We all knew that The Elder Scrolls VI would come eventually, but now it’s official. Todd Howard and his sexy leather jacket said so live on the E3 stage. It was Bethesda’s ‘one more thing’; and everyone lost their damn minds. Of course they did. It’s The Elder Scrolls VI for goodness sake. It’s been nearly 7 years since Skyrim’s initial release. People are starting to crave. At least the wait is finally coming to an end.
The Elder Scrolls VI is years away, like 5+ years away, like the ‘next console generation’ away. It seems like such a strange decision. Especially when you consider that Bethesda’s E3 2017 presentation only showed off games that were scheduled to release in that same year. Snapback to the 2018 showcase and most of the big titles didn’t even have release windows attached. DOOM Eternal, Starfield, and The Elder Scrolls VI. All lacking a date. Although, DOOM Eternal will be appearing at Quakecon in August, so perhaps we’ll get some more news there.
The lack of a release date wasn’t really the problem though. I didn’t even expect to see release dates for Starfield (the first new IP from Bethesda Game Studios in over 20 years) or The Elder Scrolls VI (a game that requires all hands on deck; something that can’t be achieved whilst Starfield is in production). The problem isn’t even that they were announced, it’s the way they were announced.
The trailers that accompanied Starfield and TES6 gave us nothing. At least DOOM Eternal hinted at a ‘hell on Earth’ theme. It even hinted at some new enemy types. DOOM’s revival was only a couple of years ago, so an iteration, rather than a reinvention of the wheel, should be expected. But it’s been almost 7 years since Skyrim, and Starfield is a brand new IP. Both could be genre defining moments for the Bethesda RPG, but we have no way of knowing because the trailers showed nothing!
Starfield’s trailer was the worst offender. What does a horizon shot of the Earth(?) and a wormhole show us? That it’s a sci-fi game? The leaks told us that. Whilst on that point, it’s probably worth mentioning that Starfield’s announcement may have been sufficient if we didn’t already know it was coming. Although, I still would’ve liked a trailer that hinted at gameplay possibilities.
The same could be said for TES6 trailer. A sweeping shot of a landscape doesn’t give us much to go on. The lack of a subtitle doesn’t help either. It’s clear that this game is still very much in the idea phase of production. Why was it announced so early?
As far as I can tell there are several reasons.
The Elder Scrolls: Blades
Bethesda may have considered that, after announcing The Elder Scrolls: Blades, people would start to worry about the future of The Elder Scrolls IP. Blades seems to have had a lot of effort put into it. The way that Todd Howard presented it showed that it was really something he believed in. Something that we should all get behind. Which doesn’t exactly scream confidence for those eager for a true sequel.
Bethesda even went through the trouble of making it compatible with everything. You can play Blades on the PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Mobile Devices, VR Units and on PC. It’s even crossplay through the use of a Bethesda account. That’s a serious effort in accessibility. So, what better way to prove that the status quo will remain so, than by announcing the next major title in the franchise.
Creating a Fallout game that revolves around an online experience was risky for Bethesda. The single-player experience is a major part of their success. While the market around us continues to push games as a service; the lion share of Bethesda’s projects stood strong. Fallout 76 could have been a signal to everyone that online games are where the money is, so that’s where they’ll go.
The Elder Scrolls Online is already making Bethesda boatloads of money. Why not grab another boat? By announcing both Starfield and TES6, Bethesda have firmly cemented themselves in the single-player market. Sending a clear message. This is their home, so this is where they’ll stay.
The Show Must Go On
Bethesda’s first ever E3 showcase was held in 2016, and the games industry was shocked. Bethesda is known for making great games, genre-defining games, but they are not known for making lots of games. The fact that Bethesda was holding their own conference was a complete surprise. They simply didn’t have the output to warrant an entire showcase, but that didn’t stop them.
Over the years, Bethesda has been steadily acquiring and building studios to add to its portfolio. In a decades time, I expect that they’ll rival Ubisoft and EA in the number of studios they own. But they’re not there yet. Trying to announce multiple new games each year is quite the task for a publisher of Bethesda’s size. Yet they continue to do it anyway. Perhaps having an E3 showcase that’s favourable amongst the populous is more important than we know. Maybe TES6 (and even Starfield) weren’t ready to be announced, but they had to do it for public and investor approval.
Peace And Quiet
There was never a doubt in any of our minds that Bethesda would create another Elder Scrolls, but that didn’t stop us from asking. And boy did we ask. We asked on Twitter. We asked on Youtube. We even asked in interviews about completely different franchises. Todd was probably sick of all the questions. Sick of all the leaks. He just wanted to shut everyone up and for the most part, he succeeded.
But, sooner or later, the masses will need to feed once more. They will emerge from their holes, their solitude, hunched and hungry and they will whisper in the wind: