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2023 in Review: Winners and Losers

2023 in Review: Winners and Losers - Article

by Taneli Palola , posted on 01 January 2024 / 4,661 Views

Another year in the rear-view mirror, another year of both good and bad to look back upon. The video game industry has once again played host to a number of significant events, releases, and other assorted happenings over the last 12 months. So, before we completely forget 2023 and move on to the new year, let's take a look at some of the things that happened, both the nice and the nasty. Here are my winners and losers of 2023 in the world of video games.

    

Winners

  

Larian Studios & Baldur's Gate III

Baldur's Gate 3

Showing exactly what can be achieved with talent and dedication, Larian Studios released Baldur's Gate III to near universal acclaim in August, to such an extent that many people began calling it the new benchmark upon which other developers and games should be compared to. I won't go that far, because I recognize that this was a combination of dozens of different factors, built over decades, coming together to make the creation of a game like this possible.

It's unquestionably an amazing achievement, but Larian had the right license, experience, resources, sheer talent, freedom, and countless other things going in their favour to make this project happen. Asking all other developers to follow suit is simply not realistic or even fair. As excellent as it is, Baldur's Gate III is, and will largely remain, an anomaly within the video game industry. Too many different elements had to come together for it to end up as great as it did, and very few other companies have that kind of luxury.

Swen Vincke

It's a sad indictment of the modern video game industry that a quality game that doesn't try to bleed its audience out of money through microtransaction is a cause for celebration, but that doesn't make what Larian did any less impressive. And they did it almost entirely without crunching. If there's one thing other developers should take from this, it's that.

    

Unionization in the Video Game Industry

Sega Aegis

To say that workers within the video game industry haven't had the best of times in, well, the last several decades probably, would be a bit of an understatement. Stories of abuse, burnout, excessive crunch, and countless other horrific reports are a near-constant presence if you're even slightly tuned into the video game news cycle. One of the positive changes in terms of workers' rights within this industry in recent years has been the rise of unions. For example, Sega of America workers formed the largest multi-department union in the US in April, QA workers at the Microsoft-owned Zenimax Media voted to unionize at the very start of 2023, over 100 workers at the Swedish developer Avalanche Studios have unionized, and a portion of the staff at CD Project Red started the Polish Gamedev Workers Union in response to layoffs at the studio. 

These are just some of the examples of workers unionizing in 2023 across the gaming landscape, and it very much looks like the trend will continue going forward to the new year and beyond. Many large companies have fought against unionization and have engaged in union busting activities but, if anything, this seems to have only encouraged more workers to unionize.

   

Old School Series & Games Making a Comeback

Return to Monkey Island

In addition to the aforementioned Baldur's Gate III, 2023 also saw several other long-dormant franchises return, or at least being announced for a future comeback. Jagged Alliance 3 brought the tactical RPG series back after nearly 25 years since the last main entry; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge returned to the series' beat 'em up roots of the 80s and 90s; the first two Advance Wars titles were remade and released together after a decade-and-a-half of silence from the franchise; Squaresoft's classic RPG Live a Live was released in the west for the first time, nearly 30 years after its original Japanese release on the Super Famicom; Return to Monkey Island breathed new life into the beloved adventure game series; and FromSoftware released the first Armored Core title in a decade. And that was just a small sample that didn't even count spiritual successors like Bomb Rush Cyberfunk, which could have been called Jet Set Radio 3 and nobody would have questioned it.

The video game industry has often had a tendency to cast aside video game franchises if they aren't bringing in blockbuster level sales, so it's nice to see several companies understanding that not all games have to do that, and smaller scale successes are good too. There's plenty of life left in these and many other franchises yet, and this year we saw plenty of proof of that.

   

Numerous Japanese Companies Raising Base Salaries

Sega

Another positive development in 2023 was several video game companies announcing that they would raise employee salaries at some point during the year. Among the companies doing this over the last 12 months were Nintendo, which promised a 10% increase to base salaries, with company president Shuntaro Furukawa stating ”it's important for our long-term growth to secure our workforce,” a lesson many other companies would do well to learn.

Sega went even further, announcing a 30% pay increase early in 2023, and Atlus recently promised another increase to come into effect in 2024 after having already raised salaries once earlier in 2023. This continues a trend that saw companies like Capcom and Bandai Namco raise its employee salaries in 2022, so rather than being an isolated incident, it looks like in Japan at least several video game companies have realized the importance their workers have on their continued success.

