After several months of hemming and hawing I finally pulled the trigger on my next rpg purchase: Pathfinder Beginner Box. I found one for a steal on eBay and still had a few lingering Xmas bucks burning a hole in my pocket, so it wasn't an impulse purchase. I really bought it to compare to the 4e starter which I bought only because of a significant discount a year ago. The 4e Starter is somewhat similar to Pathfinder in that they both have two high quality books, battle mats, dice, and cardboard punch-outs They both offer a solo game and plenty of materials (monsters, items, etc) for hours of low-level play.
The most significant difference is in mechanics. The others are mainly cosmetic. For example, Pathfinder has more and larger artwork. It also has a simpler and more colorful layout. They also made a large explanatory character sheets for the pre-gens. This last piece is really cool, and would really welcome a newbie to the genre even if they wouldn't' find a GM.
All this makes me wonder if someone shouldn't create an old-school starter box. I'm not talking about a box with player/referee book, dice, graph paper, and character sheets. I mean a set similar to Paizo's that includes a solo adventure that slowly walks the player through the mechanics and style. I own the Lamentation of the Flame Princess box set, and it came with dice, pencil, characters sheets, and books, but I wouldn't consider it a starter set. I also have Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry, but don't remember seeing a cool solo adventure with exciting pregenerated characters. The Quick Primer for Old School Gaming by Matt Finch is explanatory, but doesn't accomplish a solo adventure. It's more of a brief philosophical treatise on a particular approach to gaming.
Such a product, if properly marketed at cons and gaming stores, might bring more gamers to our tables. I could even imagine a comic book-like format that could be sold at comic book stores. I've written five Labyrinth Lord adventures and published four. Maybe I should revisit one for just such a product. That is, re-write it in first-person narrative form designed to introduce the reader to old-school gaming.