rsrandazzo

[07MAY17] The sorts of behaviors that cause me concern...

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Captains,

I have been a member of the simulation developer community since 1992, when I began creating freeware scenery using the incredibly primitive methods available to us 25 years ago.  In the quarter century that has followed, the team that is PMDG has worked very hard to push the state-of-the art of desktop simming to new levels and to all points of views I feel that we have succeeded.

I have the sometimes-fun/sometimes-frustrating position of being the visible face of PMDG.  I am very proud of the fact that in most reasonable opinions, users in this community generally give me credit for being up front with what I think of trends and moves within the simming marketplace.

I have always been against paid-beta testing, for example- and I took an incredible amount of criticism for coming out strongly against the trend by warning users to be wary of their investment ten years ago when the paid-beta trend took off.  Five years later, many users were sharing their horror stories and lamenting that perhaps this was indeed a bad trend in our marketplace.

I have tried very hard to be a calm point of view in the community- recognizing the enormous size of our customer base.  I have tried very hard not to criticize other developers- even in the face of no such courtesy from others.  I spend (literally) thousands of dollars a year on products from new developers because I think it is important for all of us in the "old guard" to support new entries to the marketplace because a thriving marketplace is what helps our own companies to grow.

Occasionally, users have tried to pit PMDG vs <some other entity> in a strange "coke v. pepsi" or "godzilla v. mothra" battle that I always find to be supremely strange.  I like our competition- because they help to bring customers into the marketplace with their own products- and ultimately we all wind up sharing in the health and vibrancy of the community.

I don't worry about much in the future of our hobby- except for two things:

1) Someone making a grab to control distribution channels and their associated profit margins.

2) Flagrant dishonesty/concealed motives.

You are going to start hearing me talk about these two topics quite a bit in the coming months, I fear.

Three years ago, PMDG was involved in a conglomeration of well known sim developers who negotiated with Microsoft to acquire the rights to continue developing FSX as a platform.  Late in that process, Dovetail Games appeared on the scene with a better, cleaner plan, and Microsoft rightly chose them as the custodian of their platform's future.

My primary concern then, as it is today, is that Dovetail might ride into a marketplace that has been created by companies like PMDG, Aerosoft, Flight1, JustFlight, SimMarket and dozens upon dozens more- and attempt to make a overreaching money grab by forcing all developers to push our products through THEIR distribution channel.

There are many economic reasons why this will signal the beginning of a decline in product quality and product differentiation, and I can certainly go into that in detail in another thread if anyone is actually interested in the process- but suffice it to say the PRIMARY reason why we have such a broad and active marketplace for flight simulation addons has EVERYTHING to do with how free and open the marketplace is- and how low the barriers to entry are placed for new entrants.

I fear that this is about to change for the worse- in spite of assurances to the contrary.

After I made my post on Friday regarding the news release from Dovetail regarding their upcoming sim, a user pointed me to an information post in which dovetail address the topic of distribution for 3rd party addons like ours.  In their post, they said:

"In order to market as an official FSW add-on, you will be able to sell your add-ons on your own store as long as it is made available on the Dovetail channels as well."

Last night, I was lying awake pondering this comment, because it was in direct contravention to assurances I was given when PMDG was asked to provide input and ideas and engage in conversation with Dovetail about putting PMDG's products into their steam channel for FSX-Steam Edition.

This afternoon, I went digging into our email archive and my conference call notes- and sure enough, I found a lengthy communication exchange that involved multiple members of the leadership team at Dovetail responding to my direct concerns regarding the rumored requirements that companies like PMDG would only be allowed to sell products for their new platform if we agreed to sell them via their steam channel.

I was assured in no-uncertain terms that this would never be the case, as Dovetail felt that such a move on their part would destroy the ecosystem that has grown and thrived and made the FSX platform and brand so significantly more vibrant today than it was ten years ago when it was launched.

This has me pondering:  What changed?

For a few years, PMDG and Dovetail had an open line of communication.  It was honest, humorous, respectful and at times unpleasantly candid.  But there was never any doubt that we held one another in mutual respect and wanted to see one another succeed.

That communication essentially dried up after PMDG decided not to push our products via Dovetail's steam channel, because we couldn't see the value in surrendering nearly 65% of the revenue earned by our products in order to be present in that channel.  Sure, not all of that cost winds up in Dovetail's pocket- (Steam takes about 30% of each sale, for example) but the bottom line is that companies like PMDG and Aerosoft and our competitors get here by having the ability to reinvest in ourselves and our products.  If our distribution costs become artificially inflated by being forced to use a high cost channel in which we don't control our own destiny- it is only a matter of time before the companies with the kinds of capabilities simmers have come to love vanish from the landscape.

We have been reaching out to Dovetail off-and-on since late last year and those efforts have met with deafening silence.  Perhaps the language chosen to describe Dovetail's position inaccurately appears to constrain developers to their steam channel, when instead they mean to separate community offerings as "official" and "unofficial" in a manner that has yet to be described?  I don't know- but the silence doesn't bode well.  After all- PMDG aren't exactly newcomers to the marketplace.

I sincerely hope that Dovetail hasn't decided to toss aside the value set that has allowed the ecosystem of flight simulation to grow and thrive.  If they have, it will have grave and terrible consequences for the continued growth and product quality of the community.

As I said, I don't like money/power grabs, nor do I like dealing with dishonest brokers. 

From where we sit today, it seems we may be dealing with both and that is a very troubling thing indeed.

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Thank you for bring this to light.  I am awe at your products, although I don't have any, but awaiting the DC6 myself which will be the first for me.  Vintage is my style!