    

Accessibility Options Becoming Increasingly Common

Forza Motorsport

Video games becoming more widely available for people to play is always a step in the right direction, and many publishers and developers made great strides in 2023 when it comes to allowing as wide a range of people to play their games as possible. Notable examples include Microsoft's Forza Motorsport and its massive cavalcade of accessibility options, including driving assistance, various colourblind modes, a screen narrator, and even a blind driver assistance. Sony's Spider-Man 2 continued the company's excellent recent track record of accessibility, Capcom's Street Fighter 6 added a modern control scheme to enable players who previously had difficulties in engaging with the series due to the inherent complexity of its control scheme to finally be able to play it, and Hi-Fi Rush had a bevy of options making the rhythm-based gameplay easily accessible to people with a variety of disabilities.

In addition, Sony introduced the Access Controller that allows players with disabilities to play games that they previously couldn't. It has its limitations, certainly, but it's yet another step in the right direction. 

Access Controller

Not everyone gets it right, of course. Final Fantasy XVI's odd accessory-based accessibility options were perhaps well-meaning, but also somewhat misguided as they took away a slot for other accessories, limiting those players' gameplay options. Still, trying is better than not doing anything at all, which brings me to Nintendo. The company tends to struggle with or simply ignore such concerns altogether, the accessibility options in its games usually being bare-bones at best (if they happen to exist at all, and when they do they're often seemingly accidental).

Overall, though, the increased prevalence of accessibility options on a wider variety of games each year can only be a good thing, and it definitely looks like they're becoming more and more common each year. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the many games and developers embracing accessibility, as many other companies both large and small have made great strides in this regard over the last 12 months.

   

   

   

Losers

   

Massive Layoffs Across the Industry

Embracer Group

In what has effectively become a constant feature of the video game industry, 2023 once again saw numerous companies enact massive layoffs at various points. Embracer Group was perhaps the biggest offender, letting off thousands of employees and closing numerous developers (some right before the holidays), but it wasn't the only company to do so.

A not-at-all exhaustive list of companies that laid off workers in 2023 includes: Bungie, Naughty Dog, Microsoft (twice), Epic Games, Team 17, Unity, and Creative Assembly. The total number of people within the video game industry who lost their jobs in 2023 has reached at least seven thousand, though other estimates place the number above ten thousand, quite possibly marking the largest series of lay-offs in the history of the industry within a single calendar year. Naturally, while these layoffs were happening, numerous companies engaging in them also announced that they'd made billions in profits and revenue at the same time.

  

Unity Shooting Itself in the Foot

Unity logo

If we were giving prizes for the most severe case of self-inflicted destruction of reputation, Unity would likely be the runaway winner for 2023. What was once one of the most popular video game development tools around - especially within the indie space - managed to almost completely ruin its formerly good name in a matter of hours upon announcing a new policy concerning revenue sharing of games made with the engine. Essentially, the new proposed plan stated that developers would be charged a small fee each time their game was installed, with the size of the fee depending on factors such as sales and overall revenue the game had produced. The man in charge of the company at the time was former EA CEO John Riccitiello, though he has since left Unity in the wake of the backlash to this new pricing model.

The response to this announcement was predictably hostile, with numerous indie developers beginning to look for alternative engines to use in their future projects. The backlash led to Unity almost immediately backtracking on most of the announced changes, but the damage had already been done by that point, and it seems the trust that had been built between Unity and developers using the engine is gone for good. The attitude of many now seems to be that if Unity was willing to try this once, what's to stop them from doing it again? There's also the fact that Unity only walked back most of the planned changes, so the end result was still bad for developers. It was honestly quite fascinating to watch one of the most popular game engines crash and burn so quickly after spending years building up its reputation within the industry.

  

The Silly Backlash to Sexual and Gender Minorities' Presence in Games

Starfield character creation

In Starfield players were given the option of choosing their characters' personal pronouns when creating them, and certain ostensibly fully grown adults had quite the temper tantrums about the game allowing people to do thisIn fact, there's nothing quite like throwing a fit about a couple of words. It's truly horrific that other people have the option to choose to give their fictional avatars they/them pronouns. Next they'll demand the use the correct prepositions in sentences, and we can't have that, can we?

