With the latest slew of Legends & Lore articles, we are finally getting a sense of how the game will be organized. There will be a basic, a standard, and an advanced version of the game. The advanced rules are further divided into "modules", which sit atop the standard rules without altering them, "dials", which alter the standard rules in predictable ways, and what I call "variants", which alter the standard rules in fundamental ways. For more than a year, the designers, and Mearls in particular, has been stating that it was too early to speculate about specific presenation of the game while they were still hammering out the details of the game engine. Now that the details of the game engine has been hammered out, let the speculation of presentation begin!
Here is how I would suggest the game be presented to the consumers.
Basic: The basic packet should involve a very short packet. Mearls has already said that the classless section on the rules might only be 16 pages. I would imagine the Basic section will only have four classes -- cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard -- and no feats, no skills, no specialties, and no backgrounds. The list of maneuvers, skill tricks and spells will be very limited, and I would imagine it would only proceed through level 10. So I would imagine 16 pages for the classes, including spells and maneuvers, and maybe 40 pages of a bestiary.
The basic game should be provided free on the website. Use creatures already available through the d20 SRD so as not to further dilute the game's intellectual property. While there should be a downloadable PDF, available through RPGNOW, there should also be a hyperlinked version on the website, allowing banner ads for Wizards' more advanced versions and subscription to the magazines, and perhaps a character sheet generator keyed to the basic game or at least a downlodable character sheet.
These materials can also be packaged into a Basic Box, with softcover Players' Guide (30 pages), DM's Guide (50 pages in all, including the bestiary), DM shield, character sheet pack, introductory adventure, dice, and tokens, which would be sold like a board game, rather than a book. It should appear on game shelves near Risk and Monopoly, not on bookshelves next to comic books and fantasy novels. This box set should also be priced near cost, to be competitive with other board games. $20.00 - $30.00
Standard: The standard game should be presented in a more traditional format: Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual. These can be boxed together, as well as available for download. These books can be packed together, the way 4e's initial three were packaged, as well as sold separately. However, I think download and Amazon is going to be the wave of the future. Book sales are slowly dying. Barnes & Noble has recently announced the closing of nearly one-third of their stores over the next ten years, and, personally, I find that to be optimistic. Barnes & Noble is also steadly shifting from a bookseller to a game-and-gift shop, which again indicates that box sets would be more marketable in brick and mortar shops than individual books. Game programs like Encounters may continue to provide a lifeline to the FLGS, but they will always be an increasingly smaller share of Wizards' business. So I recommend that the three books can be purchased individually through download or at FLGSs, but the Advanced D&D Box should be packaged as a deluxe version of the Basic Box. It can retail for $50.00-$60.00 and also come with dice, a sample adventure, and tokens and/or miniatures.
Advanced: In the back of each of the standard books should be the advanced rules that playtesting suveys reveal to be the most popular. (I personally don't care what those turn out to be.) This split -- standard rules up front, advanced rules in the back, should carry through all subsequent releases.
Future releases should be grouped thematically. So, there be a supplement called "Miniatures Handbook", which would deal with tactical play. The book may be divided into three sections. The first section could simply give DMing and player advice on more tactical play, discussing the use of terrain and traps that are available even under the Basic rules. The second section can give the "modules", such as new feats, spells, maneuvers, skills, and skill tricks that can be easily inserted into the Standard Game. And the third section can introduce the "dials" and "variants" that alter the standard rules, like options for facing, for gridded combat, and new powers and skills for pushing, sliding, shifting, etc., possibly including new classes built specifically for gridded play. Each new release would then have something for all three levels of play. The supplements would be released as individual books, but I think it should be assumed they will be purchased throgh download or at, most, through the FLGS.