Around a month ago Baldur’s Gate 3 got its full release. Before that it had been in “early access” for a few years. With its full release a few things have cropped up around the game. Most of those things are comparisons to the rest of the so called AAA games industry. The main thing being said is that Baldur’s Gate 3 is, or should be, the new standard that AAA games are held to… and a bit of backlash against that idea.
So lets talk about what is being said, and what I think is actually being expected.
What is Being Said
So, as I said the feedback from consumers can more or less be summed up as “Baldur’s Gate 3 should be the new industry standard”. This has garnered some backlash from more established gaming companies. They complain that making a game of the length, complexity, and polish seen in Baldur’s Gate 3 is near impossible. And I can kind of see where they are coming from.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is the type of game that can take 100+ hours for a single play through, with lots and LOTS of potential for re-playability. From character customization, to multiple ways of handling situations, to full on branching story lines. It is obvious a lot of work went into this game. And all that work is a bit of a risk. A game of this length and complexity is easy to get wrong. And so, publicly traded, risk adverse companies can’t/don’t want to take that risk.
What was Actually Meant
Having said all that, there is a disconnect between what is being discussed and what was meant originally. I believe that what was actually meant by “Baldur’s Gate 3 should be the new industry standard” is not its length, complexity, or even polish. What was meant was the state the game launched in. On launch the game worked. Were there bugs? Of course there were bugs, in a game this big they are unavoidable. But they are being addressed at an astoundingly rapid pace. So what was it that was so good about Baldur’s Gate 3?
A few things. First and foremost, assuming your computer could run it, it simply worked. Few if any game breaking or ruining bugs/crashes. No major graphical glitches. A few performance issues in the late game, but those have/are being addressed in patches. This can not be said of all (or even most) AAA games now. SO many come out in terrible states that are borderline unplayable (if not outright unplayable due to things like crashing).
Secondly, Baldur’s Gate 3 is a complete game on release. No on release story DLC. No pay to progress faster mechanics. Not even a cash shop of any kind, not even for cosmetics. Many so called AAA games now a days try and nickle and dime their players via micro transactions (some of which are not so “micro”). I do not care if a company charges for cosmetic items that do not affect gameplay. But I do care if a company holds game play elements hostage behind a pay wall, when I have already purchased the game. The only way Baldur’s Gate 3 does this is an optional “Premium Edition” that includes a few cosmetic items. And it is not pushed or even available in game.
Smoke and Mirrors
But this disconnect between what was meant and what is being discussed is intentional. The games industry is desperately afraid of being called on their BS. They insist that things are the way they are because they need to be. But then Baldur’s Gate 3 comes along and disproves that notion. So the big names in the games industry need to reframe the narrative. Rather than the reasonable things that were meant, they framed the discussion as “unreasonable consumers wanting the sun and moon”. When really we just want finished games that work on launch and not to be charged extra for a good experience.