During E3 2015, Bethesda announced Fallout 4 with a release date just five months down the line. Fallout 4 had been in full production for two years at that point, with a smaller team working on it over the course of the previous four while the rest of the studio were all-in on Skyrim. Fallout 4 managed to hit its release date, and came out on November 10 of that year.
Fast-forward to E3 2018, and Bethesda announced The Elder Scrolls 6 with a 30-second video of some mountains and no date at all. We still haven’t seen any more of it, and don’t have a clue when we will. The two approaches to marketing couldn’t be more different.
With nothing to chew on during the long wait, Elder Scrolls fans have fallen down a bunch of conspiracy holes, analyzing and overanalyzing everything from official tweets to Starfield trailers for clues about The Elder Scrolls 6.
This year’s combined Xbox & Bethesda Showcase didn’t tease us with hype videos for far-off releases. “Today we’re doing something we’ve never done before,” said head of Xbox Creator Experience Sarah Bond. “For the first time ever our show is focused on games you can play over the next 12 months.”
Every game that appeared, from Redfall and Starfield to Diablo 4 and Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn, has a release window of 2022 or the first half of 2023. It’s not quite the Fallout 4 approach since plenty of them didn’t come with exact dates (and during the Covid era we’re used to a certain degree of slipperiness), but it’s still a thoroughly different kind of marketing push.
It’s a shift for Microsoft as well as Bethesda. During the Xbox Games Showcase in 2020, Microsoft announced the return of Fable with a vague minute-long teaser (opens in new tab), and revealed Avowed and State of Decay 3 with trailers that weren’t much more detailed. That same year, Microsoft dropped a cinematic trailer for Perfect Dark during The Game Awards. None of them were close to being finished, and none of them have come out yet.
The Xbox & Bethesda Game Showcase 2022 edition was by contrast full of fan-pleasing gameplay footage. The words “PLAY IT DAY ONE WITH GAME PASS” appeared so many times I’ve experienced semantic satiation and am no longer sure what the phrase means. It seems to have been well-received, with comments on YouTube like “The format of the showcases should be like this always” and “Great presentation – Love the actual gameplay footage and variety of games.”
There’s an unintended consequence to this format, however, as it basically confirms a bunch of games we were hoping to see won’t actually be coming out in the next 12 months. Those games revealed in 2020—Fable 4, Avowed, State of Decay 3, and Perfect Dark? Don’t expect those until late 2023 at the earliest. Same goes for Hellblade 2, which was announced in 2019. And The Outer Worlds 2, the Indiana Jones game, Avalanche Studios’ 1970s co-op smuggling game Contraband, Ninja Theory’s Project Mara, and Project Belfry, which is being made by Banner Saga developers Stoic Studios.
Remember Everwild? Rare’s game about exploring a “magical and untamed world”, which Microsoft said was “coming soon” two years ago? Another no-show, now rumor has it development’s been completely rebooted and, according to VGC (opens in new tab), it’s “optimistically” aiming for 2024. If the showcase had looked further than 12 months ahead, maybe we’d have got some confirmation development on these games is still chugging along. Without the, the rumor mill is left to do its thing.
One part of the Xbox & Bethesda showcase bucked the trend. Reliably contrarian, Hideo Kojima appeared to essentially announce friendship ended with PlayStation, now Xbox is my best friend. What’s the product of this collaboration between Kojima Productions and Microsoft going to be? We’ll probably have to wait until next year to find out.
Read more: Every game at not-E3 2022