D&D Basic is a game changer. Both metaphorically and literally.
|No Red Box nostalgia for me. I started with these.|
A lot of the chatter on the net in the last week has focused on the cost of the core books. People have really been chafing over the $50 cover prices (which I've noted in social media posts is not unreasonable for a hardback of the given size). Similarly, the OSR crowd has been saying things like "Hey, I can play OSRIC/S&W/LL/etc for FREE because the PDFs are online." This really puts a pin into the complaint balloon.
As has been mentioned by the D&D design team (and many others online), one of the larger problems facing the D&D audience is the fragmentation over different editions. Grab a random sample of D&D players and put them at a table and chances are that several have different edition preferences. Some will be old school AD&D and OSR fans, some will like 3.x and Pathfinder and others will like the newer 4th Edition. Getting everyone to agree on an edition means someone may need to buy books for an edition they may not like or want.
Basic D&D changes all that. The free PDF takes all of the risk out of trying the new game. It will be so much easier to call up your group and say, "Hey guys -- let's all try the new edition this week. You don't even need to buy anything. Just download the PDF." Some of you may not have faced this difficulty, but let me tell you as a long-time player and GM, getting all the players agreed on a specific game can be a challenge when several people don't own all the books. This barrier is now removed.
Have a friend who's not a gamer but may be interested in D&D?
"Hey -- check out this PDF and we can make a character together this weekend."
Have a group that isn't sure what to play next?
"Hey gang -- download the PDF and we'll try the new edition this weekend."
Have a friend who was irritated by all the changes in 3.0, 3.5 or 4th edition and quit D&D?
"Hey man... The new edition is free. You should check out D&D again."
Have a Pathfinder fan who is a little jaded about D&D?
"Hey man, you should look at the new system before making a judgement. It's free!"
I was excited about the new edition before this. Now, everything is kittens and unicorns with rainbows shooting out their wazoos (However, you will need the Monster Manual for color-spray-pooping kitten stats).