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Baldur’s Gate 3 Changed Everything – That Might Not Be Good

Baldur’s Gate 3 has been a runaway hit, and rightly so. When a game comes out that raises the bar as much as that has, it’s nice to see the developer rewarded for it. That’s not always the case.


But is it a good thing that the bar has been raised so sharply? Does this not just lead us exactly down a road that’s hurt the rest of the industry?

The ever-desperate need to be on the absolute cutting edge of everything all the time has been one of the leading issues in the current state of the industry. Gamers are taught to value flash, and flash costs are rapidly increasing. Length and depth-of-choice are marketed as the minimum you should expect, and anything that’s left behind can be written off as trash. It’s not fair, but that’s the internet. You only need to check posts from Xbox or PlayStation to see what constitutes general criticism in the digital age.

My thoughts come off the back of an interview with Owlcats founder Oleg Shpilchevskiy, who was clear about the difficulties a popular, big budget CRPG might cause when it comes to player expectations.

On full voice acting, he said: “Looking at BG3, you understand: it is becoming a must-have feature, which doesn’t guarantee you success, but if you don’t meet that bar, your game is considered one that no longer fits into the right category. So it looks like we will have to do a full voiceover for our next games.”

Now, I should hasten to add, this isn’t a dig at the guys behind Baldur’s Gate 3. Innovation isn’t a bad thing and it’s nobody’s responsibility to hold back so that others might succeed.

But in the broader context of the industry, the issue of budget is constant.

Baldur’s Gate 3 – Changing the Industry

What Oleg says sums up the problem with so much of AAA gaming succinctly. For every feature that becomes expected, the cost of making a game goes up. Having that feature doesn’t guarentee more sales, it just guarentees that you won’t instantly be written off. To compete with Sony, someone creating a third-person action game must have as many of the same features as they can afford while also having less of a marketing budget and without the console ecosystem backing it up. And when even Sony are struggling, it means everybody else is suffering too.

Naturally, Oleg was only talking about voice acting and Baldur’s Gate in the quote above. But that kind of knock-on effect works in every context.

Every so often, a game comes along that cannot be matched. Maybe it’s because of the time that’s been put into them. Or it’s just a matter of someone spending hundreds of millions of dollars to get it out the door. These are not necessarily skill related, although often there are extremely skilled people involved. And hell, sometimes it’s just the marketing dollars at work.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is a phenomenal effort, and one that’s unique in its development history. CRPGs (and all RPGs, and even all story driven games) will end up compared to it going forward. It’s not a good thing, but at this point, what on Earth are you supposed to do about it? There are simply no good answers.


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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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Twitter: @matgrowcott