The smart choice here is to instead create and install a mod that allows the removal of those confusing pronouns. Or better yet, just get a refund for a 50+ hour game because of the indignity of having to spend ten seconds in a menu that asked for a character's pronouns. This is, after all, a perfectly rational and reasonable course of action in a situation like this. In case it wasn't clear, I am indeed being sarcastic here.

Horizon Forbidden West

Similarly reasonable reactions were seen and heard when the Horizon Forbidden West expansion The Burning Shores gave players the option to have Aloy engage in a romantic relationship with another woman. I'm sure you can imagine the outrage that stemmed from having to play a game with a non-straight person as the protagonist. So much so that they decided to give the expansion a low score on Metacritic, and just generally complain about it. This is, of course, nothing new. It's a fairly common occurrence for a video game, especially a high profile one, that features gender or sexual minorities in any significant way to attract a lot of negative attention from certain sub-sections of fans.

   

Bobby Kotick

Bobby Kotick

The oft-maligned Activision-Blizzard CEO was in the news once again, and as usual not for any good reasons. The company has been embroiled in lengthy legal battles concerning accusations of sexual harassment, as well as the physical and mental abuse of its employees, and other long-standing issues, with Kotick often found at the centre of these claims. In 2023, he made statements regarding these issues in an interview with Variety, where he denied all claims of sexism and harassment, and said that any such claims were fabricated by ”a very aggressive labor movement working hard to try and destabilize the company.” In essence, he blamed unionizing employees for his and the company's horrendous reputation regarding employee treatment, and suggested that all of the news stories about the abuse, harassment, and misconduct towards employees were simply made up. If he was a better person, you might almost admire the audacity.

Fortunately, 2023 will have marked the last year with Kotick in charge of the company, but sadly he'll also receive a massive payment upon exiting the company, possibly up to $15 million. I suppose we'll just have to take the good with the bad.

  

PlayStation Retroactively Taking Back Bought Content

PlayStation 5

This is at most tangentially related to video games, but it does show the fragility of digital 'ownership' in the current console landscape, and as such can certainly impact video games as well. Due to licensing issues, any content bought from Discovery has been made unavailable and taken out of PlayStation owners' libraries from December 31 onward.

This is, in essence, stealing, and a stark reminder of the severe problems an all-digital future might create. To put it succinctly, according to this decision the content you bought and paid for isn't actually yours, but a license that can at any moment be revoked without any kind of compensation. Ownership of digital content has remained a question for a long time now, and this is a very clear example of how many companies view the topic. In their eyes, you don't actually own the content you bought, you're just renting it.

Update - The planned removal of content on December 31 didn't go ahead after Sony and Discovery came to an updated licensing arrangement on December 21.

  

Mictrotransaction, Loot Boxes, & Monetization in Premium Games

NBA 2K24

This is just the yearly reminder that any game that gouges money from people when they've already paid upwards of $70 for it is disgusting, and deserves little sympathy or support. One of the most egregious examples of this in 2023 was Warner Bros. charging $10 for a Halloween fatality in Mortal Kombat 1, meaning that they're essentially asking for money so that players can watch a new 10-15 second cut scene in the game.

Another great example is the Resident Evil 4 remake, which added several new microtransactions to the game alongside the otherwise free The Mercenaries mode. Players can now spend their money on upgrade tickets on in-game weapons. Another is Epic games raising the price of Fortnite V-Bucks

Of course, the true king of predatory monetization continues to be 2K. As is customary, 2K filled its yearly sports titles with microtransactions that gave players willing to part with their money a distinct advantage in online modes, but the company has also released various games geared specifically towards children that feature microtransactions, including Lego 2K Drive.

   

   

The Rest of the Losers

  

NFTs Still Being a Thing

While the vast majority of video game companies have seemingly caught up to the fact that people generally don't want NFTs in their games, a few stubborn publishers are still trying to push them, greenlighting and funding new projects designed to feature NFTs as a core part of the experience.

  

Harassment of Voice Actors

It's unfortunate that this is becoming a recurring thing in these year-end reviews, but some simply haven't yet realized that harassing other people is a bad thing. Some very level-headed Resident Evil 4 fans drove voice actress Lily Gao off Instagram after constant harassment over her performance as Ada Wong in the game.

