I figured I'd end this series with what personal expectations I have for D&D Next, and whether or not the system is shaping up well enough to meet them. I have two groups that I game with in-person, on a regular to semi-regular basis. Currently I'm gaming once a week, with one of those groups, though I'm hoping to start something up with the second group again soon.
I also like to try a lot of games, at least recently. Since there are a LOT of options for fantasy gaming, D&D Next faces stiff competition.
It's also worth noting that I've had the good fortune to introduce groups completely new to tabletop roleplaying to the hobby. Mostly on a casual basis, often a one-time thing just so they can see what it's like.
I'm hoping that D&D Next fulfills the role of a good "introductory" game more than anything. It's got the D&D label, which is sometimes important to new players. It doesn't have the complexity (at least not the basic module) of 3.x or 4E. And it's a more attractive candidate than 0, 1, or 2E for a couple of reasons: the first being that I haven't played those editions and so am not terribly familiar with them, and the second being that what I've read has left me relatively cold. A lot of archaic mechanics that, while not too difficult if you put the effort into learning them, simply have more modern alternatives that I would constantly pine for if I actually played.
Will I look to Next for either of my regular groups? We'll probably give it a shot, but it's unlikely to be an ongoing thing. An initial introduction to the system, and perhaps the occasional one-shot (especially if it delivers on the play-an-adventure-in-an-hour front). I might also use it if I'm in the mood for a more Old School style of game. But for my staple, go-to fantasy roleplaying I'm more likely to use either 13th Age, or possibly 4E if I want a more tactical focus. Group 2 still has players that would be willing to RUN 4E, so I'll certainly keep PLAYING it even if I choose 13th Age when I'm in the GM's seat. Heck, I've been doing some research on Savage Worlds as well (I have the core book but haven't played), and if I end up really liking the system then a fantasy setting like Hellfrost would probably be higher on the list of games to run long-term than D&D Next. The caveat here is that if D&D Next really wows me with the more advanced modules then that could change things, but based on the direction it seems to be headed other games just simply cater to my wants better.
It's important to note, however, that I REALLY DO want D&D Next to succeed. The D&D brand is a rallying cry for tabletop gamers in general, and when it's doing well so will other games. It's the best way of bringing new blood into the hobby. And besides that, even if I don't play it regularly it'll still probably hold my interest from a game design standpoint. Just having the opportunity to participate in the playtest is a huge privilege as far as I'm concerned, and I'd like to think I'm playing my part in making the game better. Perhaps even helping it to align more with my preferences (as an optional module, if nothing else). But that's the key thing that I try to keep in mind - keeping separate the questions "is this game well-designed?" and "does this game meet the needs of my gaming preferences?" A lot of the negative reactions toward Next don't seem to make that distinction.