Throwing Money At Baldur’s Gate 4 Won’t Result In A Good Game

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Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast will no doubt want to replicate the success of Larian’s masterpiece.

Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast are reacting to the success of Baldur’s Gate 3 in the only way major corporations know how – by hurling money at this once-in-a-lifetime blockbuster with the hope it can be swiftly replicated. That will not happen.

In an interview with Gamesindustry.biz, head of digital product development for Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: the Gathering publishers Wizards of the Coast Dan Ayoub claimed the company had already invested over $1 billion across four different internal studios following the huge sales and worldwide recognition of Baldur’s Gate 3, with promise that these games shall be “quality” and “authentic” much like Larian’s masterpieces.

The thing is, I don’t think qualities like this can be baked in from the very beginning. It’s worth noting that Hasbro already has a selection of games in development right now, such as sci-fi epic Exodus alongside a handful of others. A game set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe is already in development at Invoke Studios, and there is hope it can capture even a slither of the magic Baldur’s Gate 3 managed to conjure.

NOTE: Shortly after its release to critical and commercial acclaim, there was a worry about Baldur’s Gate 3 raising the expectations of players when it comes to games just like it.

I’m not against this philosophy, and Baldur’s Gate 3 opened the floodgates to millions of new tabletop players who lost themselves in the RPG and wanted to take their characters further, partaking in new adventures alongside friends that will live on for decades.

Fans formed this lasting emotional attachment with Larian’s RPG that I haven’t seen a game managed in what feels like an entire generation, but this wasn’t because of the licence it made use of or the 5e gameplay. There is so much more to it than that.

Image: Larian Studios

Let’s take a look back at how Baldur’s Gate 3 first came to be. It was initially revealed during an event for Google Stadia of all things, showcased as a major exclusive for the platform we would also see evolve on PC as an early access title. It was the revival of a property that had been dormant for two decades, and with a name like Larian attached, there was a feeling across hardcore fans that maybe this could end up being pretty good. Aside from those people, the game wasn’t on anybody’s radar. I knew of it as a working journalist at the time, but it wasn’t long until it faded into obscurity.

Larian went to work on Baldur’s Gate 3 for years, and it was only through occasional articles singing its early access praises that I began to recognise its true potential. The studio never stopped listening, reacting intimately to every single piece of crucial feedback while making use of its decades of expertise in the genre to create something that not only lived up to the legendary name it was working with, but its own pedigree.

Note: Larian has confirmed it will not be adding any further updates to Baldur’s Gate 3 as it moves onto new projects, with rights to all its characters now in the hands of Hasbro. But if the script is right, actors from the game have said they will return for something new.

It was a perfect storm, creating a CRPG that invited newcomers without overwhelming you while simultaneously leveraging the limitless fantasy of Dungeons & Dragons. We had seen games like this before, but nothing on this scale. It was different, and would soon take over the world.

Baldur’s Gate 3 didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, it was more of a bubbling pot that the industry vastly underestimated. It wasn’t until it started going viral thanks to rave reviews and millions of players jumping into the fold, many of which haven’t left months after the fact, that Baldur’s Gate 3 became a household name.

Image: Larian Studios

Throwing money at new projects just isn’t an effective way to achieve that. You need passion, commitment, and a lasting love for the world, characters, and story you are creating. Factors that can’t be manufactured merely for profit, especially when Wizards of the Coast previously laid off the majority of people who were responsible for greenlighting Baldur’s Gate 3 in the first place. I bet it regrets that now.

The way I see it, we are going to get more Baldur’s Gate 3. Popular things that make money are going to be constantly built upon if the possibility is there, that’s how capitalism works. It doesn’t matter if creativity or heart is being put into these projects, only that they manage to reach the finish line and stand a chance at making a profit. Larian was never about that end goal, and everyone I’ve spoken to about its development put years of their lives into trying to make something that was never intended to be the biggest game of a generation.

It turned out that way because it turns out, a game you believe in that can take anyone on an adventure of their own making it happen to resonate around the world if you do it right. None of this was because of money or resources or corporate mandates, and anything that follows in its footsteps that believes those are the keys to success is destined for failure.


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By JADE KING 3 May 2024

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