Ada Wong

Erica Lindbeck is another voice actress who was targeted by some people for harassment, in her case because she heavily criticized the use of her voice in an AI program. She was made aware of a video where an AI imitation of her voice was being used in a song without her permission, and asked for it to be taken down. She said it felt like a violation to have her voice used without her consent. Of course, this rubbed some very fragile people the wrong way, and they decided to hurl abuse at the actress for daring to suggest that using her voice without her permission wasn't acceptable. Numerous other voice actors voiced their support for Lindbeck as well.

  

AI Used to Make Games & Replace Creators

Speaking of AI, its use in video game development has become a very contentious topic of discussion over the last few years. While certain uses are generally seen as acceptable (procedural generation in roguelikes, improved enemy behavior), others are often considered very controversial (art design, voice acting, and more creative fields of development in general). In a fairly recent interview, Take Two CEO Strauss Zelnick talked about the use of AI in GTA VI, specifically in creating and scripting non-playable characters. In his mind, the use of AI would help in creating more interesting interactions with NPCs. I'm not sure how replacing a real writer with AI would make the interactions more interesting, but that seems to be his view on the matter.

Microsoft is another company that has recently invested in generative AI tools, similarly looking into the possibilities of creating characters, storylines, dialogue trees, and more with them. I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea of replacing actual creative writers with AI algorithms, and while I do see the potential of AI in certain aspects of game development, when it comes to writing the stories and characters, composing music, voice acting, visual design, and other such elements, I'd rather have actual people do the creative work.

  

Overwatch 2 Campaign Cancelled

One of the main selling points and justifications that Blizzard used for the existence of Overwatch 2 when it was first announced in 2019 was its promised PvE campaign. After initially being pushed back for later release, the single player mode has now effectively been cancelled. Obviously, Overwatch 2 is primarily a competitive multiplayer game, but this PvE mode was used as one of the main justifications for the developer abandoning the original Overwatch for its sequel. Now, even that flimsy justification is gone, making Overwatch 2 an increasingly pointless release.

Overwatch 2

    

Zenimax Allegedly Held a Trans Employee's Healthcare Hostage

A former employee of Bethesda Softworks is suing the company for "failing to provide continuation coverage" for her healthcare, after allegedly previously holding her healthcare hostage. In a very detailed 4-hour video, the employee goes into great detail regarding her treatment at the company, and the various issues she faced while working there, while providing several pieces of evidence to back up her claims. She alleges that she was constantly deadnamed by her manager, outed without her consent to other workers, and upon taking her complaints directly to corporate once HR refused to help, was treated as a liability and pressured to quit and sign away her right to sue for discrimination in exchange for medical coverage.

  

Classic Games Preservation

Another ever-present issue surrounding the video game industry is the awful state of game preservation. In a recent study by the Video Game History Foundation, it was discovered that 87% of classic games (those released between 1960 and 2009) are nearly impossible to access today without owning an original copy yourself. This is quite honestly a damning indictment of the industry as a whole.

  

Starfield

This is here mostly just to highlight something a Microsoft executive said about the game. The head of Microsoft Game Studios Matt Booty stated that Starfield had the fewest bugs that any Bethesda game had ever shipped with. Talk about damning with faint praise. I mean, he has to see how being the least bad in this regard is still not actually a good thing, right? He might be technically correct, but I still wouldn't really brag about it.

  

Nintendo Trying to Patent Game Mechanics

Nintendo has registered numerous new patents based on various game mechanics in The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Among these are specific things like the Ultrahand and Fuse mechanics, but also some very broad elements such as the specific way in which Link rides on moving objects, or the loading screen that appears when the player fast travels. This isn't the first time a company has put a patent on game mechanics, or attempted to do so, but the end result is always the same. When entire game mechanics are locked behind copyright, it curtails innovation and limits what could be achieved with those mechanics if other people and developers could iterate on them. Limiting their use has never been a positive thing for the industry.

Tears of the Kingdom vehicles

That's 2023 summed up in brief, but did I miss anything in either the winners or losers? What were the best and worst video game related events, releases, and happenings in 2023 in your opinion? It's practically impossible to include everything in a single article, so share your choices below if you wish.

