I'm OK with The Elder Scrolls 6 release date being years away

The Elder Scrolls
(Image credit: Bethesda)

If you are clamoring for news about The Elder Scrolls 6, I have some bad news: It’s a long way from release. That’s because Bethesda boss Todd Howard told The Telegraph that development on The Elder Scrolls 6 is at the very early stages. 

"It's good to think of The Elder Scrolls 6 as still being in a design [phase]," Howard said. I predict that we won't see TES6 for years, unless being under Microsoft’s ownership seriously changes Bethesda’s approach to development. But that’s not a bad thing. 

In fact, I think it’s very good news. No, I haven’t had a fall and bumped my head. Just allow me to explain why.  

Getting the Starfield to align  

Starfield ship

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Bethesda Game Studios is currently working on a little game called Starfield. You may have heard of it, as it opened the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase at E3 2021. Described by Bethesda as a “Han Solo simulator” and “NASA meets Indiana Jones meets the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” Starfield is not likely to be a small game. 

Open worlds are Bethesda’s specialty, but they take time to make. When The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim came out, it gave people a whole country to explore, and we can expect Starfield to build upon that scale. 

When Skyrim launched, it was fairly buggy, and some of those bugs were genuinely frustrating rather than dryly amusing. The idea that Bethesda won’t try to release TES6 close after Starfield in 2022 is music to my ears. Hopefully, this means that the developer will spend more time ironing out the bugs before Starfield launches.

A truly polished Bethesda open world game that harnesses the power of the Xbox Series X is a rather tantalizing prospect. Such a game could wash away the sour taste Fallout 76 left for many Bethesda fans (other than Toms Guide’s Marc McLaren). 

Furthermore, a polished Starfield is important for TES6, as Howard has said the game will be based on the new Creation Engine 2, which Starfield is using. If Bethesda can nail that at launch — the Starfield E3 2021 trailer looked very nice — then it bodes well for TES6. 

A saga without the shortfalls  

In a world ravaged by COVID-19 and political unrest, I am one one the many Elder Scrolls fans who’d like nothing more than to lose myself in a fantasy world from the comfort of my sofa or gaming PC. Having to wait years to explore Blackrock or Hammerfall (two potential TES6 settings) stings. But I’m happy to wait for a game that will have Bethesda’s full attention.

As mentioned, more time gives Bethesda the scope to squash bugs and refine TES6. But it also means that the developer could be working on one of the most ambitious TES games yet. 

Skyrim was a joy, but repetitive dialogue, a lackluster main campaign and identikit dungeons took the shine off a little. As much as I loved exploring Skyrim, I still wish it had a compelling plot like The Witcher 3 to give its many locations a little more meaning. Speaking of the Witcher 3, CD Projekt Red’s world is smaller — think county, not country —  but it's richly detailed, and feels so very alive. That’s not to say Skyrim feels static; far from it. But Skyrim is a decade old, and that now shows. With time and tech, TES6 could be a huge leap forward — even more so than Skyrim was over Oblivion. 

What’s also exciting about a longer development period is that Bethesda could look at properly exploring what it could do under Microsoft’s wing. The Redmond company has not only Xbox and Windows 10 under its belt, but also a huge amount of other tech. 

Bethesda could tap Microsoft for AI tech to make the characters in TES6 feel more alive, rather than just virtual puppets on a string of set code. (Yes, we know you work at the General Goods store, Sigurd.) This might result in fewer guards spouting about a specific arrow-based injury that cut short their adventuring careers. 

Microsoft’s Azure cloud infrastructure could help support development from a practical point of view. But it could also enable game features, such as a more advanced take on the invasion mechanics seen in the Dark Souls games. 

Simply being close to two major gaming platforms and their engineers could help Bethesda ensure it gets the most out of Windows 10 and Xbox Series X for TES6. Just having access to Microsoft software expertise could help Bethesda gain a leg up in testing and debugging. The developer could even tap into Microsoft’s beta testing programs, and get keen communities of software enthusiasts to help test various parts of TES6. 

This is all educated speculation on my part, as Microsoft and Bethesda haven’t spoken a lot about the deep nuance and practicalities of Redmond gobbling up ZeniMax Media and all its subsidiaries. But you can forgive a little bit of silver-lining thinking.

In short, knowing TES6 is potentially a half-decade away is a tough pill to swallow. But it’s more easily ingested with a good gulp of hope that Bethesda will make TES6 a game to blow our minds, much like Skyrim did for many of us a decade ago. 

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.