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Wow Robert, I have always been impressed by your professionalism, so it makes a significant impact when you are this candid about your feelings regarding Dovetail.  :O

Keep developing for P3D...I feel that's where PMDG's market will more than likely end up...

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I have no faith in DT and I will boycott  the new platform if they put restrictions on developers! Thanks for this post!

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11 minutes ago, petkez said:

I have no faith in DT and I will boycott  the new platform if they put restrictions on developers! Thanks for this post!

Agreed! Well said.

And thanks for your thoughts regarding this matter, Robert.

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Hi Robert,

Thanks for the info. If Dovetail were to keep that way and try to restrain everything through their own distribution channels, then I would go for other alternatives and fortunately they already exist with x-plane and P3D. 

As a hard-core simmer, I will always go for the most realistic options and PMDG is part of them. Which means that if I have to change sim to keep flying PMDG's (and other developers') addons because they will not submit themselves to the "dictatorship" of the profit-first/only dictated market, then I will with no regret. 

And what would be the products accepted by Dovetail to be distributed in the channels? Would they control also everything about how the addons would have to be in terms of specs and options just like the Majors impose their business model to the music sold under their labels?

Let's see what Dovetail will come up with but if their sim becomes a tasteless formatted sim deserted by the best developers, then no thanks.

It's just a couple of thoughts from me. We don't even know yet what FSW will be capable of nor what the final decision of Dovetail regarding their market will be, do we?

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Rob,

while I am not a customer of PMDG (A320 home cockpit guy), I highly respect your opinion because I see the passion you have for the work you do and in the end the passion for our hobby. I respect that a lot.

That is in stark contrary to the trend where 'a quick buck is all that counts attitude' of a lot of developers.

I see the same passion with Laminar. They take their sweet time (as PMDG does) to develop their products and the end results are of very high quality and you can see the passion in the work. And in the end it pays for anyone with this attitude.

Look how long PMDG and Laminar have been around..... 

I have long said that Dovetail is in 'for the quick buck', their background is 'game', not 'simulation'. Their audience/target group is different, despite what they say and what they aim for.

For us 'hardcore' simmers 'Flight Sim World' will not be satisfactory, at least not in the short term. They have a very looooonnnnng way to go before they get me interested and they might run out of 'steam' (pardon the pun) before it gets anywhere.

I don't think FSW will be the choice of hard core simmers for the foreseeable future and those hard core simmers are you target audience.

As long as I remember (I have been simming since the late 1980s) flight sim 'lived' a big part from freeware and a few good payware products.

Any flight sim that restricts itself to 'my way or the high way' shoots itself in the foot and will not be around very long. 

I am certain of that!

Don't get me started on 'Early Access' aka 'beta test for us'... I still remember being a beta tester for Fly! We got paid! In a sense that we got a free copy of the final product. Now it is: 'Pay us for allowing you to beta test our buggy product'. How times have changed. 

And I don't like it a bit.

I also don't like the distribution channel 'Steam'. I am simmer, not a gamer. I never used 'Steam', never had a use for it. Again, they are restricting themselves and are shooting themselves in the foot. But they don't know better.  They won't be a big player with this attitude.

Keep up the good work!

 

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Yet again - bad business model concepts which ultimately killed Flight.  How can a platform, which relies/will rely heavily on 3P content be so short-sighted?  Why would anyone bother if their earnings are slashed that horrendously.

 

There's always P3D 

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I am disgusted reading this. It is always about the money on Steam and not quality. A top quality addon maker cannot be taken hostage by Dovetail or anything like that. It will ruin every piece of quality in the simulation world.

If this centralisation to high cost distribution channels continues I will seize any gaming/simulation activity, forever.

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It's interesting to hear what goes on in the background between companies rather than the public face of the organisation.  DTG have come across (with us at least) as quite open and friendly, i personally was very impressed with the time and patience shown by Amiee in the DTG announcement thread; to the point that i was considering breaking one of my taboos and buying a early access product to support them.

With your statement Robert, i find myself conflicted, i want to support a new flight sim, for selfish reasons if nothing else (i always think that LM might dump us in the next release), but unless companies like PMDG and others move over i can't see me getting enjoyment from the sim; one of the main complaints people make against X-Plane is the lack of quality payware, i can see this sim going the same way with perhaps only Aerosoft supporting it.

 

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2 minutes ago, Piotr007 said:

If this centralisation to high cost distribution channels continues I will seize any gaming/simulation activity, forever.

Hopefully, to paraphrase a famous French-Belgian comic book series: 

One small village of indomitable Gauls Developers still holds out against the invaders! :happy:

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14 minutes ago, Budbud said:

Hopefully, to paraphrase a famous French-Belgian comic book series: 

One small village of indomitable Gauls Developers still holds out against the invaders! :happy:

PMDG is far from alone....I want DTG to succeed as well as I would love a new sim but we devs simply cannot work years for pennies let alone debt.

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H'mm interesting time ahead.

I really hope our hobby, which is just that and an opportunity for some of us to enjoy a bit of escapism from the pressures of modern life, doesn't became a too political or toxic environment for us to enjoy. I am also concerned the more parties seeking a piece of the pie will drive costs up for the end user as everyone covers their budgets and profit margins...

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3 hours ago, petkez said:

I have no faith in DT and I will boycott  the new platform if they put restrictions on developers! Thanks for this post!

Ditto here.

I have been a PMDG buyer and supporter since they first launched the disk versions of their products for FS2004, and will ONLY ever purchase any future products directly from them, no 3rd Party siphons.

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I've bought only the 777 for P3D, and the next one will be the NGX (after read the PMDG policy for the upcoming P3D V4). I agree with you, Mr. Randazzo.

We are tired of those "clever" people who want to make easy money for.... nothing ;-)

 

Regards, Massimo

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