Bethesda teases The Elder Scrolls 6 in anniversary message and brags its developers are already 'playing early builds' and loving it

The Elder Scrolls - Tamriel Map
(Image credit: Bethesda)

It's the 30th anniversary of the release of The Elder Scrolls: Arena, the very first game in one of the biggest and best RPG series of all time, and to mark the big birthday Bethesda Softworks has shared a message looking back on that long history and teasing what's ahead—that, of course, being The Elder Scrolls 6.

Daggerfall set the template for The Elder Scrolls series as we know it today, and Morrowind—the first game in the series to come to consoles—pushed it into mainstream gamer consciousness. But Arena is where it all started, "with the entirety of Tamriel generated for you to explore freely."

"Many hundreds of developers have spent time on The Elder Scrolls over these 30 years," Bethesda wrote. "As the series has grown, so have we. Still to this day, each chapter has aimed to let all of us live another life, in another world."

The latest chapter in the series, which still doesn't have a proper title, was announced at E3 in June 2018 with the briefest of teasers and absolutely nothing else, a move the studio said was made "just so that folks have a better sense of where we are and where we're headed." (Pitchforks and torches also apparently played a role.)

And so it has remained in the intervening years, as Bethesda has kept its focus fixed firmly on Starfield. There have been little tidbits and teases since then, mild expressions of regret, and warnings that TES6 is still a long, long way down the road. But today's message also contained a little nod to the next game, which is apparently even playable in some small, limited fashion.

"Last but not least, yes, we are in development on the next chapter—The Elder Scrolls 6," Bethesda wrote. "Even now, returning to Tamriel and playing early builds has us filled with the same joy, excitement, and promise of adventure."

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks (Twitter))

Hey, it's not much, but it's something, right? Somebody, somewhere in the bowels of Bethesda, is playing the next Elder Scrolls game, which means (among other things) they know where it's set—something we still do not. 

My hope is that Bethesda will take a note from Morrowind and veer back into the series' strangeness with a journey to Black Marsh, Elsweyr, or even Valenwood, but I'm not quite ready to hold my breath: The last two Elder Scrolls games, Oblivion and Skyrim, may have been relatively generic fantasy adventures by comparison, but they were also massively popular games and it's hard to argue with success.

For our own contribution to the 30th anniversary effort, we had our Elder expert Jody Macgregor rank all the mainline Elder Scrolls games. Nostalgia would probably compel me to swap Daggerfall with Skyrim (or at least Oblivion) but otherwise he nailed it, and also touched on why taking a note from Morrowing may not be the cards: "[It] was avant-garde and weird in a way the Elder Scrolls has only rarely been since, and rewarded analysis and theorizing of a kind that's less welcome these days."

We've also dug into our magazine archive to republish reviews from way back when, so you can enjoy a deeper look at our thoughts on these games when they were hot and new:

Back to the birthday business: The Elder Scrolls: Arena is extremely dated at this point (30 years is a virtual eternity in the world of videogames) but if you'd like to get a taste of where it all began, you can play it for free on Steam and GOG.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.