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You can contact the author on Twitter @TheDarashiva.


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36 Comments
Random_Matt (on 01 January 2024)

Erm, Sony have come to an agreement with Discovery by the way.

  • +3
Darashiva Random_Matt (on 01 January 2024)

So it would seem. Thanks for noting that, I seem to have missed that particular change. We'll add a short note or something there to acknowledge the change.

  • +6
Qwark Darashiva (on 03 January 2024)

But if you want to take a dig at Playstation, it doesnt seem like PSVR2 did very well, nor are they themselves willing to support it.

  • 0
Random_Matt Qwark (on 03 January 2024)

VR is a flop, end of. Sony and Valve should work together.

  • -1
Manlytears Darashiva (on 04 March 2024)

I don't get It... Why you didn't Just delete the Sony part??

  • 0
Darashiva Manlytears (on 04 March 2024)

Because the point still stands, ownership of digital content is a huge question mark, and just because Sony pulled back the decision this time doesn't mean that's going to be the case the next time something like this happens.

  • 0
Manlytears Darashiva (on 04 March 2024)

But It's not even game related, and It didn't happen in the end... It's like pointing at someone and saying "he committed the crime, but apparently not... he could still commit the crime, so I will continue to point only at him and ignore everyone else, regardless of their past pratices...."
I kinda see your point... but i disagree, but i can see It.

Anyway , thanks for coming here and replying on such old article.

  • 0
hellobion2 (on 08 January 2024)

The end of the beginning

  • 0
LivncA_Dis3 (on 03 January 2024)

Biggest loser is Activision with mod warfare 3 sucking as f*ck and bobby rushing it's release!

Thank the heavens they took him out

  • 0
Mnementh (on 01 January 2024)

Sorry Darashiva, thanks for the piece, but why do I have to see one of the stupidiest takes in gaming all year to be repeated here. I am talking about: "Asking all other developers to follow suit is simply not realistic or even fair. As excellent as it is, Baldur's Gate III is, and will largely remain, an anomaly within the video game industry."

You say what was going right for Larian (and every successful project has things going right to some degree), but fail to mention what was going wrong for them, and it was quite some stuff, not at least some of their team being affected by a stupid war and had to fear for their life.

You say we can't expect from other devs the same, but that is exactly the way how an art form develops: that an outstanding work shifts the view on what is possible. Sure, not everyone can be a Picasso. But every artist should try to be, should try their best to push the envelope. If you don't ask devs for that, you degrade games to purely products, produced at mass scale. As it is enough people don't see games as art, we shouldn't support their case by making such declarations.

Baldur's Gate will only stay an anomaly, if we allow the suits to keep ruining gaming for everyone. What was an anomaly is only the fact, that creative freedom was prioritized over profit goals. Good games need good working environments and good motivations for workers that believe in the work they do instead of following orders of the business level for more predatory tactics.

  • -1
Darashiva Mnementh (on 02 January 2024)

Well, that's exactly the thing. As you said "What was an anomaly is only the fact, that creative freedom was prioritized over profit goals. Good games need good working environments and good motivations for workers that believe in the work they do instead of following orders of the business level for more predatory tactics."

The sad reality in much of the industry is that an environment like that simply doesn't exist for many of the people working in it. Sure, every year you'll see some exceptions like Baldur's Gate III, and it's awesome that they exist, but it's simply not the reality for many. I would imagine that most people working on video games want to do their best and create something amazing, but whether due to rushed schedules, unrealistic demands from publishers, or whatever else, they are not always given the chance to do so.

And it's not just about making good games, those can come from even horrible working environments as we've seen far too many times over the years. What made Baldur's Gate III special is that not only was the game amazing by most accounts, but it was achieved without driving the studio's workers to burnout and exhaustion.

  • 0
Mnementh Darashiva (on 02 January 2024)

And we shrug and give in? No, we should demand the quality of games of Baldur's Gate and we should demand companies to provide their workers with the conditions to produce this quality. That is the only way we make progress.

What boggles my mind is, that some devs practically begged in this thread to be abused and crunched to create predatory games: don't expect anything else.

Not all though, some devs said that players should expect more and game devs should strive for more and learn from the best.

And I say: the devs should demand the conditions to create great and we as gamers should support them in that. But the neoliberal fairy tale is, that all this shit is inevitable. But it is not. We should fight it, not give in.

