Microsoft’s perception of the immense popularity of Baldur’s Gate 3 was revealed in a leaked May 2022 email chain. The leak, which originated from the FTC v. Microsoft case, unveiled a chart shared by Phil Spencer, CEO of Gaming at Microsoft, ranking various games based on their potential value for Xbox Game Pass. Surprisingly, Baldur’s Gate 3 was placed low on the list, ranked below titles like Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga. The reason for this underestimation was that Microsoft saw Baldur’s Gate 3 as a mere “second-run Stadia PC RPG.”
But Microsoft wasn’t the only one who underestimated the success of Larian’s Dungeons & Dragons RPG. After a three-year early access period, Baldur’s Gate 3 finally had its official release in August and quickly became one of the highest-rated games of 2023, alongside The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. It also had one of the biggest launches on Steam, surpassing all expectations. Michael Dowse, Larian’s director of publishing, acknowledged that even Polygon’s criticism of Microsoft’s misjudgment was fair, as everyone misjudged the game’s potential success.
However, it’s worth noting that Microsoft’s labeling of Baldur’s Gate 3 as a “Stadia” game is peculiar, considering that the game was primarily positioned for PC. Furthermore, Microsoft was only willing to pay $5 million USD to include BG3 in Game Pass, which was clearly not the best deal for Larian, considering the game’s enormous success on PC.
Larian faced additional challenges with Xbox, as the company advocates for all current-gen games to be available on both Xbox Series X and S. This often leads to compatibility issues between the two consoles. Interestingly, Larian managed to overcome these hurdles with Microsoft, and Baldur’s Gate 3 will be released on Xbox Series X and S later this year, although split-screen co-op will not be available on the latter console.
Beyond the discussion about Baldur’s Gate 3, the leaked email chain offers insights into how Xbox perceives the value of certain games and how much investment they are willing to make. In an industry known for its secrecy, this type of information is particularly fascinating.
Image credit: Larian
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