“We’re going to learn from this experience.”
Aug 23, 2023 7:05 pm
Aug 23, 2023 7:04 pm
Xbox boss Phil Spencer has admitted the fact Steam megahit Baldur’s Gate 3 launches on PlayStation 5 ahead of Xbox Series X and S isn’t a great situation for Microsoft, but remains committed to having games release on both the X and S.
Larian’s sprawling role-playing game Baldur’s Gate 3 launched on PC in August, and launches on PS5 early September, but the Xbox Series X and S version is without a release date. There is no exclusivity deal between Larian and Sony. Rather, Larian is struggling to get Baldur’s Gate 3’s two-player split-screen co-op running well enough on the less powerful but cheaper Xbox Series S, and a Microsoft policy that enforces gameplay feature parity across Xbox Series X and S means Larian cannot release Baldur’s Gate 3 on any Xbox Series console until it has optimised split-screen co-op on the S to the point it hits the quality bar it needs to satisfy players. As IGN revealed in June, Microsoft has parachuted in engineers to help Larian overcome this problem, but the upshot is Baldur’s Gate 3 may not launch on Xbox until the end of 2023, or even 2024.
Baldur’s Gate 3 isn’t the only game to suffer from split-screen issues on Xbox. Microsoft’s own studio, 343, scrapped split-screen from the ill-fated Halo Infinite last year. Turn 10’s Forza Motorsport won’t have split-screen at launch, either.
The situation with Baldur’s Gate 3 on Xbox Series X and S highlights an intensifying headache for Microsoft. As more and more developers look to make the most of the power of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, will having to release a version of their multiplatform games on the S hold them back? Or, in drastic cases such as Larian’s, hold Xbox versions back completely?
Has the time come, then, for Microsoft to let studios release their games on Xbox Series X only? Or for it to perhaps relax its parity clause? That’s exactly what IGN asked Xbox boss Phil Spencer at gamescom 2023. Here’s what he said in response:
“The decision to do split-screen or not is a creative decision, a dev decision,” Spencer said. “So if we think about Forza, it has nothing to do with any kind of hardware thing on S and X, just where they wanted to focus their time.
“We obviously see the data in terms of how many people play local co-op for games. I love local co-op. Shout out to Vampire Survivors that just launched it. Fantastic. But there’s also just a, let’s go where the play is, in terms of where we’re going to focus our dev resources.
“In terms of the two platforms, I want games to launch on both platforms [X and S]. There are feature differences between the platforms. We have an ability to kind of handle that and how it works. Where teams are going to choose to focus their time and their effort is up to them. We’re here to support them and what they want to go do. We want to make sure that games when they’re launching on competitive platforms are also launching on Xbox.
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“So we’re going to learn from this experience as well because we don’t love that. But I don’t think it’s something that’s a fatal flaw in the system. It’s partners prioritising their time, us listening and being a good partner to them. And you see some amazing games doing great work across S and X. Diablo looks great, Starfield looks great. Forza looks great across both. And I want to make sure console gaming is accessible to more people, and we think the price point of the console is a pretty important part of that.
“I will say that I think some of the discussion in the community has maybe not come from us or the devs. It’s been more the community building, well, this happened and then that happened and then so it must be about this. And I think we can do more to add clarity to actually where we are, and I look forward to doing that.”
“We’re going to learn from this experience as well because we don’t love that.
Then, on Baldur’s Gate 3 developer Larian specifically, Spencer added: “It’s a great game. They’re an important partner. I’m meeting with them here at Gamescom. It’s a game I want to see on the platform, and we have resources that helped in terms of making sure it’s going to… I think they’ve said it’s going to ship by the end of the year. I think that’s their words in terms of what they’ve said. But we should together come up with clarity to set some expectations for Xbox fans, and I look forward to doing that.”
It sounds very much like Spencer wants studios to continue to release their games across Xbox Series X and S, which means developers will have increasingly tough decisions to make about whether or not troublesome features, like split-screen, should be in their games. For Larian, split-screen co-op is an essential part of the Baldur’s Gate 3 offering, as it was for its previous games in the Divinity: Original Sin series.
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Wesley is the UK News Editor for IGN. Find him on Twitter at @wyp100. You can reach Wesley at firstname.lastname@example.org or confidentially at email@example.com.