• Op Ed From PMDG Director Robert S. Randazzo


    Chuck_Jodry-VJPL

    An important post by Robert S. Randazzo reprinted from the PMDG forum  at the discretion of Avsims Managing Editor .

    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.

    Edited by Chuck_Jodry-VJPL

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