Two blue-sky hopes for a new commercially-produced D&D.
Create a common-denominator product
One of the biggest missed opportunities with D&D is the idea of a basic set that remains unchanged and consistently promoted over time such that, like Monopoly, Parcheesi, and Scrabble, every family has a copy in the closet.
It should have been Moldvay, or perhaps Mentzer. Something simple, presentable, with a look-and-feel. I am hopeful that part of the new strategy includes a basic book or set fills this role and is promoted properly.
This is a roll-your-own game. Help the customer roll-their-own.
The recent description of a modular selection of monsters and spells where you select the bits you want and have it shipped to you as a custom-printed book is a move in the right direction. Why not expand that to the ruleset? The bare-bones game includes the DNA of D&D – six attributes, experience and level progress, three or four base classes, d20 combat, saving throws, simple d6 initiative, and a basic selection of classic spells and monsters. Something close in spirit, simplicity and openness to OD&D or Moldvay. It is relatively clear, uncomplicated, recognizable within wider popular culture, and self-contained.
On top of that can be added layers of additional classes, spells, kits, more complicated initiative systems, ascending or descending AC scales, skills, and a whole variety of other rule variations. Aerial and naval combat, rules for miniatures and mass combat, commerce and industry, castle construction, etc. Settings information and custom classes or races appropriate to whatever IP you want to add – Dark Sun, Ravenloft, Greyhawk, whatever floats your boat.
A given customer would make the choices they prefer and download their custom ruleset, or have a printed version sent to them from lulu or whatever. These customizable books could come in standard flavors for those who do not want to fiddle with choices (preset options might include basic, legacy (OD&D!), expanded, complete, miniatures, hex-crawl, naval, dungeon. Basic would be the default slick version you want in everyone’s closet). Certain settings could come with default spell and monster lists – “want to play in a default Greyhawk-themed game? Click here!.” A DM could post a link to her house rules so that players could print out (or download) that specific configuration of rules and show up to the game with a sense of what to expect.
There are a lot of rough edges to be filed off this idea, but the technology exists. If WotC is really wants to put D&D back into the hands of customers this is one way.