The Elder Scrolls 6 is coming! Eventually. After years of waiting to hear more about The Elder Scrolls 6, with every twitch of Todd Howard's eyebrows being interpreted as a clue, the great news is we finally got real confirmation at Bethesda's showcase during E3 in 2018. The bad news is that it's a very, very long way off.
At E3 2019, Todd Howard chastised us for our impatience, saying that Starfield is Bethesda's priority before they take us back to Tamriel.
What is its release date? Where in Tamriel will it take place? Bethesda hasn't said much, but here's everything we know about The Elder Scrolls 6 so far, based on rumors and interviews about the release date, setting, and more.
The Elder Scrolls 6 is confirmed
While we knew that The Elder Scrolls 6 would come eventually, we've been waiting a long time for Bethesda to announce that it's in the batting order, and is actively being developed. That finally happened, as Todd Howard himself introduced the teaser at E3 2018. There's not much to it, but here it is:
What is The Elder Scrolls 6 release date?
Don't hold your breath. It will probably be before the climate crisis consumes our coastlines, but not by much.
We know that Starfield is going to be finished before TES6. We also know that Starfield has no release date or gameplay trailer of its own yet. So hunker down.
How far along is The Elder Scrolls 6's development?
Before showing the teaser for The Elder Scrolls 6 at E3, Todd Howard showed another trailer for Starfield, Bethesda's first new wholly original franchise in 25 years (Fallout was originally an Interplay joint, remember). We don't know much about Starfield, but we know that it's coming before The Elder Scrolls 6.
"Starfield is a game we've spent years thinking about and working on, something we feel uniquely positioned to pull off, and we're incredibly excited about," Howard said. "But we're also building toward the game after that... and it's the one you keep asking about."
That means Bethesda likely won't be devoted to full work on The Elder Scrolls 6 until after Starfield ships, which puts it many years away. Howard backed that up a little further into E3 2018, saying that The Elder Scrolls 6 is in pre-production, while Starfield is currently playable. "We can't wait to have everybody be able to play this game," he said. "But that's us, too. We want to play it."
What else have we heard about the next Elder Scrolls in the past?
More Elder Scrolls
Check out our giant feature on The Evolution of The Elder Scrolls, which chronicles each game in the series.
The 15 year quest to mod the mainland into The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Our review of Enderal: The Shards of Order, the ambitious Skyrim expansion mod
In 2016, Bethesda flatly stated that it wasn't working on the game. That's more or less been the official company line for years. In 2017, Pete Hines reiterated his "not yet" response when asked about TES6's progress after the release of Skyrim: Special Edition rekindled the hunger for more news. "There's still two major, multiplatform releases that the team has to work on first, and so TES6 isn't happening until those games happen," Hines said in a PCGamesN interview. "Big, multiplatform, triple-A stuff that they do takes multiple years, so you can do the math. It ain't anytime soon."
Now we know that Hines was referring to Fallout 76 and Starfield. We can probably expect, then, that we won't hear much more about The Elder Scrolls 6 until both of those have released, at which point it will become Bethesda's focus.
Another factor prolonging TES6's debut is that Howard's crew doesn't want to be known as just the Elder Fallout Guys. "I think Todd and his team have earned the right, given the quality of this stuff, to be able to say, 'We know everybody really wants [TES6], but we as creative people want to be able to do stuff that we're really passionate about,'" Hines explained to GameSpot last year. "They wanted to be able to self-determine things they worked on next, whether it was existing stuff or whether it was new IP."
Clearly, as much as they may want to get back to TES, the team at Bethesda Game Studios is excited about its first big online game in Fallout 76, and its singleplayer space RPG. But there's another reason it's taking so long. In 2016, Howard suggested that the technology needed to create Bethesda's vision for The Elder Scrolls 6 just isn't here yet.
"I could sit here and explain the game to you, and you would say, 'That sounds like you don't even have the technology—how long is that going to take?'" he said. "And so it's something that's going to take a lot of time, what we have in mind for that game."
Just before E3 2019, in an interview with IGN, Todd Howard cautioned that fans would need to be very patient for Elder Scrolls 6. By the time the next single-player adventure in Tamriel is released, it may be a decade since Skyrim's first launch. "The gap in between is going to be long, It already is. On one hand, I think it's good to miss things. I think that makes people come to it with really, really fresh eyes, and I think when they eventually—eventually—see the game and what we have in mind, they'll understand the gap more in terms of technology and what we want it to do."
When will we see more of The Elder Scrolls 6?
It's years away—possibly not until the next generation of consoles come along, according Zenimax game director Matt Firor, who spoke to Gamespot. It's not coming until after Starfield, Bethesda's next big project, which itself has no release date and only a teaser trailer. Full development on The Elder Scrolls 6 likely won't start until that project is finished, which likely puts The Elder Scrolls 6's release date sometime in the early 2020s. We know—that's a long wait.
