Lately I’ve noticed a bit of, let’s call it pushback, against the upcoming release of Baldurs Gate 3 and Larian Studios, by developers and studios alike. From your perspective as a game developer yourself what is this all about? Why are they calling BG3 an anomaly and making it sound like Larian hasn’t earned the praise they are getting? Why all the attempts at what sounds like trying to discredit their work?

The unfortunate truth of the matter is that the discussion I’ve seen from devs is subject to signal decay when in an environment where the most maddening and viral takes are the ones that get amplified over accuracy or educational takes. The various “hot takes” I’ve read were traced to the observations of [Xalavier Nelson Jr. about BG3] and I have to say - after reading his original thread, I am very much in agreement with him. Baldur’s Gate 3’s success is absolutely not a template that can be easily repeated and is very much an anomaly.

You can tell a lot about a game by the number of developers in the credits and the length of its dev cycle. If you multiply (number of devs) x (months of development) x ($10,000 per month per dev), you get a pretty good estimate of a game’s overall budget. BG3 started development in 2017 and had a team of over 300 developers working on it. 300 devs x 72 months x $10,000 = approximately $216 million USD. “Step 1: Secure $200 million in funding to develop your game” is absolutely not a business plan that is feasible for 99.9% of indie developers.

This also goes for other circumstances beyond their control that managed to favor them. Larian was incredibly successful in raising funding during early access, but they are one of a tiny fraction that made it. Larian got incredible word-of-mouth promotion from their fans while thousands of amazing indie titles languish in obscurity on Steam. Larian managed to secure a major license that is extremely well-regarded - not exactly an easy feat to replicate. Each of these various circumstances ended up a win for them and every single one of them was necessary to obtain the success they did.

This isn’t to say that Larian doesn’t deserve praise for their success - they absolutely deserve all the praise and more. They managed to deliver a fantastic high quality game and I laud them for it. It is a tremendous accomplishment and I am happy for their success. What I will never agree to is saying that this is the path others should follow, because I believe that Larian managed to capture lightning in a bottle. All of the ducks had to line up just right for them to succeed like this, and any of the major factors in their success could have gone very very wrong for them through no fault of their own and sank the project partway through. Larian managed to win and they deserve huge amounts of praise for it, but it is in no way an easily-repeatable formula for success.

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