It’s not really going backwards in my opinion. The ability to autoplay is certainly less-advanced, but that doesn’t mean it has no place. Psalm40 points out my exact use case… I’ve got plenty to do with my feet as it is. The flexibility of the existing mode is great, but if you already know exactly what you want, it calls for more input than is necessary.
Lots of popular drum machines have this mode already. Often, you have the ability to create patterns and then chain them together into songs. The ever-popular SR-16 is a great example. You can create patterns and use a foot-pedal to transition between a verse, chorus, and two fills – much like the BeatBuddy (though not as powerful). But you can also create songs which automatically sequence patterns in a chain. I use both modes frequently. Having both these modes has contributed to its staying power a lot. There’s a reason that this thing is still in production and wide use 25 years after it was released.
Of course, it does not have many of the other the advantages of the BeatBuddy. Being able to load MIDI files, load wavs for accent hits, load your own drum sets onto the machine, switch between them easily, and do it all with MIDI sync and a small form factor are all huge. There’s nothing else on the market with these features together.
Removing the 500 note limit would certainly do it. I wouldn’t mind just being able to chain existing patterns, either. I wouldn’t find myself “cutting up” an existing MIDI file very often… nearly any song I’m constructing is made of smaller patterns like those made in the BeatBuddy already, anyway.
The super-deluxe solution would be to also include functionality to repeat a chorus or verse an extra time before progressing. But while that would be nice, it’s not as important. I’m wary to even mention it, because if this feature is easy to add, I’d hate to slow it down with any featurecreep.