  • +1
Darashiva Mnementh (on 02 January 2024)

Of course we should. I wholly agree with you that the environment in which BGIII was created should be the norm within the whole industry. In fact, it should be the baseline rather than some ideal to strive for. The better the workers' work condition, the better the industry is in general.

I hate how some people believe that crunch and unreasonable working hours just need to be accepted because that's how games have always been made. Things have been getting incrementally better in recent years, but we're still a long way from actually good.

  • +3
hellobion2 Darashiva (on 08 January 2024)

I agree bg3 development should be the baseline

  • 0
DekutheEvilClown Mnementh (on 02 January 2024)

The part you’re overlooking is that Larian is a studio of 450(this is more than the number of insomniac employees assigned to Spider-man 2) people and they worked on BG3 for 6 years, that is completely unfeasible for most companies.

BG3 isn’t simply just well made but the core of game is built upon millions of man hours of work. Vast swathes of content with multiple outcomes and “174 hours of cinematics” to cover all these scenarios and outcomes. Every single facet of the game is handled in incredible detail and depth because they had the resources to do so.

Being good at making games can’t let you shortcut your way to these outcomes. It’s not even just about the amount of resources available, it’s also about how achievable those resources are for most companies. Larian’s high employee count means they are very likely paying per employee much much less than most studios, probably due to location and the fact it wasn’t a massively successful studio beforehand. So most studios can never match those resources even with the same amount of investment.

To put it into context how much resources Larian had relative to a big AAA studio in an expensive
Location(important for recruiting staff in more competitive markets). From the insomniac leaks we know that the average per employee cost(salary, bonuses, perks, office space, equipment, licenses etc.) of Insomniac employees assigned to Spider-man 2 was around $20k per month per employee. That works out at over $200k per employee per year, so spider-man 2’s 300 workforce is over $60 million a year at peak, this is why we end up with a $300m game.

If Larian was paying that amount the game would be almost $600m. Obviously they didn’t pay anything like that(although i think people would be shocked at just how expensive the game is, probably a comparable development to Cyberpunk 2077).

So to make a game with the size and scope of BG3 we’re looking at need hundreds of millions and also being based in a place like a European country with a less competitive game industry or maybe some emerging economy in Asia or somewhere.

  • +3
Mnementh DekutheEvilClown (on 02 January 2024)

Oh, so you bring up the resource argument. Thing is though, in 2023 alone in the RPG genre alone three other titles were released with similar resources at their disposal: Starfield form Bethesda, Diablo IV from Blizzard and Final Fantasy XVI from SquareEnix. The twitter thread and the above article called BG3 an "anomaly". One of four games in the same genre in the same year matching these resources is far from anomalous.

To make it even more relevant: Larian Studios was nowhere near in the situation to command resources similar to Bethesda, Blizzard or SquareEnix (maybe now, but that is a big maybe). They could maybe sign a publisher contract. The contract probably wouldn't have worked: ask a publisher even in 2022 for a project which attempts to make a complex turn-based strategic RPG with a party of player controlled characters and many player choices. The publisher would've laughed and said: sure, make it an action RPG, with a single player controlled character and reduce player choices to the ability to unlock six different endings. Larian instead went to the fans in an early access period to fund development. That was a risky choice, that worked out. Hardly an anomaly either though, some of the best releases of 2023 used early access: 20 minutes till dawn and Against the Storm. So ya'll need to learn what the word anomaly means. The silly part is, that the band-aid early access for the budgetal disadvantage Larian had was actually named as an advantage in the Twitter-thread.

The resource argument looks even more silly, if you look at the whole picture. The whole picture is that Larian didn't came from a void, they were founded in 1996 with the explicit goal to make cool RPGs. Their first own game (not contracted work) was Divine Divinity. Just Google it, to see screenshots and gameplay. It has some core you will find in Baldur's Gate 3, but I doubt many people will put it on their "best game of all time" lists. And they could have sit back and said: let's not have unrealistic standards, this is what you can expect. But they didn't. Instead they kept improving, kept reaching for more. They also could've sold at any point to big publishers and their ideas (and being laid off a year later as it goes these days). But they didn't, they grew on their own. Even then, the resources you mention were not in reach for Larian, and they could've said: don't expect a game from us with the scope of Starfield or Skyrim, we aren't Bethesda. But they didn't, as I said above, they asked the players for money in early access. What we need to realize is: Baldur's Gate 3 wouldn't exist at all, Larian would not even close, if Larian had settled and said that players shouldn't expect more.

