Baldur’s Gate III arrives on PC on August 3 and is right around the corner on PlayStation 5. But what about Xbox Series X/S? The sprawling role-playing game still doesn’t have a release date on Microsoft’s console, though fortunately Larian Studios was recently able to confirm that it will arrive before the end of 2023 after a complex and bizarre saga that all revolves around split-screen co-op.
The Dungeons & Dragons-based game has been in Early Access for several years, with fans patiently waiting to dip their toes into the deep end of its massive world full of hidden secrets and branching storylines. A console version of the game will arrive on PS5 on September 6, just in time to take advantage of Starfield’s absence from Sony’s “next-gen” platform. Larian says it needs more time to finish the Xbox version of the game, but hasn’t yet been able to commit to a firm launch date.
Is Baldur’s Gate III a PS5 exclusive?
The short answer is: no. While the RPG is coming to PS5 first, Larian has been clear that there’s no timed-exclusivity deal in place or favoritism going on. It’s simply that the PS5 version is ready now and the Xbox one isn’t yet.
“There’s no platform exclusivity preventing us from releasing BG3 on Xbox day and date, should that be a technical possibility,” the studio wrote in February. “If and when we do announce further platforms, we want to make sure each version lives up to our standards and expectations.”
Originally set to come out on August 31, Larian actually pushed the PS5 release date back a week so it would have more time to fine-tune its performance on that platform (the game is targeting 60fps).
Why isn’t there an Xbox Series X/S version yet?
The real culprit is the Xbox Series S. Larian mentioned back in February that it was still having issues with Baldur’s Gate III’s splitscreen coop on the less powerful hardware. Since Microsoft requires feature parity between the Xbox Series S and X, Larian seemingly didn’t have an option to change or cut things from the one version to get it out the door quicker.
“We’ve had an Xbox version of Baldur’s Gate III in development for some time now,” Larian told fans earlier in the year. “We’ve run into some technical issues in developing the Xbox port that have stopped us feeling 100% confident in announcing it until we’re certain we’ve found the right solutions.”
Studio head Swen Vincke elaborated on the nature of some of the issues again in July, pointing to the challenge of optimizing a game for consoles that kept growing throughout development like Baldur’s Gate III. Players are free to explore its central hub city, and the game tracks tons of decisions made in order to create a more immersive playthrough as if you were part of a real-life D&D session.
“On Xbox, it’s a different platform, it has, as you know, there’s two platforms really,” Vincke told Kotaku. “And so we have to see where we ended up. And the team is committed to working on it, it has for a long time already. So they’re going bit by bit, you know, like, you tear down one performance barrier and go to the next one.” He added that Microsoft’s engineers have been helping Larian, but also pointed to the reality that it’s an independent studio with finite resources.
“Everybody wants this out on Xbox. It’s not that we don’t want it out on Xbox,” Vincke told IGN. “It’s just that, our problem — and this is us, Larian — is that we just made a very big game. And it’s a very complicated game.”
Baldur’s Gate III will ditch co-op on Series S
So where does that leave the Xbox Series X/S version? The studio had said in the past that it was hoping to get Baldur’s Gate III on Xbox by the end of 2023, but couldn’t commit to a hard date yet, especially as it prepared to juggle post-launch updates as the full game goes out into the wild. But following an in-person meeting with Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer at Gamescom 2023, things changed.
“We’ve found a solution that allows us to bring Baldur’s Gate 3 to Xbox players this year still, something we’ve been working towards for quite some time,” Vincke tweeted on August 24. “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.”
There remains some confusion over what exactly caused the initial holdup over split-screen. Was Larian Studios misled over Microosft’s feature parity requirement, or did Spencer make a narrow exception for Baldur’s Gate 3 that he’ll try to hold other studios to in the future? The company has continued to commit to supporting the Series S, even as it hits the mid-way point of the current console cycle.
Update 8/24/2023 12:30 p.m. ET: Added new information from Larian Studios about the timeline for the Xbox versions.