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For me and most of my group it wasn't the complexity of character build that was a major contributor to making 3.x popular.
It was that it had a robust system for a tactical level combat. Things like flanking, attacks of opportunity, 5' step, straight line charging, miniature scale movement etc all were new for d&d. We had rarely used mini before because combat didn't really benefit from it. AD&D was more about resource management - combats were simpler - fighters at the front, magic users at the back hand wave the rest.
Suddenly 3.x added a tactical combat game to the roleplaying, adventure, storytelling game that had always been D&D.
Now I agree that the character build part was initially fun too but that side of it became more and more like homework. The imbalance between characters, problems that were created by things going slightly wrong, the maths to check each round based on buffs and the like became frustrating. But having been exposed to the added tactical element for my group we couldn't go back totally to the hand wave tactics of previous editions - not when playing D&D. I mean, we could do it a bit, but those tactical combats were fun.
So if 5e can be a roleplaying, storytelling, adventure, tactical game without making any part too complicated I am in.
Oh and I am 47 and started with the basic set in 79.