Baldur’s Gate 3: From Underestimation to Triumph - A Success Story
Baldur’s Gate 3s triumphant exit from early access, with unexpected success, challenges Microsofts initial underestimation. Games split-screen co-op delay addressed, now set for an anticipated Xbox release later this year.
Baldur’s Gate 3 Emerges from Early Access Triumphantly
On August 3rd, Baldur’s Gate 3, the highly anticipated RPG developed by Larian Studios, exited early access to a resounding chorus of success. The game's launch sent shockwaves through the gaming industry, with an astonishing peak of 875,343 concurrent players on Steam, solidifying its status as one of the standout releases of the year. Even Swen Vincke, the founder of Larian Studios, expressed his amazement, stating that the game's reception far exceeded their expectations. According to Vincke, the company had initially anticipated a maximum of 100,000 players, but the reality surpassed even that optimistic estimate. Even over a month after its release, Baldur’s Gate 3 continues to attract a substantial player base, with nearly 200,000 concurrent players at the time of this writing.
The underestimation of Baldur’s Gate 3's success extended beyond the gaming community. Surprisingly, Microsoft, a major player in the industry, seemed to have underestimated the game's potential. In a leaked email from May 2022, which surfaced as part of the FLuzala v. Microsoft case, Microsoft referred to Baldur’s Gate 3 as a "second-run Stadia PC RPG." The email included a table outlining Microsoft’s assessments of upcoming games for potential inclusion in the company’s Game Pass subscription service. While other titles were evaluated based on their "wow factor," Baldur’s Gate 3 received a mere "Hub" designation, ranking last on the list. It remains unclear whether "Hub" refers to the Xbox Insiders Hub, as other games like Let’s Sing ABBA and Ubisoft’s Just Dance received similar designations.
The email exchange dates back to May 2022 when Xbox chief Phil Spencer initiated discussions with several high-ranking executives, including Matt Booty, head of Xbox Game Studios, and Sarah Bond, Xbox vice president. Spencer's email revolved around the fallout from the delay of Starfield and the uncertainty surrounding the release dates of Redfall and STALKER 2. This constellation of delays left a significant gap in Microsoft's gaming lineup for the Xbox platform. Spencer characterized the situation as a "disaster," considering the substantial investments made in content across studios funded by the Game Pass. He urged his team to address this issue promptly and recognized that the absence of major exclusives in 2022 was a planning and production failure that could not be ignored.
The email conversation further emphasized the importance of clarity in timing and release dates to the gaming community, highlighting the need for transparent communication with players and fans.
Microsoft's assessment of Baldur’s Gate 3's financial prospects within the Game Pass subscription service revealed a stark contrast with other titles. While Larian Studios was estimated to expect approximately $5 million for the game's inclusion, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, considered a potential "crown jewel," had an anticipated partner ask of a staggering $300 million.
Baldur’s Gate 3 was initially intended for release on Google Stadia and Windows PC. However, Google Stadia's unfortunate shutdown after only three years of operation led to a reevaluation of the game's distribution strategy.
In hindsight, it's clear that Microsoft made a notable oversight. Baldur’s Gate 3 did not have any exclusivity agreement tied to it, making its absence from the Xbox console all the more conspicuous. In February, Larian Studios explained the reason behind the absence of Baldur’s Gate 3 on Xbox at the time. Swen Vincke revealed on Twitter that the game's split-screen co-op feature did not function on the Xbox Series S, Microsoft's budget-friendly console. Microsoft's policy mandated feature parity across the Xbox Series X and Series S, causing a delay in the game's launch. However, by August 24th, following Baldur’s Gate 3's remarkable success, Microsoft relented and allowed the game to launch on Xbox Series S without the split-screen co-op feature.
As a result of these developments, Baldur’s Gate 3 is now anticipated to make its debut on Xbox later this year. This journey from underestimation to triumph serves as a testament to the enduring appeal and resilience of this beloved RPG, and it highlights the ever-evolving landscape of the gaming industry.