Is it really just schadenfreude? For me I don't think so, for many out there probably. I know many people felt betrayed/burned by WoTC/Hasbro somewhere between 3.0 and 4e. I felt it early, I didn't like 3.0 era grid based D&D. I've gone to great detail in past posts on that so I won't belabor that here. But I still played my fair share of 3.5-4e. I played ALOT of 4e actually. I played a fair amount of Pathfinder as well. I don't dislike those games if they are run well with a good GM and group. I will not run those games, it just is not my cup of tea. I'm not built that way. I love wide open story driven games where combats are quick and decisive, not long, drawn out and tactical. If I want miniature based combat I'll play a mini game is my take on that. Anyway I eventually made my peace with it all and moved on to Dungeon World and also just came to realize I don't have the kind of time to really be a serious RPGer anymore anyway. I have too many other gaming/life interests ... too many kids ... too many papers to grade and write ... too many trails to hike to worry too much about a given RPG anymore.
But I WILL SAY ... I dearly hope 5th ed is a smashing success! Why? It would be good for the hobby, good for tabletop gaming, good for pen and paper RPGing. D&D is too venerable to let die!
That said, sadly, I think WoTC is in an impossible situation, they need to please the Grognards, the new kids, attract people away from Paizo (which is a well-run, much beloved little company that seems to have a knack for getting things right and listening to its fans/customers) … WoTC is in one of those unenviable positions where they need to not just get on base they need to hit a home run … or it is game over.
I don’t see this ending well. They initially said they were going to create a “modular” system that would allow GMs/players to layer in levels of complexity, etc. and they initially had some really cool flexible character creation ideas (allowing players to have a healing fighter or a lock picking/trap disarming cleric, etc.) and those quickly got locked down and tossed out. As the playtests went on flexibility fell by the wayside. Somewhere in there I lost interest as it seemed the game was turning back towards fat 400 page rulebook levels of complexity, low flexibility, etc. and for that I’ll just play games like Pathfinder/Shadowrun/etc. pick a 400 page rulebook, inflexible monster of your choice. I’ll play those games with a very proficient DM but I really have no inclination to run them anymore, as who the hell has that kind of time?!?!
I’m sad to see the venerable old franchise fall this far, but with what happened between 3.0 and 4th I don’t see any other way for this to end than with the slow, painful death of pen and paper D&D. I don’t know why Hasbro doesn’t just license out the pen and paper to Fantasy Flight (or just let it go totally dormant) and then spend their time and energy developing video games with the IP. Pathfinder is too entrenched and all the Grognards are happy playing 1st ed./clones … stuff like Labyrinth Lords, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, etc. all the 3.5 guys are either still playing that or playing Pathfinder and any new players are just as likely to end up playing a new “indie/small press” title as not (Dungeon World, etc.) so what room is there at the table for D&D anymore … especially given most people are still pissed about 3.5/4e, etc.
Does WoTC have a snowball’s chance in hell on this one … personally I think not. But hey on this I’d honestly like to be wrong, I really would.