Oblivion, Fallout 4, and Skyrim were shown off in near-finished states with relatively small waits leading up to their launches (Oblivion was scheduled for a November 2005 release; it was delayed to March 2006), and Bethesda is probably priming TES6 for a similar sequence. Hines told us in 2016 that the next Elder Scrolls won't be teased along both as a mark of quality and as a balm for the development team to craft the game proper instead of diverting resources for vertical slice demos. That means the shot of some mountains could be the last we see of The Elder Scrolls 6 until much of the game is actually built.
If you're wondering why The Elder Scrolls 6 got announced at E3 when we know Starfield is coming first, Bethesda's VP of marketing Pete Hines discussed this in an interview with FZ.se. "So it was just in conversations with him [and] folks on my team to say, look, why don't we consider putting out a little bit more of a roadmap for the studio that explains to folks, 'Here's what we're doing—yes, we're making this game called Starfield and here's what it is, and yes, we're going to make Elder Scrolls 6, but we have these other two games to develop and make first.' It's just so that folks have a better sense of where we are and where we're headed."
Speaking of where we're headed, let's talk about the potential setting for The Elder Scrolls 6.
What is the setting for The Elder Scrolls 6?
With so little information, Elder Scrolls fans have taken to picking apart the very brief E3 2018 teaser for clues. Todd Howard suggested that clues do indeed exist, saying the teaser contains "hints at where it's set." The community has run with that. Todd Howard himself has confirmed that The Elder Scrolls 6's location has already been decided, and that this decision was made a while ago.
We've taken a crack at figuring out the setting of The Elder Scrolls 6 ourselves. Is it High Rock? It's a reasonable thing to guess, and currently the most popular theory. The trailer shows rocks, and appears to be high. That's not quite enough to be sure, though. TES geography changes quite a bit over time, and High Rock has already been covered by the early games. So have Hammerfell, Morrowind, Cyrodiil, and Skyrim. If TES6 is to take us somewhere new, which it may not, that mainly leaves Valenwood, Elsweyr, and Black Marsh, home of the Wood Elves, Khajiit, and Argonians, respectively. (We're not counting The Elder Scrolls Online here.)
Elsweyr is a tiny possibility. For one thing, it doesn't show up a lot, so there's lots of room to fill in blanks. Secondly, it's the Khajiit's homeland, and it might make sense to focus on one of Skyrim's most popular races. That said, we're doubtful. There could be mountains in Elsweyr, but we'd have expected to see something tropical if it were really the setting.
Black Marsh is probably a no. The teaser looks nothing like it. Valenwood also feels unlikely, as we know it to be full of swampland. Granted, the teaser could've been intentionally misleading.
We can't rule out that we might be headed back to somewhere already covered, of course. Thanks to The Elder Scrolls Online, the range of uncharted territory in Tamriel is shrinking. That could either prompt TES6 to boldly cast its direction overseas, such as to the mysterious continent of Akavir, an exotic land hosting friendly-sounding races such as the Snow Demons of Kamal and the vampiric, snake-like Tsaesci. Or it could drive Bethesda to revisit a previous province, like High Rock, which again is the most popular guess.
I know the smart money's on The Elder Scrolls 6 being in High Rock, but I keep looking at these 3 peninsula in the trailer & thinking about the lost island of Yokuda. That landscape does look a bit like a tidal wave scoured it flat. pic.twitter.com/665lb6W4ijJune 11, 2018
One left field suggestion: the sunken continent Yokuda (presumably before it sank). When it was still above water, Yokuda was described as "a place where rocky, barren hills were matched by the fecund combination of sophisticated agriculture, politics, and warfare." The teaser shows an environment that looks both rocky and barren. GamesRadar's Leon Hurley also pointed out a clue in the geography (see the tweet above).
Will The Elder Scrolls 6 support mods?
Modding Bethesda RPGs is kind of a crucial cornerstone of PC gaming. There's just something about a player community given the freedom to create some truly spectacular works that makes everything feel right in the world. There's even a standalone game being produced based off one of Skyrim's most popular mods.
While the ripples of Bethesda's rocky Creation Club rollout still haven't fully subsided, we can very safely bet that The Elder Scrolls 6 will be moddable. Even Fallout 76, an online game, will eventually be moddable, says Bethesda.
Look forward to the continued legacy of Thomas the Tank Engine, Destroyer of Worlds.
'Skyrim Grandma' Shirley Curry will appear as an NPC
Fans petitioed Bethesda to include the beloved YouTuber in The Elder Scrolls 6, and now it's official: Shirley Curry, aka 'Skyrim Grandma' will appear in The Elder Scrolls 6 as an NPC.
"This means a lot to me," Curry said in the Elder Scrolls 25th anniversary video (at the 8:40 mark), "because I would be extremely happy to know that somebody else was playing with my character in a future Elder Scrolls game."