One of this year’s most anticipated new games, Baldur’s Gate 3, releases later this week. But the game, from Belgian developer Larian, is not coming to Xbox, and it’s not because of an exclusivity deal.
So what’s going on? Earlier this year, Larian boss Swen Vincke said the decision came down to the technical limitations of the Xbox Series S. Vincke said split-screen co-op is “a must” for the game, and the studio doesn’t want to release Baldur’s Gate 3 without the feature.
Vincke said that bringing split-screen to the Xbox Series S version is “challenging” but he is “confident” in the team to find a way to get it done, potentially as early as by the end of 2023.
“If it’s possible, they’ll make it happen. But it’s a very big game,” Vincke said.
Microsoft’s own engineers are reportedly working alongside Larian to find a solution. It’s been reported that two-player split-screen is running on Xbox Series S already, but not at a high-enough quality yet to meet the developer’s standards. On the technically more powerful Xbox Series X, this apparently has not been an issue, but Larian won’t launch on Xbox until the split-screen feature is up and running to its quality standard on both Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X.
Speaking on the Friends Per Second podcast with GameSpot’s own Lucy James, Vincke said Larian continues to make progress on bringing Baldur’s Gate 3 to Xbox. “We have split-screen and multiplayer; the combination of it is what makes it complicated,” Vincke said. “Because we don’t run on a live service. We run the servers on your machine itself, so that means you have four consoles that have to work together and simulate where four players are in different locations… which is very complicated. It takes a lot of memory.”
For the time being, Vincke said “all the focus” is on the PC and PS5 versions of Baldur’s Gate 3. That said, he Vincke confirmed that there is a team inside Larian working on the Xbox edition right now. “They’re making progress, and it’s already a lot better than it was,” Vincke said. “Our hope is that we get it done this year, but I don’t want to commit to it [yet] because as I said, optimization comes with this annoying thing where you know where you start but you don’t know where you end.”
Some have speculated that developers needing to support their games on the lower-spec Series S model could be holding games back from reaching their full potential. Vincke said it is his understanding that the majority of Xbox Series consoles that have been sold so far are the Series S model, so it makes sense that Microsoft would continue to support the console and call for feature parity. But at the same time, “It makes it challenging to develop [Baldur’s Gate 3] for the [Series S],” Vincke said.
Larian’s director of publishing, Michael Douse, said on Twitter that Baldur’s Gate 3 not being on Xbox is a “technical hurdle.” Dropping split-screen is not an option because Larian is “obliged to launch with feature parity.”
“We have quite a few engineers working very hard to do what no other RPG of this scale has achieved: seamless drop-in, drop-out co-op on Series S. We hope to have an update by the end of the year,” Douse said.
So there you have it. Baldur’s Gate 3 releases August 3 on PC and then September 6 on PlayStation 5. September 6 just so happens to be the release date for the biggest Xbox game this year, Starfield, so maybe that’s some consolation for Xbox owners looking for a big new game to play.
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