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Boss explains what you absolutely have to pay attention to

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The role-playing game Baldur’s Gate 3 is considered a masterpiece today. But that could have gone wrong. Steam chose a release path that has caused many games to fail and has often frustrated gamers: Baldur’s Gate 3 was released in Early Access – 3 years before release.

What is so dangerous about Early Access? Many games with potential have died in the Early Access phase on Steam. The process goes something like this:

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  • A game comes out with potential, but it is still unfinished: players buy the game, get started, give feedback, but then stop playing and hope to return to the better version some time later.
  • The developers have collected money for the first time and can breathe a sigh of relief. They are starting to improve the game and implement feedback from players, but progress is slow. The first updates they bring are only minimal improvements and neither old players are coming back nor are new ones being inspired.
  • The team is running out of money and energy. The number of players is stagnating or falling. It seems as if the market is rejecting the game, as if there is no interest in it. The game is still in Early Access. The team is devastated. The players who started with so much hope are bitterly disappointed and are angrily demanding their money back.

We have seen this process time and time again in the past. Games in early access are now viewed with skepticism and have a bad reputation. One sad example of many is Scavengers.

Baldur’s Gate 3 was played for the equivalent of 1,225 years on its first release weekend – exciting facts and figures

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“You sold the game to someone – now you have to improve it”

This is what the boss says about Early Access: The early access model worked well for Baldur’s Gate 3. 9 major updates were released between 2020 and August 2023.

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The head of the studio Larian, Swen Vincke, is a fan of the Early Access model, but only under certain circumstances: “It was really good for us, but you have to be really serious about it when you go there. You have to work with the players to improve your game, otherwise you shouldn’t do it.”

However, Vincke does not recommend an early access that lasts three years: it would tire out the fans and the team. But you have to persevere and under no circumstances should you introduce broken features into an early access game.

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The narrative director of Baldur’s Gate 3 agrees: players have paid for a game, after all. That’s why they are being trained to improve it. Early Access cannot be neglected. It’s a lot of work and really difficult.

That’s the most important thing, says the boss. Vincke says that Early Access must be taken extremely seriously:

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“You definitely shouldn’t go into it with the attitude, oh, it’s just Early Access. People are playing this who are serious about it and you have to treat them with respect.”

Baldur’s Gate 3 had weak months in Early Access, but strong backers behind it

This is what’s behind it: Yes, the developers of Baldur’s Gate 3 have been on a triumphant tour for a few months now, explaining how they managed to create such a hit in dark times. But this should be viewed with a bit of skepticism. Because Larian is not, as it sometimes seems, a small underdog studio that somehow made it, but has a powerful business daddy behind it in Tencent.

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Baldur’s Gate 3 also had some dry spells in Early Access 2022 on Steam: months where they only had 1070 average players, where interest in the role-playing game already seemed to be waning.

Perhaps other teams would have faltered here or the backers would have lost faith in the team, but Larian could afford these weak phases – with Baldur’s Gate 3 there was another factor.

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Many games find it extremely difficult to generate any kind of hype for release after 3 years in Early Access because people feel that the game is “old” and already “over.”

But Baldur’s Gate 3 was able to overcome this problem of an early access title with a daring and bear-like moment. But that was probably not planned: Baldur’s Gate 3 developers comment on the bear scandal and TikTok ban: “They hate it”

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