The Nexus Telegraph: The impact of WildStar's new release window

I don't know why I thought this wouldn't look good as a header image.  I know that I thought it, but I don't know why I did.
It merited only a footnote when the business model was announced, and it was easy to miss for all of the screaming between players who refused to listen to the other sorts of players, but WildStar isn't aiming for a 2013 release any longer. Not that this is exactly a shock, of course; I said about a month ago that I would prefer to just be told that the game wouldn't release until 2014, which already looked to be the case.

But there's something interesting to be unpacked with that almost offhand mention of the game's targeted release date, especially when you consider how many huge holes there are in our present knowledge of the game. We'll learn more at the end of the week as PAX Prime starts up, but I find myself filling in some blanks both in terms of upcoming revelations and what we've not been told yet.

Admittedly, we don't have a gun that's quite this smoking, so to speak.First of all, let's just make it clear that odds are we'll be told what the last two classes are at PAX Prime. I base this on no insider information and no little Chua whispering in my ear from Carbine Studios; it's simply smart practice. It's the big mystery the game has yet to unveil, and that means it's also the last piece of the mystery that needs to be unveiled for a proper ramp-up.

Think about it: The next big convention will be next year, in the spring, when the game is just about ready for launch, at which point that can be a point of excitement rather than huge gaps in what we know about the game.

Am I suggesting that Carbine Studios knew all along that the game wasn't going to make it for 2013? No. I'm suggesting that the move to 2014 wasn't a terribly recent decision because excitement ramped up higher when everyone thought the game was just around the corner. This would be less a grand conspiracy and more a marketing team with the necessary amount of acumen.

As a result, the game has been able to parcel out information slowly, just enough to keep everyone excited and ready for what's around the corner. Standard stuff, but as long as there was some hope of a 2013 release, there's no need to point out that it's kind of an unrealistic window. And when that fails to materialize, it seems more like a case of "well, we tried" as opposed to "we never actually planned to make this target."

So the last big reveal is going to be this week. I expect we'll find out the last two classes, although speculation (and datamined leaks from beta, I'd assume) have more or less filled those holes. Then it's more zone reveals and the like until we start in on the launch path, bits of data that are interesting to those invested but unlikely to garner new attention.

But you can't talk about the new release date without talking about what it means. Specifically, it's going up in the same launch window as The Elder Scrolls Online.

Long shots, part whatever.First of all, full and fair disclosure here -- I have no idea why either the series or the online version has anywhere near the fanbase it does. Maybe there's some complicated alchemy that takes place when you play it; I can't tell you. From the outside looking in, it's yet another fantasy game hitting all of the same fantasy tropes. I understand that some people like the sandboxy nature of the single-player games, but not much of that seems to be carried over into the online version, so I suppose this will remain a mystery for the ages.

This isn't an insult, mind you. I just don't see the appeal. For the people who are enthusiastic about it, hey, good for you. Hope you have fun when it comes out.

Whether or not I understand the fandom is irrelevant because it exists regardless. And I would not have advised the team at Carbine to launch in a window that's anywhere near that game. Whatever its player retention looks like, it has an infinitely easier time out of the gate than a quirky and stylized game with an odd sense of humor and some weird mechanics.

It doesn't help that both games have shackled themselves to the subscription horse. WildStar has at least made paying for the subscription more modular than a flat monthly rate, but it still wants those subscriptions. I still think it'll be interesting to see the model in action, but I don't harbor any illusions about how likely it is to work compared to how the development team imagines it working. It's an outdated model that doesn't really reflect the modern environment.

So WildStar is now launching into the teeth of a big rival, and it doesn't have a whole lot of big surprises left. It's got two more classes (which might wind up mixing in cries of how it's yet another class-based game) and an assortment of zones, but at this point would-be players know what to expect from the game for the most part. All that's left are things like endgame content, and as I mentioned with recent columns, we're not getting a terribly clear picture of that just yet.

Then again, I could be wrong and PAX could unveil how the game is doing away with classes entirely. I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens next.

Feedback is welcome in the comments down below or via mail to eliot@massively.com, same as every week. Next Monday, whatever gets revealed at PAX, I will be talking about it right here. Even if it's just rowsdowers being made a playable race. Especially if that's the reveal, in fact.

Here's how it is: The world of Nexus can be a dangerous place for a tourist or a resident. If you're going to venture into WildStar, you want to be prepared. That's why Eliot Lefebvre brings you a shiny new installment of The Nexus Telegraph every week, giving you a good idea of what to expect from both the people and the environment. Keep your eyes peeled, and we'll get you where you need to go.

This article was originally published on Massively.