Given Baldur’s Gate 2 was released almost 23 years ago, there was immense hype surrounding the release of Larian Studio’s next installment in the CRPG series based on the tabletop roleplaying game, Dungeons and Dragons (DnD). After entering early access in 2020, Baldur’s Gate 3 was finally released on Windows PC on Aug 3, with PS5 and Xbox Series X/S versions of the game soon to follow, and the response to the game is far beyond what anyone could have imagined.
At the time of writing, Baldur’s Gate 3 is 2023’s highest-rated game on Metacritic and the sixth-best game ever released on PC. The general consensus amongst critics is Baldur’s Gate 3 is one of the best RPGs ever made. Others call it a masterpiece. Its launch almost brought Steam to its knees and saw over 800,000 concurrent players at its peak. Some players loved the game so much that they defied the laws of time itself, completing the game on its opening weekend despite it being estimated to take 75 to 100 hours to see it through to its conclusion.
The success of Baldur’s Gate 3 has caught many people by surprise. We knew it was going to be good, but nobody knew it was going to be this good. When Netflix’s Stranger Things featured DnD in its episodes, it caused sales of DnD starter sets to surge by 250%. Larian’s success with Baldur’s Gate 3 has done more than show the world that the DnD hype is very much here to stay. It’s shown DnD’s license holder, Wizards of the Coast, owned by Hasbro, the true potential of DnD as a video game.
We can’t help but wonder if the game’s success might impact wider business decisions at Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro. Can we expect Hasbro to push for more licensing opportunities in the gaming space? Will Wizards of the Coast focus on raising its video game profile? It was only at the beginning of 2023 that the company cancelled at least five unannounced video game projects.
Last year, Axios reported that Hasbro has been steadily shifting its in-house product development and publishing efforts over the past few years. Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast are said to have six internal studios between them working on unannounced games, including a big-budget action-adventure game based on G.I. Joe led by former Warner Bros. developers at Atomic Arcade.
The decision to focus development efforts in-house rather than licensing out its IP to partner studios is all part of quality control. Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast have seen mixed results with their licensed games over the years, particularly Activision’s 2014 Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark, which GameSpot said is “so sloppy and incoherent that it feels more like a cheap knockoff than a proper Transformers game.”
So, it’s not hard to see why Hasbro perhaps felt the need to take more control, although even with six studios, it simply doesn’t have the capacity to produce massive games based on all its different franchises.
This is where Larian Studios got involved with Baldur’s Gate 3, and its success emphasises the importance of picking the right partner to develop a licensed game. Larian had already demonstrated their expertise with complex, multi-choice fantasy RPGs through their other acclaimed video game franchise, Divinity: Original Sin, which already felt somewhat DnD-esque. This made them the perfect choice to take the reigns of Baldur’s Gate.
If they’re smart, Hasbro should look to continue such partnerships alongside their in-house efforts; they just need to think wisely about who they bring on board to adapt their most beloved properties to avoid past mistakes. DnD has unlimited potential, with lore spanning multiple novels, worlds, species and dimensions, meaning there are opportunities for integrations in smaller titles, as well as full-fledged IP-based games across various genres.
Hasbro’s CEO expects to make more money from Baldur’s Gate 3 than from all of its film licensing in the past ten years. Rather than wait another 23 years to put out a quality DnD video game, Hasbro should be exploring the wider potential of DnD in the gaming space, and look to the success of Baldur’s Gate 3 to shape future video games based on the license.