Baldur’s Gate III, the season’s most buzzed-about game, has taken the gaming community by storm even before its console release. With Larian Studios at the helm, the game has thrived by following a philosophy of releasing “when it’s perfected.” While PC gamers have already had a taste of this RPG, PlayStation 5 and macOS users are gearing up for a September 6th release. Meanwhile, Xbox enthusiasts are still awaiting a firm release date, although it’s assured to be later this year.
The game’s delayed release on Xbox, making it temporarily a PlayStation console exclusive, stems from Microsoft’s insistence on feature uniformity across its Series S and Series X consoles. With Series X being the superior in terms of power and visual capabilities, this presents a challenge.
Larian Studios’ Michael Douse clarified on X (previously Twitter) that there wasn’t any exclusivity agreement hindering an Xbox release. Instead, the hiccup is technical. The challenge lies in preserving the split-screen feature to maintain the required feature uniformity across consoles. Douse mentioned the team’s relentless efforts to get it just right, stating, “We cannot remove the split-screen feature because we are obliged to launch with feature parity, and so continue to try and make it work.”
All improvements will be there, with split-screen coop on Series X. Series S will not feature split-screen coop, but will also include cross-save progression between Steam and Xbox Series.
— Swen Vincke @where? (@LarAtLarian) August 24, 2023
After an insightful meeting with Phil Spencer, Microsoft Gaming’s CEO, at Gamescom, Larian’s CEO and Director of Baldur’s Gate III, Swen Vincke, expressed optimism about the game’s Xbox release. Vincke hinted that Spencer might have provided Larian with a special exemption from the stipulated feature parity between Series S and Series X. This means that while the less potent Series S will not support the split-screen mode, its counterpart, the Series X, will retain this feature. Moreover, the game will also offer cross-save progression between Steam and both Xbox consoles.
This decision may signal a shift in Xbox’s approach, as the Series S has posed certain limitations for developers aiming to provide cutting-edge gaming experiences. Some developers believe that ensuring compatibility with Series S often means compromising game quality. Reports have mentioned that these compromises can be significant, such as limiting gameplay to below 60 frames per second. Larian’s exemption to exclude the split-screen co-op feature on the Series S for Baldur’s Gate III might pave the way for other developers to negotiate similar adjustments, potentially revisiting the strict requirements for feature parity.