The question of when Baldur's Gate 3 would release on Xbox, if ever, was uncertain until this week, not because of messy console exclusivity politics, but because of console gaming's gradual transformation into a wonky kind of PC gaming.
The problem was that Microsoft requires Xbox games run on the Xbox Series S, a cheaper version of its flagship Xbox Series X with less-powerful hardware and no optical drive, and Larian was struggling to get Baldur's Gate 3 split-screen co-op working to its standards on the console. The studio previously said that although it was working on a Baldur's Gate 3 Xbox version, it wasn't "confident enough" that it could solve the technical problem to announce it.
Today, however, Larian boss Swen Vincke announced that, after speaking to Xbox head Phil Spencer at Gamescom, a solution has been agreed upon that will allow a Baldur's Gate 3 Xbox release to happen this year. The compromise is simply that the Series S version will not include split-screen co-op. Otherwise, it'll be the same game, and will have cross-save support with the Steam version.
Confusingly, Spencer told Eurogamer earlier this week that Series S/Series X parity wasn't what the Baldur's Gate 3 hold-up was about. "In terms of parity, I don't think you've heard from us or Larian, that this was about parity. I think that's more that the community is talking about it. There are features that ship on X today that do not ship on S, even from our own games, like ray tracing that works on X, it's not on S in certain games. So for an S customer, they spent roughly half what the X customer bought, they understand that it's not going to run the same way."
We actually have heard from Larian that it was about parity, though. Larian director of publishing Michael Douse said in July that the studio couldn't remove split-screen from the Series S version because it was "obliged to launch with feature parity." It'd be hard to believe that Vincke's announcement that a solution has been found and that the Series S version won't include split-screen are unrelated events, so I've asked Microsoft for clarification on Spencer's comment.
Whatever the case, I'm glad more people will get to play this exceptional RPG, one we've awarded our highest review score in 16 years. And I've got to assume Microsoft is relieved, because its decision to release two consoles was looking a bit blunderous when Baldur's Gate 3 was being lauded as a landmark achievement while still a de facto PS5 console exclusive.