I want to draw your attention to a new article that is up.
It is written by Scott Thorne owner of Castle Perilous Games in Carbondale IL.
Then sometime in the early 90s Castle Perilous opened up.
I was a poor struggling grad student then, but I do believe that that vast bulk of my 2nd Edition AD&D games and nearly all my Ravenloft stuff (all pre WotC) was purchased there. In fact I still think of them as my Second Favorite (Not So) Local game Store. Any love that can be thrown at them is great in my book.
Secondly I like this article because it points to a growing trend. The market shift to the novice gamer.
As gamers we are a dying breed. I don't mean that quite so literally, but there is truth to that. In the age where video games and online interactions can simulate the role-playing experience, it is hard to convince someone to buy a set of rules in huge books and tell them follow them and then show them the price tag.
Box sets are a different mentality. They are, for the most part, cheaper and have everything you need to play. Sheets, books, dice and counters in many respects. This is where the new Essentials line is pure genius. Don't market it to the Grognards who won't buy it, don't market it to the 4e fans, who have most of it and probably will buy it anyway, but market it to the causal fans, the non-gamers or the lasped gamer. And at a $20 entry fee, that is cheaper than a family going to the movies (trust me, WAY cheaper).
Putting it all in the trade dress of the most popular boxed set in D&D history now looks like a no-brainer really (though I still prefer my Moldvay Basic Set).
Hasbro has been marketing family game night for their board games as an economical way to stay home, not spend money and get together as a family. You don't need to be a market analyst or a sociologist to see why that has win written all over it. WotC is following suit.
Essentials is like that fake ad for the Wii vs. PS3, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7PhJp3ciRQ "I am cheap and fun!" Boxed sets elicit the same response. Especially if there is a lot of stuff in them. It doesn't matter that a book is more handy, or a PDF more searchable and portable, a boxed set means there is something for everyone at the table to touch.
I have nothing to back this up, but I think that the Essentials and the new Red Box starter set is going to do really good things for WotC this year and is good for the RPG biz in general.