Alot of people felt betrayed when essentials started, alot of things changed for the worst with things. We got 3 books with only 2 great class (Mage and Hexblade)...one of them just being a slight upgrade from a 4e class (Mage), nobody liked Slayer, Thief, Scout, etc... and the Heroes of Shadow classes were just as bad...(with the exception of...surprise...the hexblade pact weapon), then the disaster that was bladesinger...whoever who designed that class, didn't understood how 4e worked, he got stuck with the idea of 3.5 where, if you are a bladesinger, you have to lag behind on spell levels...so he translated that to...bladesinger don't get dailies, it use wizards encounters as dailies...also, the class suffer from great identity crisis tagged as controller...that class is no controller.
There is a reason why from all essentials classes, Hexblade is the one that have received the most support. Some hope returned with Heroes of Feywild, but the thing is that it still so underwhelming compared to pre-mearls take over era...
This is the reason why during essentials and on, 4e sales has been droping during the last almost 2 years...because the quantity and quality of content we have been offered...
I did not like essentials as well. But I did not felt betrayed at the time. As for bladesinger, well I suppose your milleage may vary, I personnaly liked the class, even if at first, before playing it, I was taken aback by the dailies taken from the wizards encounter list. All in all I think it worked pretty well in the fields... I also liked the assassin (even if I still prefer the earlier version published in the dragon magazine...) The important, I think, is the personnality of the character you are playing, not the actual mechanics used. I had great fun with my bladesinger because I managed to have a real feel for who he was, what he wanted in the world, and because the DM cartered well to those needs, and not only for me, but for the all group. I still think dndnext comes too soon, and 4th edition still had a lot of legs under itself, especialy with such books as Heroes of Feywild, Neverwinter, Menzoberranzan and Ed's book. I Still feel dndnext is a sudden knee jerk gesture, and not a well planified update to a great system. I can be wrong, and I don't dislike everything I see in the playtest, but it still feels a step backward to me, instead of the step forward it needs to be.
The Menzo and Ed's book doesn't add anything to 4e player, they are such a small niche to the point of being insignificant...
About characters personality being what the fun is...i prefer to have a fun character to RP and to also having it being fun to play from the actual game mechanics...why have only 1, where i should expect to have both
Menzoberranzan and Ed's Realms don't add anything to the players. That's true.
They aren't designed for the player. They're designed for the GM.
If you're a GM and you want to run a Drow Game? Menzoberranzan is amazingly useful. It includes a good primer for players on what a drow game is about, and how drow psychology works, but the players are not the target market.
Ed's Forgotten Realms? Another book of GM advice and ideas.
They're both books targetted at GMs and potential GMs, not at players - unless the players enjoy reading about the setting. That's generally how setting books work.
In this case, they could also be targetted at the novel readers. Both books do make for an interesting read.
The books are good for DMs, and they're good for getting attention from the customers they lost over the past 4 years - to get them interested enough to look at 5e. They succeeded in many cases by the way. I know people who stopped buying WotC RPG products, and have been buying from the various other companies instead. The recent 4e products (Menzo, Ed's FR) and the 5e playtest have gotten a bunch of people curious.
I'm not a 4e player. I tried it when it came out, and I just didn't like it very much. It was too much of a tactical tabletop combat game for me, and the settings divorced from the fluff simply didn't interest me, for an RPG. I could have enjoyed it as the current edition of Chainmail. Something I play once in a while with a bunch of minis and just kill another player's team of minis on the other side, without trying to make it an RPG. Some people like it alot. That's great for them. Some people like Warhammer 40k alot too. Also great for them. I'm simply more into games like the list I mentioned above (and D&D 3e, and Myth and Magic).
So the recent products have me intrigued. If there had been any significant amount of game mechanics in Menzoberranzan or Ed's FR, I probably would not have checked them out, after having already decided 4e wasn't the game for me. It looks like there's a decent chance they will get me back as a customer. Talking to other RPG Players I know, that's a good possibility with many of them. The trick for Wizbro is going to be: "Can they manage to pull this off without losing the majority of their 4e players?" It would be neat if 5e could satisfy both. Obviously 4e wasn't earning them as much money as they needed it to, or they wouldn't be putting out a 5e so soon. They need to get some of their old customers back, but they will want to hold onto their new customers too. I imagine that the recent setting books are mostly to try to interest the players who didn't enjoy 4e - something they really need right now.
The 4e team angered and alienated the majority of their customer base in a short period of time. Mainly due to 4 things that happened (which I can recall, I may be missing one or two others). 1. The advertising for 4e didn't focus enough on what made 4e good, and instead insulted the what was the favorite game of many of their customers - some people took that quite personally (I didn't). 2. The new game was a very different sort of game - so different that liking the game before it was no indication of how you would feel about the new one. Some people were offended that there would no longer be anything similar to the old game available. 3. What was (quite likely) the most popular setting of D&D was completely trashed, in order to fit it into the 'Points of Light' philosophy and shoehorn in the various changes to core D&D. The result was a setting that bore little resemblance to the popular setting. 4. Due to a leak of the 4e books, and the same sorts of piracy that were around before D&D pdf sales, they stopped selling PDF copies - adding another terrible idea to that, they decided to tell DTRPG that customers who paid money for the PDFs should lose their access to re-download them.
