Baldur’s Gate 3 still has a massive player count on Steam, dwarfing Starfield – WGB

By admin Jan 9, 2024

Baldur’s Gate 3’s mammoth success in 2023 was one of the best feel-good stories I’ve seen in years. It isn’t like developer Larian Studios hasn’t had successes before, but nothing in their history even comes close to how well Baldur’s Gate 3 did. But it looks like that wave of success is still rolling.

Just over a week into 2024, Baldur’s Gate 3 continues to enjoy a frankly mind-blowing level of success. SteamDB, which tracks all sorts of juicy data, currently reports Baldur’s Gate 3 managing a 24-hour peak player count of 297,492 players, a truly staggering figure. As I write this, just over 150,000 players are in the game.

It’s not like these numbers have simply come out of nowhere, though – since hitting its all-time peak of 875,343 players shortly after launching in August 2023, the game has kept a continuously impressive amount of people engaged. Its lowest point came in November when it “only” managed a peak count of just over 203,000 players.

Since November the player count has started rising again, probably thanks to a few factors. First, it took home the Game of the Year award from the Game Awards 2023 along with a heap of other awards. Then Steam’s holiday sale went live, offering a small discount. The game also managed to pick up Steam’s own Game of the Year award, adding to its growing heap of trophies, awards and medals.

And we certainly cannot forget just how critically acclaimed and beloved the game is. Opencritic has it listed as holding a “Mighty” score of 96, tying it with The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom as the highest-rated game of 2023. And on Steam, it holds an “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating based on over 470,000 reviews.

What makes these numbers so impressive is that Baldur’s Gate 3 is a singleplayer RPG. It isn’t a live service title and doesn’t have a steady stream of content being released for it. Usually, that would mean a relatively sharp decline in the weeks following a game’s release as people either see the credits roll or fall off, yet Baldur’s Gate 3 has not done that. Sure, the numbers have dropped but the floor has remained very high indeed, especially 5 months on from launch.

Let’s compare that to another single-player RPG, shall we? Starfield was Microsoft’s biggest launch of 2023, backed by the huge hype that any new Bethesda Software title has. Like Baldur’s Gate 3 it is not a live-service game, rather it’s a large RPG. Now, let’s be clear, it’s not a truly direct comparison because Starfield was available on day 1 as part of Game Pass on PC so it’s fair to assume a lot of its player base is over there. But you’d still expect big numbers, right?

No.

Despite launching just 4 months ago, meaning it’s newer than Baldur’s Gate 3, Starfield’s player count has dwindled quickly. At the time of writing, it has a 24-hour peak of just under 18,000 with 7,436 currently in-game. It hasn’t broken 30,000 players since November 26. By comparison, Baldur’s Gate 3 hasn’t dropped below 100,000 players per day in that same timeframe.

Indeed, Baldur’s Gate 3’s numbers put it right up there with actual live-service titles that are constantly updated with new content designed to keep players logging in. It sits just below GTA V, for example, in the most played games chart, and its 24 peak-player count rivals that of Apex Legends which drew in 309,911 players.

These kinds of numbers are also why Baldur’s Gate 3 is ranked as number 5 in the top sellers on Steam right now.

If you really want to get a little crazy, let’s look at Larian’s last game. Divinity: Original Sin 2 came out in 2017 and hit a peak player count of just under 100,000. Since then, though, it has managed to maintain over 10,000 players every month. In the last 24 hours it peaked at 13,000 and has just over 10,000 people playing right now.

Let’s not be too harsh to Starfield, though. Despite it dropping to a “mixed” rating on Steam and a seemingly endless wave of negativity online, Starfield has been a success for Microsoft. Sure, it’s not the clean sweep they would have liked in terms of sales, critical success and player reception, but the numbers do seem impressive with Bethesda themselves claiming over 13 million players. That’s not to be scoffed at.

Ultimately, the point is that Larian truly has done something special here, earning themselves a huge level of success that has surprised and even frightened them. Indeed, the game has been so successful that other developers have described it as an “anomaly.”

Xalavier Nelson Jr.  of Strange Scaffold tweeted out an intriguing thread where he talked about concerns that Baldur’s Gate 3 could unfairly raise the standard of what people expect even from smaller developers.

“In an era of megagames,” wrote Xalavier Nelson Jr. “Baldur’s Gate 3 is one of the largest attempted, built by a specialized group of people using mature tech specially built to make *this specific game*, reinforced by invaluable mass player feedback AND market validation ahead of its launch”

“So please, celebrate the achievement represented by Baldur’s Gate 3. It looks like a massive amount of effort is about to pay off in a big way, for one of the brightest voices in the medium…but if you shout that “EVERY RPG SHOULD BE LIKE THIS GOING FORWARD, YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE–” You’ve not just missed the point, you’ve created the expectations and conditions to ensure your favourite creators may never be able to give you the thing you love ever again.”

Consumers fought back, the crux of their argument being that they don’t expect hundreds of hours of content and incredible graphics – but they do expect a certain level of quality in return for their money. They also pointed out that people working on the likes of Blizzard seemed to be tweeting from a place of fear that Larian had done something so huge and successful.

During an episode of the Friends per Second podcast, Larian’s founder Swen Vincke seemed to address the controversy. He said: “We really just tried to make our game, so we were surprised when we saw that there was so much commotion about it. And it’s just a weird thing. People haven’t even seen the game, so it’s hard to say that it’s a standard. It offers a lot, that’s for sure, and it offers what we would like to see in an RPG, so I hope a lot of people will make games like ours because that’s what I and the rest of my team want to play. But there’s a lot of other stuff that we want to play.”

“Everybody played Disco Elysium that was made by a much smaller team, and it was a great and fantastic game — so that’s a standard now,” Vincke continued. “But I’m a big fan of Into the Breach — that’s a standard for me. So you’ve got a whole bunch of standards out there. The only game that exists in the universe for my youngest son is Minecraft — that’s a standard for him.”

It sparked a huge conversation between gamers and developers about the dangers of expectations, studio size, budget and more.

What does the future hold? Well, the obvious answer might be Divinity: Original Sin 3 since Larian themselves had stated that it’s coming. With that said, they also said that after Baldur’s Gate 3 they intend on taking a very deserved break.

For the rest of the industry, Baldur’s Gate 3 serves as a reminder for some very simple points that are often forgotten about: if you make a high-quality game that respects the player, people will happily hand over their hard-earned money.

By admin

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