And they are not alone. From Software once had King's Field and they could've said: realistically - that is what you can expect from us. But they kept pushing for more and out came Elden Ring. And look around, for a lot of the great games it is the same story - seldomly it is raw talent gets poured money on to make the perfect game, instead it often is a decade long struggle to get there. All these great games wouldn't exist, had their creators at any point decided, that they shouldn't reach for unrealistic standards.

There would one sort of game exist though: the publishers wet dreams. As they pay for it and when the game devs settle for "what they can realistically do" all the games we see would be microtransaction riddled, loot boxy gacha games with NFTs. Luckily a lot of game devs actually reject the notion of the twitter thread earlier this year which is replicated in the article. Have their dream projects impossible hurdles to climb? Sure, but they try anyways, going as far as they can. And in that offer some artistic value in a gaming world that otherwise would dominated by predatory tactics (because that seriously makes the most money).

We all can help these game devs trying to go for impossible standards and becoming the next "anomaly". Stop supporting the predatory stuff. A game created under crunch, with loot boxes, microtransactions or other such stuff, just skip them. Instead look for the first or second steps of game developers that one day want to be a Larian themself. That dream big. I mentioned 20 minutes till dawn and Against the Storm from this year. But also Hades, Vampire Survivors, Rise to Ruins, Odd World, Factorio, Oxygen not Included and so on from previous years. Or I hear great things about Pizza Tower, Dredge and Dave the Diver, which I haven't had the time yet to check out.

Support these teams to dream big and bigger. Let's dream with them. And reject the notion Baldur's Gate 3 was impossible. Because obviously it wasn't. Reject that notion, reject the big publisher bullshit, embrace indies and help them grow and we will see more and more Elden Rings and Baldur's Gates. Because most game devs want to make such good games. Let not discourage them by telling them these goals are unachievable, they should give up now, should sit back and work in a game factory on new battle pass skins.

  • -1
DekutheEvilClown Mnementh (on 02 January 2024)

Ambition and dreaming big is all well and good but at the end of the day a 450 man 6 year development would be a $300-600m budget for most studios. The maths just don’t check out for 95% of studios. How Larian even managed this is completely unknown. It does beg the question how much the average Larian Employee is actually getting paid.

  • 0
DekutheEvilClown Mnementh (on 03 January 2024)

Btw FromSoftware is known for crunch and only pays overtime when staff stay beyond midnight and at half the hourly rate(yes, half, not double)

A look into their salaries revealed they were low. This is part of how these companies can make these massive games.

“ Salary Explorer reports the monthly average salary in Japanese game development ranges from ¥231,000 ($1,675) to ¥735,000 ($5,328). By comparison, recent roles advertised at From Software all start "from ¥220,000 ($1,595)" per month.

It's worth taking into context that monthly rent in Tokyo averages around ¥203,730 ($1,477) for a single bed apartment while the cost of living hovers around ¥138,984 ($1,008). These no doubt factor in to staff dissatisfaction with salaries.

With the immediate success of Elden Ring, publisher Bandai Namco announced in February that it would be raising salaries "by an average of ¥50,000 ($362) per month for all employees." Moreover, base monthly salaries would increase "from the previous ¥232,000 ($1,681) to ¥290,000 ($2,101)."

With all its current roles advertised at the same ¥220,000 base rate, there is no sign that From Software intends to do the same.”

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firebush03 Mnementh (on 03 January 2024)

dude chill lmao. nothing about video games is serious enough to need seven paragraphs.

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Draconidas (on 02 January 2024)

The "The Silly Backlash to Sexual and Gender Minorities' Presence in Games" isn't silly. Some people are tired of the sex and gender obsession.

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Mnementh Draconidas (on 02 January 2024)

Yes it is silly. Just play other games, it isn't like you have no choice. And it gets even more silly if it is about player choices. Just choose straight cis whatever for your character and you are golden. It is not like any game is closing off that option.

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Draconidas Mnementh (on 02 January 2024)
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