Elder Scrolls fans love to joke about the long gap between Skyrim and The Elder Scrolls 6, which is now 10 years and counting. Director Todd Howard is more aware of this gap than ever, but when it came to making Starfield and diving into a whole new world, it was pretty much now or never.
In a wide-ranging interview with IGN Unfiltered covering Skyrim's 10th anniversary, Starfield, and The Elder Scrolls 6, Howard talked about the lengthy list of projects that wound up pushing the project back upon the conclusion of Fallout 4 in 2015.
"Would you plan to have the kind of gap we're having between Skyrim and the follow-up? I can't say that's a good thing," Howard says. "Do I wish I could wave a wand and the game we wanted to make […] just came out? Absolutely."
However, there were other projects that came first, including Fallout 76. What's more, if Bethesda Game Studios wound up prioritizing The Elder Scrolls 6, it was unclear if it would ever get another chance to truly do something new.
"We felt doing something like Starfield… we'd been wanting to do something else for a long time and play in a new universe, so if not now — I'm going back in time, we started right after Fallout 4, so 2015 — if not now, when? It felt like, if we didn't do it then, the 'when' could be 'never," Howard said.
Bethesda Game Studios ultimately decided to push forward with Starfield, effectively putting The Elder Scrolls 6 on the backburner. Both games were announced at E3 2018, but while Starfield is targeting a release for late next year, The Elder Scrolls 6 remains in pre-production. Based on the usual timescale of Bethesda's development, that could mean that Elder Scrolls fans wind up waiting another several years before finally getting a chance to revisit Tamriel.
Elder Scrolls 6 remains years away
In the meantime, precious little info has been revealed about Elder Scrolls 6, which Howard described as being in the "design phase" back in June. We do know that both Elder Scrolls 6 and Starfield will utilize a substantially updated version of the Creation Engine in what will be a "huge jump" from Skyrim. Fans also suspect that it will be set in Hammerfell based on what seemed to be a subtle easter egg buried in the Starfield reveal trailer, along with other clues.
In describing what he would change about Skyrim, Howard hinted at the future direction of the series. "There are a number of parts of [Skyrim] where we don't go deep enough, where it's a veneer in terms of its interactivity. […] When we think about games and what we would want to do going forward, it's okay… whatever that system is… how deep can we make it? The other thing is how AI and NPCs interact with you. That's something I think we still have a long way to go with."
Ultimately, the success of Elder Scrolls Online and the overall health of the franchise gave Bethesda the confidence to focus on Starfield, Howard said. "[E]verything takes longer than we'd like as well, but we want to make sure we get it right. Hopefully Elder Scrolls 6 — you don't want to say that it's worth that kind of wait — but it does stand up to the series as it has been in a really big, impactful way when it comes out."
Starfield is currently due to release on Xbox Series X|S and PC on November 11, 2022, with Skyrim 10th Anniversary Edition out later this week. You can listen to the rest of our interview with Todd Howard on IGN Unfiltered, where he delves into Skyrim, Indiana Jones, Starfield, and more.
Kat Bailey is a Senior News Editor at IGN