Microsoft is facing a growing issue within the Xbox ecosystem, and it appears that in order to address this issue, some degree of flexibility may be required. That would be the Xbox Series S, a less capable and less expensive alternative to the Xbox Series X that acts as a starting point for the newest games.
This is good in theory, and given the price, it appears that a sizable portion of Microsoft’s new-gen sales are of the Series S. But as time passes and developers use the PS5 and Xbox Series X’s increased capabilities, the notion that Microsoft requires “feature parity” from Series S games is coming into question.
All of this came to a head with the Baldur’s Gate 3 incident, where Xbox lost a significant third-party game to PC and PlayStation with a postponed launch solely due to the Series S parity requirement. Local splitscreen co-op for the game, which was offered on other console versions, was a feature that Larian claimed they were having a very difficult time re-creating.
Even without that one feature, Microsoft and Larian eventually came to an agreement that the game would appear on the Xbox platform. The game will also have features like cross-save between Xbox and PC and even Xbox and PlayStation because they created an exception in this particular instance.
So, the issue is resolved, but it also serves as a warning that Microsoft may have opened the door for other developers to ask for exceptions for particular features that are difficult to implement on Series S. Although features, not cosmetic or performance parity, have been desired by the console. This will probably continue to come up. You can see the issue from Microsoft’s perspective since, at their core, they do not want Xbox customers to be forced to choose between titles that have or do not have significant features based on the X/S split. If players must be specifically informed on a case-by-case basis as to which characteristics they may or may not have in comparison to X, that hurts Series S branding.
However, if Xbox can avoid another humiliating situation where they miss out on a third-party GOTY frontrunner due to this limitation, it seems that the expense is worth the benefit. They will now be able to obtain Baldur’s Gate 3 by the end of the year thanks to the compromise, perhaps a few months after Sony’s September 6 release. Not ideal, but it would have been worse if they had continued to make those expectations of Larian.
This will undoubtedly come up again in the future; when it does, we’ll see. Microsoft might discover that they need to keep making exceptions like this one.