Microsoft has a growing problem within the Xbox ecosystem and one, it turns out, it may have to be a little bit flexible to solve. That would be the Xbox Series S, the less powerful, cheaper version of the Xbox Series X that serves as an entry point for the new generation of games, but without the higher price tag.
This is good in theory, and it seems a good chunk of Microsoft new-gen sales are of the Series S, given the cost. But the more time goes on, and the more power devs draw on from the PS5 and Xbox Series X, the idea that Microsoft demands “feature parity” from games on Series S is becoming a problem.
This all culminated in the Baldur’s Gate 3 situation, in which Xbox lost a major third party game to PC and PlayStation with a delayed launch just because of the Series S parity requirement. Larian said the feature they were having an extremely hard time replicating was local splitscreen co-op for the game, which was present on other console versions.
However, Microsoft and Larian eventually came to an understanding, the game would indeed release within the Xbox system even without that one feature. They made an exception in this case, and the game will also have things like cross-save between Xbox and PC and even Xbox and PlayStation.
So, problem solved, but it’s also representative of the fact that Microsoft may have opened the floodgates here for other developers to request exemptions for certain features that are a pain to make work on Series S. The console has not demanded visual or performance parity, but features? This is likely to keep coming up. You can see the problem for Microsoft’s end, as fundamentally they do not want Xbox players to end up split between games that do or do not have major features based on the X/S split. That hurt Series S branding if players have to be specifically told on a case by case basis which features they may or may not have compared to X.
The cost appears to be worth the benefit however, if Xbox can avoid another embarrassing situation like this where they are missing out on a third party GOTY frontrunner based on this rule. Now, because of the compromise, they will be able to get Baldur’s Gate 3 by the end of the year, likely a couple months after Sony’s September 6 release. Not great, but it could have been worse if they kept those demands in place for Larian.
We’ll see when this comes up again in the future, but it’s absolutely going to. And Microsoft may find that they keep having to make exceptions like this one.
Follow me on Twitter, Threads, YouTube, and Instagram.
Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series and The Earthborn Trilogy.