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Why You Got Skyrim Special Edition for Free

Hey friend! If you‘re an owner of the original base game of Skyrim plus all the DLC expansions on PC, Xbox 360, or PlayStation 3, you lucked out and automatically got the amazing Skyrim Special Edition remaster added to your game library for free when it released in 2016. Pretty sweet right?!

In this detailed guide, I‘ll explain exactly how and why loyal fans scored this free remastered version of one of the greatest RPGs ever made. Read on to learn more!

A Love Letter to Fans

First, let‘s take a quick trip down memory lane. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim originally launched all the way back in November 2011. It became an instant classic and went on to sell over 30 million copies worldwide. Skyrim was a global phenomenon!

But as groundbreaking as it was, Skyrim was still limited by the aging tech of that generation. The game engine was over a decade old. And as newer systems like the PS4 and Xbox One emerged, Skyrim began showing its age.

Many wondered if Bethesda would do a remaster to keep this legendary title relevant. Fans pleaded for updates to bring Skyrim up to modern standards. The game was as beloved as ever, but needed a technical face-lift after so many years.

At 2016‘s E3 conference, Bethesda delivered exactly what fans wanted and more – the Skyrim Special Edition! This stunning remaster overhauled the game‘s graphics with improved lighting, visuals, effects and supported 4K resolution. It utilized an upgraded 64-bit engine for better performance and stability. The entire experience was smoother and more immersive.

But here‘s the real kicker – Bethesda announced that the Skyrim Special Edition would be free for anyone who already owned Skyrim and all its DLC expansions on any platform. This was their thank you to millions of dedicated fans who already supported the game at launch and bought every piece of content.

“We know our fans have been eager to experience Skyrim on the latest generation of consoles," said Bethesda‘s Vice President Pete Hines. "The Special Edition not only includes all the latest updates, but new features that allow players to experience the game in an even larger scale. It’s great that everyone who owns Skyrim on any platform will be able to play it on their choice of next generation hardware.”

For fans, this was like a dream come true – Skyrim fully remastered optimized for modern hardware, AND given freely to existing owners?! Bethesda was rewarding loyal players with an incredible gift, the ultimate version of the game they loved. And the response was overwhelmingly positive.

By The Numbers

Let‘s look at some numbers to demonstrate just how monumental the Special Edition was.

  • On Steam alone, over 4.5 million PC owners of Skyrim received the free Special Edition – and that‘s just one platform!

  • Across PC, Xbox 360, and PS3, estimates suggest over 10 million players qualified for the free upgrade.

  • In the first week of launch, Skyrim Special Edition sold over 1.1 million copies on the newest consoles.

  • To date, the Special Edition has sold over 5 million copies on PS4, Xbox One, and Switch.

So millions of eligible fans got it for free, while millions more purchased the remaster as new next-gen owners. It allowed an entirely new generation of gamers to experience the masterpiece.

And according to critics, Skyrim on new hardware lived up to the hype:

"Skyrim looks to be rebuilt in all the right places to present a more polished and prettified experience than its last-gen counterparts, even though the core game is very much the same as it ever was. Make no mistake, this is Skyrim through and through." – 9/10 IGN

For both loyal longtime fans and new players, Skyrim Special Edition represented the definitive way to play a historic title.

Remaster vs Original Game

Let‘s do a quick rundown of exactly how the Special Edition improved and enhanced Skyrim for free:


  • Higher quality textures and more advanced lighting
  • Dynamic depth of field for landscapes
  • Volumetric god rays and light shafts
  • Enhanced water flow, reflections, and ripples
  • Lush new flora and enhanced landscapes
  • Support for 4K resolution


  • New 64-bit engine utilizes modern hardware
  • Significantly higher framerates for smoother gameplay
  • Target of 60 FPS on new consoles vs 30 FPS originally
  • Drastically reduced load times

Mods & Stability

  • Full support for mods on consoles like PS4 and Xbox One
  • Less crashes and improved stability
  • Resolves memory limitations thanks to 64-bit


  • Base game plus all DLC expansions
  • Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn included
  • New shaders, effects, and other graphical additions


  • Given free to all existing Skyrim owners on any platform!
  • Supported on modern PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch, and VR

So the Special Edition took the iconic world of Skyrim and cranked every dial up to 11. It made a legendary game even more legendary by renovating it stem to stem for the newest hardware.

And again, it was handed out freely to fans as a gift celebrating their support over the years. That goodwill went a very long way.

Mods, Mods, Mods!

One area where the Special Edition completely changed the game was mods.

Previously, mods on consoles were extremely limited. But with the remaster, PS4 and Xbox One gained full access and support for mods just like PC players had for years.

There are some restrictions on external assets, but console mods still allow endless ways to customize and expand Skyrim through easy downloadable content.

With the Special Edition, over 20,000 mods have now been uploaded to for console use. And the Nexus Mods community has top lists like:

  • Top 100 Most Endorsed Skyrim SE Mods of All Time
  • 50 Best Skyrim Special Edition Mods in 2021
  • 10 Essential Immersion Mods for Skyrim Special Edition

The modding scene exploded thanks to the new foundation provided by Skyrim SE. Some of the most popular mod categories included:

  • Graphics & Environment – Vivid textures, improved NPCs, weather, lighting
  • Gameplay – New abilities, loot, quests, monsters, companion behaviors
  • Immersion – Survival needs, realistic combat, enhanced magic
  • Customization – Player homes, followers, spells, character models
  • Overhauls – Complete packages transforming every system

Mods allow endless ways to build your perfect custom flavor of Skyrim. The Special Edition finally unlocked that full potential for console gamers. Mods both refresh an aging title and are a vibrant ongoing community.

Rebirth of a Classic

It‘s now over 10 years since Skyrim originally released. For perspective, 10 years before Skyrim we got the first Xbox console – so it‘s an eternity in gaming years!

Which makes it so incredible that Skyrim still feels so timeless and beloved today. The Special Edition played a major role in cementing Skyrim as an all-time legend.

Rather than just sell a lazy re-release, Bethesda crafted an overhaul infused with technical upgrades while rewarding dedicated fans with a free copy. It was a labor of love that merged cutting edge modern hardware with a masterpiece of the past era.

Skyrim Special Edition let fans rediscover Tamriel all over again like never before. And it opened up the rich realm of mods to console audiences for the first time.

Now it‘s difficult to imagine Skyrim without the improvements of the legendary remaster. So if you got Skyrim SE in your library for free, be sure to thank Bethesda for the amazing gift!

Hope this inside look helped explain how and why so many of us got Skyrim Special Edition as the ultimate love letter to Elder Scrolls fans. Enjoy and see you around Tamriel, my friend!



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.