After many years of bad design decisions, taking advantage of its player base, and refusing to take steps to better itself, it is abundantly clear that Bethesda is losing to the competition. The company that made Skyrim carried with it an abundance of good faith from its fans that it has continued to squander with each new release and decision. To put it simply, whatever Bethesda once had in its back pocket to keep people coming back is simply not there anymore.
When Skyrim came out, it was a breath of fresh air. Its massive open world boasted hundreds of hours, great replayability and quest lines where your decisions changed the course of events in the world. The bugs were a part of the experience and were well-received given the new and innovative steps the company was taking. There was a real passion in Skyrim, and the special edition came with a dragon statue, soundtrack and giant art book. The game came out nearly 10 years ago, but we've not seen its like since– unless you count its endless ports. Instead of using past games to improve (Skyrim's groundbreaking AI is pretty terrible today) Bethesda has used it as a crutch, relying on fans' nostalgia glasses while it profits off of spinoffs and mobile titles.
Fallout had the same fan following as Skyrim, but the release of Fallout 76 has been a buggy mess with microtransactions galore and broken systems upon broken systems. After a universal panning the game was once given away with $5.00 thumbstick purchases, yet Bethesda still decided to milk it with a 100.00 a year pass for premium players who had already bought the game– a pass that was broken at launch and contained a "free storage system" that actively ate players' loot.
It also contained "private servers" that, it turned out, anyone could join. Bethesda also banned possibly its biggest fan for playing too much– after 900 hours, Reddit user Glorf12 had apparently amassed "too much ammo," which was most likely a direct result of playing for 900 hours.
To put it simply, even if Bethesda released another Skyrim, the good will of fans is gone and other developers are taking up its work– like with the Outer Worlds.
It's not quaint to have game-breaking bugs in $60 titles anymore while titles such as Breath of the Wild run beautifully and where minor bugs can be removed via day one patches. There are a million "Oblivion in real life" memes on YouTube that parody the way NPCs talk in The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, but with Bethesda barely making new ground with each new release (and often moving backwards) the playful spirit that surrounded each title is gone. Jim Sterling posted a "Bethesda is Obsolete" video on YouTube that perfectly illustrates the frustration game critics and players alike feel with the company.
Everything that made Bethesda stand out has been achieved and surpassed by other developers. The Witcher 3 is a straight-up upgrade to Skyrim and currently exists as the new standard to compare future games to.
The title boasts relatively the same playtime to Skyrim when you remove computer-generated quests, a more focused narrative anyone can understand and a much better combat system (as much as you might love bows in Skyrim, swords feel like hitting people with a piece of bamboo).
Kingdom Come: Deliverance continued the trend of games that move into Skyrim territory in terms of sheer scope.
The same scale of the world has been matched by Breath of The Wild and many other titles, while enough open world games exist to give even the biggest fan fatigue– so what tricks does Bethesda have left? Why are fans still eagerly awaiting the next Elder Scrolls despite the joke Bethesda has become in the industry?