Yes, I'm sure most of you are cringing at reading the post title. Let me be clear about something; I am a fan of the Forgotten Realms setting up to, and only shortly after, the 1993 boxed set was released. I am not a fan of the current 4e incarnation since I'm hardly familiar with it, or the 4e system for that matter, at all. That said, I know that within the particular hard core circles of the OSR community, the Forgotten Realms setting is maligned as it signified a step away from the niche Gygaxian hobby, and a move towards commercialism and mass-market appeal. Perhaps I was just a young, impreshionable teenager, and hence a prime example of how their "mass market appeal" worked. I'd like to think it was more than that though, and after having read through my old 1993 boxed setting again, I'm pretty sure it was.
The great thing about the Realms back then was the rich and varied detail in the setting. It was very much a high fantasy setting full of magic and wonder populated by varying countries, NPC's, and creatures galore. Within the sourcebooks, there was just enough detail about each region to give a DM an idea on how to incorporate those areas into his/her game. The maps were all fantastic and wonderfully rendered with plenty of space in certain areas for the DM to incorporate elements of his own creation into the Realms seamlessly.
I understand there were a great many products released for the Realms, and a great many of them were crap. TSR, and later WotC, was able to use the Realms as a platform for their product because of the mass appeal of a lot of their novels. As a result, many of the books and supplements were absolute garbage. I know because I threw away many a dollar on their shrinkwrapped splatbooks and modules, only to open them and discover the content within practically useless. Still yet, overall the Forgotten Realms of that era was the most rich high fantasy setting out there. If there was a sourcebook I didn't like, I simply didn't incorporate its contents into my game.
It's sort of funny in hindsight, because I was never a huge Ed Greenwood fan. I never could get into his novels, and felt he focused way too much time doting on Elminster's awesomeness in his writings on the Realms; something that made me throw up a little each time I saw an instance of it. Then again, I was a Drizzt fanboy as well, which is something else that will likely make many readers from the old school cringe. Sorry, I thought he was a great character and I like RA Salvatore's books.
I understand the frustation of many from the old guard who see 2nd edition, and the removal of Gygax from the game, as the start of the long road that has led to the demise of the hobby as they once new it. Just because I am a fan of 2e and the Realms doesn't mean that I'm unsympathetic or ignorant to this notion. Gary was Dungeons and Dragons, we can all agree with that. With that said, however, I can still say I loved the Forgotten Realms and the setting will always have a place near and dear to me. Well, the 1993 edition will anyway.