Almost a week following the Nintendo Switch reveal and I think it’s safe to say that there is plenty to look forward to, as well as aspects that are still coming off as a bit sore.
And while it was the Japanese console manufacturer’s showing that sparked this debate within me, the controversial argument surrounding remasters was brought to light once again, after Bethesda confirmed that once again, nearly six years after its initial release, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is being ported to yet another system.
Regardless of what you think about the quality of Bethesda’s white whale (I personally have never had a smooth-running experience with it myself), I can’t help but feel like as an audience we have a problem letting go. To date, Skyrim has sold over 30 million units across the five respective game platforms it has been sold across, causing me to question if there is anyone who would be interested in becoming the next Dovakin still left to experience it? In other words: we need to stop porting Skyrim.
Of course, the unabashed winner here is undeniably Bethesda. Some could argue that realistically the publisher is aiming to cater to anyone who has solely owned a Nintendo console since 2011, but even then this is a minute portion of the audience when taking into account that there are only 13 million Wii Us out there in the wild. The Switch’s promised version isn’t even the recently remastered edition released on PS4 and Xbox One – it’s a simple port of what we got on Xbox 360 over five years ago – so anyone looking to enjoy the best Skyrim experience possible won’t be able to on the go.
I’m generally in favour of ports and remastering as a whole. After all, any way of getting fully-fledged, high calibre experiences into the hands of more people is only ever going to be a plus, but when a nearly-six-year-old game is about to be released for the fourth time, surely something has got to give and we need to learn to let go.
No one is being forced to buy the Nintendo Switch version of Skyrim of course, but it’s likely that in the long run, this was merely a joint decision by both Nintendo and Bethesda to test the waters and discover if the Switch’s audience has an interest in this type of game. And unless it’s a built-from-the-ground-up Pokémon or a new explorable land entirely, I think the inevitable answer we’ll see is no. Switch is facing the problem of presenting players with old offerings, and the most notable example of this is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
Unlike the brilliant Witcher III: Wild Hunt which welcomingly washed over us like the tides of the ocean shore, Skyrim seems to be the game that won’t go away, whose tide won’t go out, and whose fire will never extinguish. Everything has its time and enjoys its fair share of the market, and share of people’s playtime and discussion, the more we hang on to Skyrim’s spectacle the more it’s becoming diluted. And I fear that this will be a regular occurrence until the next Elder Scrolls is released. Oblivion never enjoyed the staying power of Skyrim – and frankly, I’m glad it didn’t.
At the end of the day, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was and still is a remarkable achievement. It let players experience for the first time their grandiose fantasies of slaying beasts, tracking down vampires, and following their own path within a Tolkien-esque world. It was simultaneously a technical masterclass and a cipher in which people could experience wonder, but the more we drag its old and withered corpse to the forefront of new console generations, the less fondly we’ll look back upon it.
Someone much smarter and articulate than me once expressed that, “If you love something, you should let it go”, and Skyrim is a game that as an industry we have refused to let go causing both expectations and reputations to suffer because of it. Let’s hope that when the inevitable The Elder Scrolls VI is finally released in the wild, it’s a horse (or white whale) we won’t continue to flog for years to come.