When Baldur’s Gate 3 bumped up its PC release date to avoid Starfield, it didn’t occur to me that Starfield was the game that should be worried. Wes was the most prescient among us at PC Gamer, wondering at the time if Baldur’s Gate 3 would be so good that Starfield would suffer from the comparison. We were all excited for it, but who knew that it would be such an enormous mainstream hit?
“This was not in the books at all,” Larian CEO Swen Vincke told us after Baldur’s Gate 3 broke 800,000 Steam concurrents just days after launch. “This was way, way beyond what we expected. There’s also no precedent for it, for our type of game to have that many people playing concurrently … Everybody here is very happy.”
I definitely didn’t predict this kind of success for BG3. I knew I’d be into it, because I liked Divinity: Original Sin 2, and argued for it to win PC Gamer’s GOTY award back in 2017. But if I’d mentioned Original Sin at Christmas dinner that year, my family would’ve been startled by my newfound piousness. Not so with Baldur’s Gate 3: Family and friends who I’ve only ever heard talk about Fortnite or Zelda know about a CRPG that involves mind flayers. It’s a new era.
Part of the surprise comes from Baldur’s Gate 3 having been available in early access for so long. That shrunk the significance of the launch for me, because surely, I thought, if this were going to be a big phenomenon, someone would’ve told me.
(Image credit: Larian Studios)
Vincke himself had been worried that Baldur’s Gate 3 might’ve found its entire audience in early access. It was actually sold really well before the 1.0 release—2.5 million copies—but it definitely had not reached saturation. A specific number hasn’t been released, but SteamSpy estimates that Baldur’s Gate 3 currently has more than 20 million owners on Steam, and it’s also on PS5 and recently released on Xbox consoles.
Part of my error might’ve been failing to assume that many of those 2.5 million early access owners were exactly like me: After poking around in the early access version for a few hours, they thought “yep, this is going to be a game I enjoy,” and then uninstalled it while Larian cooked.
It was only after we at PC Gamer gained access to the full version of Baldur’s Gate 3 that we fully realized the significance of the game in front of us. Our work chat started buzzing with character building tips and anecdotes from our first adventures, and the timestamps say it all.
“Really loving my bard’s look now,” Fraser said at 1 am on the day after being granted access to the full version. “Thinking of dyeing the hat though.”
Fraser went on to award Baldur’s Gate 3 PC Gamer’s highest review scores in years.
(Image credit: Larian Studios)
In hindsight, the enormous popularity of D&D live plays—streaming and podcasting groups like Critical Role, which at least at one point was Twitch’s highest-earning channel—might’ve been a clue that Baldur’s Gate 3 sales were headed for the moon. Larian’s RPG drops players into a campaign with hours and hours of companion dialogue from the sorts of skilled actors whose tabletop campaigns have been prime viewing for the past eight or so years. (Relatedly, D&D outfit High Rollers hosted a tabletop session with the BG3 cast after launch, and it’s pretty fun). D&D itself is as popular as it’s ever been, too. There was just a big movie with a decent Tame Impala song in it.
So what’s next for Larian? Aside from continuing to work on Baldur’s Gate 3, which has received heaps of fixes and additions so far, Vincke said in our post-launch interview that the studio is going to keep doing what it does best: making immersive, multiplayer systems-driven RPGs.
It might want to invest in a trophy case, too.