After nearly three years in early access, Baldur’s Gate 3 is out on PC, and it seems the wait was well worth it. The game has garnered an ineffable 97 on Metacritic, putting it shoulder to shoulder with The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom as a Game of the Year front-runner.
While we’re still finalizing our own thoughts on Baldur’s Gate 3, there’s no denying the game’s mainstream appeal. Larian’s latest has rocketed up the SteamDB charts and currently holds the ninth-highest concurrent player count in Steam history. This popularity has prompted quite the discourse online—perhaps most notably from longtime IGN producer Destin Legarie.
The Baldur’s Gate 3 Discourse, Explained
In a video titled “Baldur’s Gate 3 is Causing Some Developers to Panic,” Legarie details his take on the state of AAA game development. Referencing a July Twitter thread from indie developer Xalavier Nelson Jr., in which Nelson warns of a “raised standard” whenever massive RPGs like BG3 succeed, Legarie counters with the question, “Why shouldn’t customers have raised standards?” He then lists recent gaming practices he considers anti-consumer—Red Dead Redemption’s $50 “conversion” for Switch and PS4, Diablo 4′s battle passes, Destiny 2′s premium armor sets—and uses BG3 as a foil to show a AAA release done “right.”
It’s a fair counter-argument, at first glance. Yet anyone who’s read the full Twitter thread will realize there’s nuance to Nelson’s commentary. He explains that Larian Studios has the size, tools, and experience that essentially make the team too big to fail—whereas smaller studios that dare to follow may go bankrupt as a result. An article from Brandon Sheffield claps back at Legarie and builds on Nelson’s comments further, asserting that his video recklessly directs the ire of gamers toward developers, when publishers and shareholders are the ones responsible for these bad practices.
I’m not here to further the discourse on Baldur’s Gate 3. I haven’t played it, and I think there’s shades of truth on both sides of the camp. Instead, I’m here to issue a challenge to consumers and creators (like YouTuber MoistCritical) who resonated with Legarie’s video:
Want better AAA video games? Put your money where your mouth is, and prove it.
The Real Problem With “Gamer Outrage”
One of the more frustrating aspects of gamer fury is the sentiment among consumers that they’re being misheard and misunderstood. If you skim the YouTube comments of Legarie’s video, you’ll see a few recurring threads:
- “Finally, a good take, IGN.”
- “Give this man a raise!”
- “This guy gets it.”
A recent Kotaku piece from Ethan Gach claims that the video “spark[ed] fierce reactions on either side of the conversation,” but this is disingenuous. The reactions are overwhelmingly one-sided. Journalists and developers may disagree with the video, but players clearly don’t.
Legarie’s comments struck a nerve with consumers. To date, the video has amassed 1.5 million views (the average IGN video ranges between 50k to 500k views). Where critics may minimize players’ feelings, publishers should take note.
Yet, therein lies the rub: Publishers won’t take note, because publishers aren’t incentivized to take note. For every Baldur’s Gate 3, there’s a flop like Mass Effect: Andromeda that costs investors money. In a world where tech companies and “software as a service” models reign supreme, every game company becomes a profit maximization effort for corporate suits. Their ROI lies with persistent experiences, consistent releases, and constant monetization.
In short: Consumers are pissed, publishers don’t care, and developers are caught in the middle. If you think slamming an indie creator on Twitter is going to solve the issue, you’re mistaken. Consumers may be misrepresented, but pouting and shouting isn’t helping things one iota.
The Solution? Doubling Down on Good AAA Practices
If you aren’t heard, and you can’t complain, then what are you supposed to do?
My answer is simple: Vote with your wallet. If you find games like Baldur’s Gate 3 a breath of fresh air, invest your time and money into those experiences. If you’re wary about a AAA release, do your due diligence as a AAA consumer. Avoid the temptation of a pre-order (that bonus outfit ain’t worth it), and read a collection of reviews from critics whose opinions you trust. Skip that risky Kickstarter (Mighty No. 9) in favor of an early access release people are raving about (Hades).
Legarie’s video lacked some nuance (he already admitted as much), but his views are valid. Your opinion as a consumer is valid, too, and it’s reductionist to say otherwise. But for AAA gaming to move forward, the onus can’t just lie on journalists to “have good takes” or developers to “make good games.” Consumers must save their ire for the real villains—the Bobby Koticks of the world—and step the hell up. Educate yourself by reading Xalavier Nelson Jr.’s full thread. Eviscerate the bad actors at the top of the ladder, and elevate the industry and pastime we all love. Otherwise, games like Baldur’s Gate 3 will continue to be an anomaly.