I understand the wait-and-see feeling. While I hope that D&DI will be the greatest thing since home made bread (sliced bread is really not that great). I haven't been able to get excited about D&DI at all.
When it comes down to it, it's going to be a digital magazine subscription combined with some online tools. The Dragon and Dungeon magazine articles have been out all summer, so there's no doubt what they'll be. The Compendium and Character Creator and Game Table/Dungeon Creator look pretty neat, but I'm not sure how much I'd actually use them.
When faced with the monthly cost for access to these, I'm hesitant. The fact is that half of D&DI is available right now, for free, and other than some casual reading and poking around I don't use it. For the other half, there are currently non-WotC equivalents for pretty much all of the content that D&DI is promising, that I also don't use. Some examples:
Character Visualizer : Hero Machine
Character Builder : Ema's Char-Manager
Game Table : RPTools & IRC
Plus there are dozens of completely free blogs, forums, and dedicated websites with more content than anyone has the time to digest. Now, I'm not claiming that any of these tools are as slick or as polished as the D&DI tools that have been promised. Nor are most of the online forum, blogs and websites nearly comparable to what you'd expect from a professional publication. But it's there and it's free and some of it is really, really good.
Since, to date:
- I haven't read more than half a dozen of the (still free) D&DI Dragon or Dungeon articles.
- I have no problem making characters using printed character sheets and a pencil.
- I haven't used the Compendium for anything other than seeing how it works.
- I don't run games online using IRC or any other online tools.
I'm a pretty fanatical pen and paper RPG player, and D&D has always been a game that I enjoyed, but even for me I'm not convinced about the subscription price. And if it's not worth it for me, I don't see that there are many casual players that are going to look at the yearly D&DI cost and decide to subscribe.
I expect that WotC will not see the returns on this development that they're hoping for.
I hope that I'm completely wrong, that D&DI will be worth it to enough people to keep it a viable business for WotC. I hope that it's so awesome that I'll be convinced of its usefulness, and by this time next year I'll be a cyber-dm with my laptop glued to my hip, using D&DI for everything even at my regular game table.
But the cynic in me is suspecting that D&DI will go the way of Gleemax.