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Why an Elder Scrolls TV show makes sense for Netflix

Elder Scrolls Online
(Image credit: Bethesda)

It’s high time Tamriel got the TV treatment. According to a report from industry insider Daniel Ritchtman, Netflix is developing a TV show based on the The Elder Scrolls franchise.

Ritchtman claims the streaming giant is hoping to capitalize on the success of its existing fantasy series, The Witcher – which is based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels and the acclaimed video game series – by bringing Bethesda’s beloved world of magic and dragons to life. 

If the rumours are true, it’s a move that makes sense in a lot of ways. The history of The Elder Scrolls series is a rich one – the franchise lays claim to some of the most successful RPG games of all time in Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim – and Netflix producers will have no trouble developing a story based in such an established fantasy universe. 

Beyond the main entries in the franchise, the series has maintained popularity through the successful MMO spin-off game The Elder Scrolls Online – which continues to grow almost seven years after its initial release – and Blades, a free-to-play RPG for Nintendo Switch and mobile devices. 

The point being, The Elder Scrolls is a series with esteemed lineage and a vast fanbase, and few would argue against its suitability for the screen.

News of its rumoured adaptation also comes amid a growing appetite for fantasy TV content. Despite going out with a whimper rather than a bang, HBO’s mega-hit Game of Thrones proved the narrative and commercial potential of fantasy storytelling, reviving interest in the genre in measures not seen since the release of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy two decades ago. 

It’s an appetite that other streaming services are hoping to capitalise on, too. HBO has already released details of its Game of Thrones spin-off series, House of the Dragon, and Amazon famously acquired the TV rights for a Lord of the Rings series – to the tune of $250 million – back in 2017. 

Although The Elder Scrolls doesn’t have the same literary pedigree as those acclaimed fantasy series before it, it nonetheless remains a franchise packed to the rafters in lore – from its elves, orcs and anthropomorphic animals to its themes of legendary heroism and magic. 

Audiences have already proven their willingness to embrace video game adaptations in the success of The Witcher, and Bethesda has likewise proven its willingness to embrace the small screen with another of its popular video game properties; a Fallout TV series is coming to Amazon Prime Video, and it's being made by the production company behind Westworld, no less.

But while its apocalyptic fictional universe is certainly one rich in detail and potential for good storytelling, even Fallout can’t touch The Elder Scrolls for size and depth of lore. If indeed the rumours are true and Tamriel is finally coming to TV, Netflix looks certain to be onto another winner.  

The Elder Scrolls 6

Elder Scrolls 6

(Image credit: Bethesda)

The appetite for a TV adaptation of The Elder Scrolls also comes amid the customary longing for a new video game entry in the series. Despite the release of various online-only spin-off games, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – released in 2011 – was the last main, story-driven addition to The Elder Scrolls universe. 

Rumours of The Elder Scrolls 6 have swirled in their numbers throughout the last decade, and fans were delighted when Bethesda's Todd Howard used the spotlight of E3 2018 to confirm that the studio is indeed working on a new instalment in the series.

But since then, details of the new game have been few and far between. We’ve rounded up everything we know about The Elder Scrolls 6 here. 

In related news, the new game – whenever it finally arrives – may not be coming to PS5 consoles, following Microsoft's acquisition of Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax.

In an interview with Russian publication TASS, Playstation boss Jim Ryan said that it's still uncertain as to whether Bethesda’s upcoming titles will come to PlayStation – or whether they will be Microsoft exclusives. "That’s a decision that is out of our hands," Ryan said. "We’ll wait and see what happens. I look forward to learning about that."

More recently, Microsoft boss Phil Spencer was asked about the acquisition of ZeniMax and its impact on the exclusivity of a new The Elder Scrolls game: “Is it possible to recoup a $7.5 billion investment if you don’t sell Elder Scrolls 6 on the PlayStation?” Spencer was asked, who quickly replied with, "yes." 

In any case, while the future of Bethesda’s beloved franchise remains uncertain from a video game perspective, a Netflix adaptation of The Elder Scrolls looks set to satisfy the cravings of fans so long deprived of new stories from Tamriel. 

Axel Metz

Axel is a London-based Staff Writer at TechRadar, reporting on everything from Elon Musk to robot butlers as part of the site's daily news output. He also has a degree in English Literature, meaning he can occasionally be spotted slipping Hemingway quotes into stories about electric sports cars.