Now Playing: Castles & Crusades
The news is out that the Trolls plan to release a limited ruleset as a pdf. We don't know much more about it than this - I don't think they've got much more than agreement between Steve and Davis to begin the project.
Clearly this project is intended to bring brand-new players into the game. If you have to pay for it, you're targeting someone who wants to try out the game, but isn't willing to drop $20 on a PHB and $24 on M&T. Fair enough. If you can get an intro game for $5 or $8 to try it out, you might do so.
However, if the goal is to bring brand-new players into the game, there's an even better way to do it, in my opinion. Produce a free pdf that you WANT people to steal, copy, distribute, print, leave around in their offices, and mail to friends.
If TLG were to produce a pdf that's got rules, say, only for fighters, and goes up only to third level, it's not going to hurt sales of the game no matter how widely it's distributed. Anyone who tries it and likes it will buy the game; it's just too limited to do anything else. Why is this different from a for-sale pdf?
Middle schoolers. There are kids everywhere on the net, and they have a lot of discretionary income. But they don't have credit cards. They can't download a pdf unless it's free. Now, this is an exponentially larger market than adults who are willing to pay $8 (this is for the sake of comparison - I have no idea what the price will be) for a limited-version game.
Don't get me wrong - with no monsters in the PHB, the $8 vs. $44 price point distinction is big. And with a lot of buzz on the net, it's going to haul in lots of people.
But I wouldn't rule out the idea of a free, totally bare-bones version of the game that's targeted at those who can't use credit cards on the net.
Intro to game 1 page
Intro page on fighter 1 page (with 1st-3rd lv class abilities) 1 page
Description of attributes, modifiers and skill checks 1 page
Description of combat 1 page
Description of saving throws 1 page
Equipment list 1 page
Quick adventure (including how to CK) 6 pages.
5 iconic monsters 1-2 pages
Chits for dice substitute 1 page.
OGL 1 page
This is a 15 to 20 page project; it provides no risk to future sales, and the most beautiful thing about it is that the more people who see it the better.
You mustn't be afraid that it will lose you sales if people see a limited product. Rely on the quality of the game. Gateway products work - see how many people started gaming with the Moldvay Basic set, which only had 3 levels.
And if you're looking for a gateway product, go all the way. Make it free.