Tamriel Infinium: The Elder Scrolls Online is no April Fools' joke

Tamriel Infinium: The Elder Scrolls Online is no April Fool's joke
Usually for this Elder Scrolls Online column, I bury the weekly question somewhere in the middle of the article or tag it at the end, but this week, I want to begin with the question. What do you think of the ESO release date? For those of you who missed Wednesday's announcement, here it is again: ZeniMax set the release date for April 4th, 2014 (4-4-14, isn't that quaint?). The date is smack-dab in the middle of the spring sales season, not the mid-June definition of spring many gamers feared.

That also means that we sit less than five months away from stepping foot into the online world of Tamriel. Are we ready for it? Is ZeniMax ready for it? I know people who are in the beta have claimed that the game needs to cook for another year, at least. True or not, that state seems to be far too popular for MMO players to say so that they can be "right" when the game "fails" three months after launch. Although I believe there is some merit to statements like that, there are always reasons companies pick specific dates for releases.

Today, let's talk about some of those reasons, and let's also examine the newly released trailer. What do these two things tell us about the game to come?

Spring trending
Although April 4th is clearly the spring, for an MMO -- a game meant to be played months at a time -- I consider it a summer release because it will ultimately end up competing with the MMOs and other games slated to release during the summer of 2014. It might even compete with the September release of Bungie's Destiny, but that might be a bit of optimism slipping in. This is the internet; we can't have that.

Spring releases have been a mixed bag over the last few years. We have seen wildly popular games like RIFT (March 2011) release in the spring. But then the two MMOs with the shortest lifespans ever also launched in the spring: Faxion in May 2011 and All Points Bulletin in June 2010. April has seen its share of interesting titles, too. This year we saw Defiance, Age of Wushu, and Neverwinter all launch in April. So unfortunately, the month and season is hardly a predictor of the sales performance.

Although we can't predict performance based on the month, we can speculate about its release date versus other titles. For instance, I believe we can safely say that the big two MMOs coming down the pike will not want to compete with a franchise goliath like The Elder Scrolls. I don't believe we will see WildStar or even the World of Warcraft expansion, Warlords of Draenor, release until summer. Yes, WildStar says it will release in spring 2014, but I bet it's shooting for the tail end of the season in June.

Spring implications
This next section should come with a disclaimer. I understand that MMOs, like all non-charities, are in the business of making money. I also understand that companies will sometimes make decisions based on the profitability of a product. Generally speaking, I do not believe this is bad, nor do I wish to give the impression that making money is bad. In theory, the more money a game can make, the better the game can potentially be. And I think all of us can agree that we want a better game.

Since it's a subscription game (sorry, looks like I couldn't talk ESO out of that business model), its first few months after release are extremely important. These months determine whether the game will be able to recuperate the cost of production. If another MMO does not have a major release in the first few months after ESO launches, then the likelihood of the game profiting rises. Hopefully, WildStar creator Carbine Studios sees the wisdom in holding off back its game until very late spring. Personally, I want both games to be successful, and I don't believe that WS will do as well unless it can release before WoW:WoD and while ESO subscriptions ebb.

A spring release also means that ESO has plenty of time to pad performance numbers. If the game were to release in March, then the only measure of the game's success on Bestheda's first-quarter report would be the launch numbers. With it releasing in April, not only can Bethesda show a complete quarter's earnings, but it can also heighten the excitement of those numbers by announcing its plans for the summer and the rest of the year during the quarterly report.

If I might be so bold, I believe April 4th, 2014 is the best day for ESO to release. Not only does it allow for an amazing financial report, but it also allows the developer to release news of future content set to release that same year.

Video presentation
I've included the launch-day-announcement video here so that you can take another look at it. Based on the reaction of our commenters, I'm inclined to believe that the most accurate review for the video is "mixed."

The Elder Scrolls Online Launch Date Announcement Trailer
Initially, I found the video refreshing because all the footage was in-game footage. Of course, the first promo trailer for the game looked amazing, but the realistic CGI trailer gave a false impression of the game. In fact, I think I can safely say that you will be able to do very few of the phenomenal things in-game you saw in that CGI trailer. However, because the latest trailer uses in-game footage, I suspect everything you see in that video is doable. The one-on-one battles to the army-vs-army castle sieges can take place as you see them in the trailer.

However, the in-game footage also shows off the flaws in the game as well. In the comments of the announcement, Davidjames79 mirrors my feelings about the quality of the footage:
The maps, environments, and now lighting in TESO are really, really good, perhaps some of the best, and I think the game will do fine as is. However, the one area I hope gets a little polish is the characters looks a little stiff in their movement and animations.
Some readers believe that this trailer sets the tone for the game as a whole, meaning they believe the game will be all about PvP. It's possible, but I do know that PvE does play a strong role, too, if the convention demonstrations are to be believed. I'm hoping that we will see a PvE-focused trailer soon. My fingers are crossed.

Whether the release date hits that magic sweet spot, and whether the trailer made you jump out of your pants, one thing is for sure: April 4th, 2014 is the day that all Elder Scrolls fans are looking forward to now.

Tamriel Infinium Stepping into the world of The Elder Scrolls OnlineEach week, traverse the treacherous terrain of Tamriel with Larry Everett as he records his journey through The Elder Scrolls Online, an MMORPG from ZeniMax. Comments are welcome below, or send a message to larry@massively.com. He promises to keep the arrow-to-the-knee jokes to a minimum.

This article was originally published on Massively.