Yes you’ve heard it right. Mike Mearls announced in the Legends & Lore section that Wizards of the Coast would offer Basic Dungeons and Dragons for free.
Basic D&D will be a free pdf that covers the core of the game. It will allow you to run characters from levels 1 to 20 and covers the cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard classes in addition to the dwarf, elf, halfling, and human as race options.
“If Basic D&D is the equivalent of the classic Rules Cyclopedia, then the three core rulebooks are analogous to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Want more character options? Pick up a Player’s Handbook. Looking for more critters for your campaign? The Monster Manual has you covered. Want to sculpt a unique campaign? Pick up the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Still, Basic D&D is the true heart of the game and could easily provide a lifetime of gaming.” according to Mearls.
As new storylines are introduced, Wizards will also release free PDFs that provide all the rules and stats missing from Basic D&D needed to run the adventures tied into the story.
With just the Basic Dungeons & Dragons rules, you can play D&D for years.