You realize figuring out what Bethesda’s up to is basically impossible. That’s by design. No way the publisher of The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and Fallout 3 and Dishonored is going to tell you what they’re really doing, not when they can send us all off chasing our tails, obsessing over flickering minutia in a teaser video for an upcoming project — said tease authenticated by Bethesda’s Jason Bergman as a tease — like good little post-Lost‘ies.
Before we dive in, let’s get the official “What it’s not” out of the way: a new Fallout game, or probably anything to do with Fallout. There. Bethesda’s Pete Hines confirmed as much in response to presumptions that the VINE-based clip of music and barbed wire somehow referenced the retro-post-apocalyptic setting. Fallout 3 arrived over four years ago, and Hines has said the company intends to make further games in the series, but whatever this is, it’s not that (if you want to get technical, I suppose it could still be something Fallout-related, say a spinoff series in the same ‘verse that doesn’t use the Fallout name, but I’d bet not, though hey, a Fallout pre-apocalypse-quel?).
Here’s the four-second clip, and yes, the scattershot editing and flashing is there to torture puzzle-lovers:
You’re looking at rotating barbed wire, obviously — in fact blue-lit barbed wire, which if we pull out our snobby symbology guides and page to “blue,” suggests the ocean, calm and serenity, which — juxtaposed with oppression, denial of freedom — suggest…okay, I’ll stop. After the barbed wire, you’re looking at a rotating vinyl record referring to The Moonbeam Trio, a musical group (apparently a vocal male sometime trio, sometime quartet) that actually existed back in the 1930s, directed by George Shackley. The record refers to “Planned program service program no. 416,” which Polygon noticed includes songs like “Chanson de Florian” (originally written by Charles Ives) and “Grandfather’s Clock” (a traditional folk song) referring to a real 13-minute, 10-second 33-1/3 LP by “The Moonbeam Trio with organ and violin,” according to WorldCat. Wildly confused? Mission accomplished, Bethesda!
That’s followed by a few seconds of — I don’t think sheet music, as some are saying, but a record (label ASG-6939) of Bach’s “Air on the G String,” one of the baroque German composer’s better known pieces from the Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068. If you’ve never heard it, it’s really lovely — I’m partial to classical guitar renditions myself.
All the while, we hear the sound of something crackling, like a needle scratching a record, or maybe it’s someone typing on a typewriter and shuffling paper around (hey, I’m assuming nothing — remember, they’re trying to trick us!).
Why Bach? That piece in particular? Barbed wire? A sadomasochistic sequel to C.P.U. Bach? This is reaching, but we know Bach was German, and we know German concentration camps employed barbed-wire during the 1930s and 1940s, so if we trip down that road a bit further, what other IP does Bethesda own that involves Germany and World War II?
Update: Bethesda just released a second teaser, just as cryptic (if less busy) involving burning sunflowers and someone (face obscured) standing on a landing.