (Though I really dislike the “indie” label.)

4. Now look further into the future. Where do you see PDFs five years from now?

Easily 50% of the RPG market. As downloadable entertainment becomes more accepted – downloadable music is already a huge industry and downloadable movies are starting to grow in popularity – downloadable RPG PDFs will just become more “legitimate” in the eyes of gamers. Unfortunately, this also means that a lot of print publishers that haven’t yet embraced the PDF market will be forced to dive in, most likely negatively impact the smallest of PDF publishers.

5. How did you get into the RPG business? What was your first job in the industry?

Just lots of submissions to companies. My first published work was for West End Games’ Star Wars line and my first (and thus far only) “day” job in the RPG industry was with Steve Jackson Games. For about 30 months now Ronin Arts has been my full-tome job.

6. If you were just starting out today and were ready to try and break into the RPG business, what would be your first step?

I would try writing for existing companies. There’s no better way to build experience – and reputation – in this market than by building off of the experience and reputation of an established company. I would start by investigating the market and buying a few products from publishers that have specifically posted requests for writers. Then, after learning the appropriate style for a publisher, I would start with 2,000-3,000 word projects (if they accept projects that small) and just test the waters with as many different publishers as possible.

7. What was the first RPG you ever played?

You know, I used to think I was certain about the answer to this but these days my memory leaves me questioning myself. Was it D&D or Marvel Super Heroes? Damned if I know for sure. I know for a fact that D&D was my first introduction to gaming but I’m not totally sure which one I actually played first.

8. What are you playing right now?

Lego Star Wars II. And it’s giving me ideas for a game. Other than that a lot of personal events have kept me from any serious gaming for several months now. (Though I have been getting a lot of Pac-Man and Galaga in on our arcade machine.)

9. If you could snag any licensed property for an RPG, what would it be?

Transformers. I can’t believe WotC isn’t putting out a Transformers RPG in May or June of this year.

10. What’s coming up for you? Sell me something damnit!

One of the benefits of Ronin Arts is that I can conceive and create small projects very quickly. But there are some large projects in the works, such as Instant Superheroes, a Mutants & Masterminds book that Ronin Arts is creating for Green Ronin, and a new edition of The Whispering Vault that should actually see release this year. If you really want to buy something I recommend hitting Ronin Arts and looking around. With hundreds of releases there’s bound to be something there that you’ll enjoy.

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