Well it not just the OSR that is into nostalgia packaging.
Mind you this appear and emphasize appears to be a distilled version of 4e. This is the product page is here.
Apparently starting in late 2010 they will be starting a second line of D&D products called D&D essentials as well as continuing the present product plan.
The key element whether this will be one of many failed starter set or truly be enough of D&D to play a full campaign. Given how 4e is organized it may be feasible to have four classes with everything needed to play the heroic tier from 1st to 10th. Even less levels (like say from 1st to 5th) wouldn't be bad as long it is the full RPG experience rather than the stupidity of the various starter sets.
Why this is important for the OSR is that a healthy mainstream D&D drawing in new roleplaying fans benefits everybody. By increasing the raw numbers of roleplayers we have more opportunities to find players for the games we like.
So to Wizards and the rest of the 4e team good luck with this.
The rest of the essentials line looks like an alternate path to play 4e D&D. The old thing is what they are not saying. There is little detail other than cover blurbs. I am wondering if they are doing what I advocated and that is distilling 4e into something closer to the older editions for the general audience. For example it could be 4e but instead of having the huge variety of powers and feats they could have "builds" that has most of it preselected for you. It would feel similar to older character class system in this regard.
There is nothing that needs to be changed for 4e to do this. I done this for GURPS using templates that revolve around a specific organization like the Paladins and Myrmidons. Doing this makes an otherwise bewildering array of choices easy for a newcomer to pick up. Then as they get more experienced they can go "off-build" and start doing things the way they want.
Work through the entire 4e array of powers, feats, and monster then maybe you have a RPG that very easy for the general public to pick up and learn. But not make them feel like they wasted their money later one and doesn't short them of the full experience of roleplaying.
The rest of the essential line seems to adopt the old building block method of Mentzer's BECMI series. That should be interesting to see how that plays out.
2 hours ago