A lead Skyrim designer has explained why Bethesda exec Todd Howard peeled back the curtain on The Elder Scrolls 6 in 2018, despite the studio’s years-long focus on shipping Starfield: Angry gamers with their pitchforks and torches.
In an October 23 interview with the gaming podcast MinnMax, Bruce Nesmith spoke about his history with Bethesda Softworks. Nesmith—who’s been with the company on and off since the ‘90s with credits on Fallout 3, Oblivion, and Skyrim—told host Ben Hanson that Bethesda was getting shit for remaining so tightlipped on The Elder Scrolls 6 for such a long time. It got to a point where, according to Nesmith, Howard had to do something to quell a supposed angry gamer mob. And that something, it turned out, was dropping a teaser of the next entry in The Elder Scrolls series during E3 in June 2018. Nesmith said:
“Well, you have to remember the company took years of hits for not talking about Elder Scrolls 6. I mean, years of hits. Because Todd’s opinion—one which I share, by the way—is that the video game industry has short memories. Those companies that start touting their games years ahead of time actually, you know, they screw themselves. The best time to start talking about it is six months before releases. […] So, only the fact that everybody was—you know, the pitchforks and torches were out. It got Todd to say, ‘Yes, we’re going to do Elder Scrolls 6. I promise you, it’s for real. It’ll happen.’ But I’m betting you won’t hear much in the way of details until about six months before release, which is the way it should be. I think that’s the best approach, and [Todd’s] proven that that works really well—at least for Bethesda.”
The Elder Scrolls 6 was revealed at E3 2018 with a teaser that pans over a mountainous landscape while drums crescendo into a horn section—and that’s it. Since the teaser, tiny bits of news like the game going into early development this year and the potential setting the game will take place in trickled out of Bethesda’s offices, but it’s essentially been radio silence for the past five years.
Kotaku reached out to Bethesda for comment.
Nesmith doesn’t work at Bethesda anymore. According to his LinkedIn page, he left his role as design director in September 2021 and self-published a Norse mythological fantasy epic called Mischief Maker. However, Nesmith told Hanson that some of his ideas might still appear in The Elder Scrolls 6.
“The whole magic system for Skyrim? I persuaded Todd to let me throw out the baby and the bathwater and restart [it] from scratch, and he trusted me enough to do that,” Nesmith said. “There will probably still be traces of that in [The Elder Scrolls 6]. The whole ‘you do it to get better at it’? While that was not my unique idea, I had a large hand in that. That’s absolutely gonna continue. A lot of the concepts dealing with how you level and things like that, you know, there will be a bunch of new ideas thrown in, but I’m betting some of the stuff that I worked on will still survive in the new one.”
It’ll probably be a while before we find out, but whenever it drops, Todd Howard said it may be the last one he works on. No matter what The Elder Scrolls 6 entails, though, we know it’s not coming to PlayStation anytime soon.