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When D&D 5E came out in 2014, it was not an immediate smash. Pathfinder 1E was still quite dominant in the marketplace.
Couple of reasons:
#1 Appealing to the Average/Weekend Gamer. This is, I believe, one of the biggest appeals for the game. It's simple enough on the player that his choices need not be in-depth min/maxing calculations where Theorycraft is largely irrelevant and pointless OR it can be far more in-depth if you want - still the disparity of someone who goes full-hog Min/Max and that Casual Person that doesn't isn't substantially high.
#2 It's Easier to Run. Seriously, running a combat encounter is so much simpler from a DM perspective and a lot of that is because there aren't TONS of sub-systems where people are constantly looking up rules and modifiers and adjustments based on a specific spell in it's application to that particular instant...it gets bogged down real quick. 3.5 and 4E (the latter due to too many Interrupts) meant that combat had the potential to turn into a slog, which got worse at you go higher level.
Just look at something simple like a bigger crit range. In 5E, the Champion just crits on a 19. Easy peasy. No additional rolling to "confirm". Now multiply that by 3-4 per character and/or monster. Yeah no thanks.
#3 It's more modular AND your options matter. Lets face it, the VAST majority of Feats in 3.5 (and PF1) aren't great or - at best - simply add a bonus, but it's largely Exception-based. Meaning that you can do X, but it usually a horrible idea that will fail unless you roll high. This feat eliminates that penalty. Meaning these feats are the "exception" to the normal rule. 5E just says "nah, those penalties are pretty dumb, lets ignore them." Like Firing into Melee. In 5e, the monster might provide cover but...that's it. In 3.5 it's Cover plus you take a penalty to attack rolls. More math means less time playing.
As for it being modular, well it's easy to change campaign specifics to make it more lethal or more heroic with very little change to what the PCs or Monsters do.