Until very recently, the Xbox version of Baldur’s Gate 3 was only going to be released at an indeterminate time in 2024. Larian Studios had been having issues porting it to the comparatively budget Series S, with split-screen co-op not working due to hardware constraints. Xbox had wanted feature parity with the Series X version, but it was clear this wasn’t possible, and that Xbox players were missing out on one of the biggest RPGs of the year because of Microsoft’s strict policies.
Larian announced last week that it will be releasing its Xbox port this year instead of next, to the joy of many – including myself. I hate playing games on my PC and much prefer to lie in bed and stare at my big TV with controller in hand.
This does, however, raise questions about the future of the Series S, especially because its reduced processing power puts developers at a disadvantage when it comes to porting games to Xbox. It’s often argued that the console is keeping current-gen gaming back because of its weaker performance, and it adds extra work for developers who have to wrestle with a weaker piece of hardware. I’ve written that the Series S is holding Xbox, in particular, back, and I stand by it. But Microsoft’s decision in this case has proven that it doesn’t have to be the case.
I respect that Series S players want and deserve feature parity. It’s what they were told they would have when they bought the console, and to be fair, it looks like Larian is still attempting to include split-screen co-op post-launch. If Xbox is willing to be flexible with their policies on feature parity, Xbox consumers won’t have to suffer later release dates and the immense FOMO that comes with it, and developers can have more time to add features post-launch to try to keep up expected console parity. Sure, it could be a slippery slope that leads to permanent feature disparity in some situations, but it’s not worth keeping entire games off Xbox platforms indefinitely, especially when those games are as highly rated and commercially successful as Baldur’s Gate 3.
Perhaps more important, though, is that Xbox should still be trying to support Series S users and ensure they’re getting what they paid for. The Series S occupies a unique niche for game consoles. It’s significantly cheaper than the PS5 and Xbox Series X and has decent enough hardware to run current-gen games thanks to visual downgrades and its lack of disc drive.
Budget consoles are important to the game industry, despite the fact that people will insist the Series S shouldn’t exist. It’s a more affordable alternative to what is, to some people, prohibitively expensive consoles in the form of the Series X and the PS5. Gaming can be a very expensive hobby, especially since games are only getting bigger and more expensive. A cheaper console isn’t just a boon to Xbox’s bottom line, but a boon to people who can’t afford to shell out for top-of-the-line hardware to play the newest games.
The Series S deserves as much support as Xbox can give it, but the fact of its limited hardware capabilities cannot be ignored. It’s a pain for developers, yes, but it’s the only budget console on a market full of shockingly expensive options, and it deserves to have its place because it makes gaming more accessible financially. The Series S will only hold Microsoft back if it insists on being inflexible with its policies. Luckily, it looks like that isn’t always going to be the case – but they’ll have to keep being flexible if they want to keep consumers on their side.