Every once in a while a game comes along that changes a whole genre. The impact of these select few games is often felt for years or even decades after their release.
"The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" is one of those games. The massive fantasy role playing game was initially released in 2011 by Bethesda Game Studios, and as we near six years since its release, "Skyrim" still sits front and center in the gaming world and remains one of the most successful and long-standing games of the last decade.
A couple of factors have led to the impressive longevity of Bethesda's hit title. For one, the structure of the game is one that promotes an extremely high level of replayability. The scope of "Skyrim" is quite massive. As you explore the wilderness of the arctic continent of Skyrim, fight enemies, develop skills and complete some of the "Skyrim" 300-plus quests, your character will level up and further mold into "The Dragonborn" that you were meant to be.
As is the case with most RPG's, the burning desire to level up a character becomes stronger, and exploring new areas quickly becomes addicting. Players could spend countless hours in Bethesda's masterpiece of a game and still not come close to fully experiencing what the game has to offer.
Another exciting thing about "Skyrim" is the freedom it allows players. Aside from creating a character with the various races the game provides, a streamlined class system makes sure that players can play exactly how they want. Want to be a thief that assassinates victims quietly in the dark of night? You can do that. Want to be a brutish Orcish warrior, clad in heavy armor and a giant war hammer? You can do that. What appeals to most players is the ability to play the game exactly how they want to.
The ability to create multiple characters allows players the ability to play in a variety of ways, only adding to "Skyrim's" life span. With a myriad of unique quest lines, it is entirely possible to spend 50 hours playing the game without even touching the main story.
"Skyrim's" shelf life and continued popularity is also aided by Bethesda's reluctance to move on from the game. Between their "Fallout" and "Elder Scrolls" series, Bethesda has definitely had its fair share of success. With "Skyrim" selling over 30 million copies and becoming one of the best selling games of all time, it only makes sense that Bethesda Game Studios would want to milk the game for all it's worth.
Since its 2011 release date, Bethesda has released three downloadable content packs, a remastered special edition, a spin off online strategy card game, a version for the Nintendo Switch and a recently announced version for Playstation VR coming next month. Over half a decade since its release, fans are finally becoming restless and looking forward to a sequel to the hit game. However, Bethesda continues to capitalize on the success of their award winning RPG as they keep adding new versions of the same game.
While this is becoming irritating to many fans, Bethesda is doing the right thing from a business standpoint as the 2016 release of "Skyrim Special Edition" sold an estimated one million copies in its opening week — quite an accomplishment for a five-year-old game.
Although Bethesda has announced that they have now started to work on new projects, little is known about the development of these projects, and estimated "Elder Scrolls VI" release dates are often as far away as 2019 or 2020. While the eight or nine-year distance between the two games is quite a disparity, it only leaves more time for Bethesda to exploit "Skyrim's" immense popularity.
However, perhaps the single most important part of "Skyrim's" longevity is the community. The "Skyrim Special Edition" brought modding capabilities to console players, and, while players on PC's have been intensely modding the game since 2011, the introduction of console mods led many players to pick the game back up after it may have become stale. Especially true for PC players, modding has exponentially extended "Skyrim's" shelf life by allowing creative minds to add content or reshape the game to their liking.
Thousands of mods, ranging from cosmetic changes and gameplay tweaks to full on multilayered quest lines, have allowed fans to further enjoy a game with an already impressive amount of content. Mods can change a players game experience completely to the point where it almost feels like playing a completely separate game. With a dedicated community of thousands of talented modes, "Skyrim" is able to remain fresh and exciting.
Whether it's the game's tremendous replayability and vast open world, the greed of Bethesda Game Studios or the loyal community of modders, "Skyrim's" popularity remains steadfast for many passionate fans of the game, and its impact on gaming as a whole is firmly established.