So they alienated 3 different groups of their customers (3.5 players, forgotten realms fans, pdf customers) in a short time period, but obviously there is overlap between them - though the pdf customers and fr players also included people who still used 2e or 1e rules (or other rules completely, like RuneQuest), but either continued to buy Forgotten Realms products, or were buying digital copies of 1e-3e books.
Many of those customers started buying from the competition (mostly Pathfinder, which ironically wouldn't exist to be 4e's competition if WotC hadn't pulled the license for Dragon and Dungeon Magazine and made the first GSL license so restrictive that Paizo had to release their own game just to stay afloat). The 4e customerbase wasn't stable enough to replace all the people they lost. They need to get back their old customer base, but they obviously want to avoid alienating the 4e players as well. Many 3.5 fans just don't like the playstyle of 4e. The Forgotten Realms crowd mostly want as little to do with 4e realms as possible (Most of them hang out at candlekeep and aren't on these forums anymore - and many people there see 4e Forgotten Realms like Highlander 2 - "There was no highlander 2. Just 1 and 3"), and want the setting to continue on from where it was before 4e, as though it never happened. Some are willing to settle with the world being 'close' to how they were before (We'll see if it's enough people that WotC can maintain FR, since they said rolling back the timeline to pre-4e isn't an option). The PDF purchasers are still left slighted, possibly out of a bunch of money they spent on PDFs and thought they would continue to have access to - ironically leaving them no alternative to piracy for digital books, and little faith that they will get to keep access to the products they pay for from WotC in the future.
Getting back the lost customers will be no easy task. It's a tricky balance they have to find, and a tough situation they've put themselves in.
In offering a different perspective, I would argue that (based on my own anecdotal evidence) that players around here are pretty burned out by the Realms. It's not that the changes bothered them, but that's all we're really getting from WotC anymore. IMO, what sold the settings were the adventures and the novels. A Greyhawk, Dragonlance, Planescape, Eberron, or Mystara fluff-book would sell, I would imagine, especially if some of the old adventures and novels were reprinted. I started playing my campaigns on Krynn because of the novels, which brought an added familiarity to the setting that compounded on the box set; I didn't bother with the Realms until I started reading the novels (FYI, some of the old FR trilogies were awesome: Finder's Stone, Avatar, Icewind Dale, Moonshaes, etc.); the stories piqued my interest more than just a book of play options.
I prefer 2nd Edition AD&D. But I have played basic, 1E, 2E, 3.5, & 4E, and found all to be fun.
The Adventures are Key. That's what makes Paizo's Golarion so appealing. I would love to see them actually do something useful with their Non Forgotten Realms settings again. If they started releasing some good planescape adventure paths and sourcebooks I would be all over that. Likewise For Ravenloft or Athas. (I'm not all that interested in Greyhawk or Dragonlance or Eberron) - It would also be awesome to see use of the settings they came up with for M:tG, particularly Lorwyn/Shadowmoor, Innistrad, Ravnica, or Kamigawa, not to mention the settings of Exodus, 7th, and the various other older sets not mentioned on their 'planes' section of the website.)
The Novels certainly help garner interest in a setting. Ideally, you want to set the novels a couple years ahead of the campaign setting (5-10 or so) so that the people using the campaign setting don't feel like the novel events should be having a huge effect on their current campaign any time soon - I've met DM's who felt like they had to keep up with the novels to run a game in current day Forgotten Realms, and decided that they wouldn't use the setting as a result. Put the setting about a decade back, and the more recent novels won't have that effect on people.
I could still really go for some decent setting sourcebooks though, for the Forgotten Realms as well. I can see how the 4e players could be burnt out when all that's getting support are Faerun and Athas, but for those of us who were turned off by the retcons in the 4e Realms, the only Realms Products released in the last 4 years that we've had any interest in are Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue, Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster's Forgotten Realms, and a small handful of this group liked Neverwinter. Personally I found it far too crunch heavy, and far less interesting than pre-spellplague neverwinter. I skimmed a friend's copy and lost interest. I would have been very interested if it was a sourcebook based on the neverwinter of Bioware's Neverwinter Nights computer game. Likewise I would be interested in a Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale sourcebook that's mostly based on those videogames, as well as the novels. But there haven't been many Realms products in the past few years that are written for the long-time fans of forgotten realms (which, any polls I've read, seem to show they're mostly 25-40 years old, unsurprisingly).