If you're reading the thread over at rpg.net, feel free to ignore this post... Actually, feel free to ignore it for no reason at all! I'm alright with that!
Myself (and I might be in the minority here), the price point is not an issue. By that, I mean, I don't mind at all that it's more expensive than Pathfinder. It's really for a simple reason, I like the books split into three. The Pathfinder Core Rulebook is just too massive for me. (All the following is IMHO, To Me, YMMV, etc.) It's too heavy to easily pass around the table. It's too difficult to find anything quickly in the book. Too heavy to heave from game to game. It's just too... well... much, I guess. Because of the massive size of the Tome of Pathfinder , I no longer take it to games and rely on the PDF which is bookmarked/hyperlinked/whatever-kids-are-calling-it-now-days which makes it easy for me to FIND things.
So in the end the price of the physical book doesn't matter.
The SIZE of the physical book matters to me. If by splitting out the dm and players stuff in DDN into two books makes the book I'd primarily be using (the PHB) to play into a size that I can easily pass around and find things in, it's worth an extra $20 to me.
I'll pick up the DMG and MM also, but as I almost always run whatever game I'm running from my apartment, their bulk doesn't enter into the portability issue.
Well, for my own copies of the books, I don't care all that much. The art is far more important to me than the branding. But if this is in fact final, it's really terrible branding. It's just "D&D" at the top--you have to practically bust out a magnifying glass to find the words "Dungeons & Dragons" in the red banner on the bottom left. A starter set is supposed to attract newbie gamers. What is "D&D" supposed to mean to a newbie?
And if they're rolling out this fancy new ampersand, where are they putting it? All I see is the old Red Box-style ampersand. And the covers have a ton of unused real estate, especially the starter set, which feels practically deserted. They've got to have something to put in there.
Those logos and titles just have to be placeholders.
Disagree about the branding. First, the ampersand is clearly the new one, not the 4e one, both in the "D&D" logo at the top and the "Dungeons & Dragons" banner on the lower left side. Second, I think branding primarily based on the D&D abbreviation I'd perfectly viable. Most people already know that abbreviation, and it can easily become the primary name by which the game is referred. Think of FedEx.
Edit: Just realized you said "old red box style ampersand" not 4e, you're right it is very close to that.
Nothing specific, but this description does suggest that each book is "two adventures" in a single story-arc.. At ~45 pages per adventure, it wouldn't surprise me if each one covered two character levels. That would mean the whole thing (three volumes) took you from levels 1-12.
[EDIT: or 3-14 if it starts at level 3 (after the adventure in the Starter Box?)]
If it were three levels per adventure, it would be 1-18, but that seems unlikely to me.
Second, I think branding primarily based on the D&D abbreviation I'd perfectly viable. Most people already know that abbreviation, and it can easily become the primary name by which the game is referred. Think of FedEx.
It ain't 1987 any more. I meet very few people who know what Dungeons and Dragons is; it's just a name they've heard, which they vaguely associate with board games. I have a very hard time believing "D&D" would connect for them. If you're marketing solely to existing tabletop gamers, then sure, people will recognize it, but I thought starter sets were supposed to entice new players.
I guess they could be trying to phase out "Dungeons and Dragons" and build a new brand around "D&D," though.
We'll find out this summer if the starter box lives up to those expectations. Until then, I don't plan on assuming either way. The pieces are definitely there for a good, dense experience like you described, but whether they got put together correctly to achieve that end result can't be ascertained until we see the actual product. Replayability has definitely not been a big success in past WotC starter boxes, though, so a lot of people will approach this one accordingly.