Mike Mearls of WotC explained that unlike the previous edition, this one would go back to the staggered release model of the past (like 3e, not 1e which took place over a number of years).
Mike also clarified that unlike the Basic game that got me into D&D, this starter set is not a complete game aimed at everyone. The idea behind this one is to target new and existing dungeon masters. The Starter includes 5 pre-generated characters which can level from 1st to 5th level during play of the adventure contained within. There are no character creation rules with the Starter. Let that sink in . . . there are no character creation rules in the Starter set. Um, Mike, wtf?
Nothing has been confirmed yet, but speculation is that the full basic rules will be downloadable from the Wizards of the Coast website. If the full basic rules are available for free from the site, this would be a huge positive move on the part of WotC to win back some good will and convince people to pick up the books containing all the other rules.
Mearls also explained the staggered release by saying it would allow the team to do a better job of proofing each rule book before they hit the streets. Anyone care to wager on the error rate in the books? If past history holds any clues, there will still be plenty to errata.
I had placed an order for the Starter set through Amazon, however once I learned it wasn't a complete game I cancelled the order. The value of a starter set with complete rules is that it has nearly unlimited play value as opposed to a 'one-shot' mini campaign with pre-gens. You also don't need electricity and an internet connection to play, or to download the missing rules. I suspect a lot of other people cancelled as well because the Amazon price dropped $4 over night.
Back when I got Started, the Moldvay Basic set was complete for the first three levels. You could buy it, get some friends together, and play almost anywhere, even while camping in the woods. You could make your own characters, create your own adventure, and play with no concern about not having a complete game.
Admittedly these days we have the internet, smart phones, etc, that can enhance play in many ways, and do add to the fun from time to time. My feeling is that these technological wonders should not be required for a pencil and paper rpg game. Let them be enhancers, not requirements.
The cover art for the upcoming 5E products is pretty nice. I like the cover of the Starter set better than the PHB, MM, and DMG art. Personally, the PHB cover should have been the Starter cover, and the Starter should show an adventuring party encountering monsters. Regardless, at least they have nice looking art.
There are some folks, a few, not many, grousing about the suggested retail prices of the three core rule books. Together they would be around $150. That is about 10 movie tickets these days, before snacks and drinks in which case it could easily equate to about 3 tickets. So using 10 tickets at 2 hours each we have 20 hours of sitting in a chair letting someone else show and tell us a story. On the other hand, the game books allow for many more hours spent with our friends using our imaginations to play our own stories, and that has to be worth a lot more than a handful of movies.
What does this new edition hold in store for everyone? Hopefully what the folks at WotC set out to give us, rules that can be used to play the way each of us want to play, otherwise . . .
Mearls, you got some 'splainin' t'do!