Stadia’s Success as a Serious Gaming Platform Rests on Baldur’s Gate 3

Stadia’s Success as a Serious Gaming Platform Rests on Baldur’s Gate 3
Photo: Ina Fassbender/AFP, Getty Images

Baldur’s Gate 3 is coming to PC and Stadia via early access on September 30, 2020, Larian Studios revealed today during a live stream. This marks the first time a major game will be released on Stadia at the same time as another major platform. Larian Studios’ enthusiasm for Stadia as a game development platform might have something to do with it. One huge reason why Baldur’s Gate 3 is coming to Stadia alongside PC is that the developer believes it’s easier to port a game like the large RPG from PC to Stadia than to an Xbox or PlayStation console. But not only that, Larin Studios has been quite vocal about the development tools Stadia offers, and what it can do with those tools that it wasn’t able to before on PC and console.

In today’s stream, the developers showed off something called Crowd Choice, something Larian Studios has talked about extensively before and is a feature exclusive to Stadia development tools at the moment. If someone is streaming Baldur’s Gate 3 and has the Crowd Choice option enabled, certain points in the game will trigger a pop-up poll in the chat window to let viewers cast their vote on what they think should happen. The most popular response will trigger that very thing to happen in the game. With this feature, viewers can affect the result of a dice roll, NPC dialogue, or even what sweet, sweet loot lies inside a locked chest.

It seems to have a lot of potential to not only influence how a YouTube or Twitch audience interacts with someone streaming Baldur’s Gate 3, but depending on the success of the feature, more developers might consider creating game mechanics around it, and turning it into a selling feature, as Larian Studios is attempting. That could not only mean more games available on Stadia, but maybe even same-day releases.

But all of this hinges on how well the Crowd Choice, and undoubtedly other features, are integrated into the game itself, and if Crowd Choice causes more gamers to opt for the Stadia version of Baldur’s Gate 3 over PC. After all, you can play Stadia for free, and if you play it on your PC, you don’t need to buy a Chromecast or a Stadia controller — just the game. Even if you already have a super tricked-out gaming rig, it might better to buy the Stadia version (if you have a good internet connection) just to try out Stadia’s Crowd Choice feature in a private stream with friends. The PC version of Baldur’s Gate 3 won’t have this feature — though it might have a way for players to see what decisions their friends are making in cooperative multiplayer. Doesn’t sound nearly as exciting.

If done well, this could also incentivise some developers to port their games over to Stadia. Games like Life is Strange, Man of Medan, Oxenfree, and other games with player-choice as a central mechanic I could see doing well with this Stadia feature. And if more developers start porting or making their games for Stadia, the larger library of games Stadia has to offer, and the more serious of a gaming platform it becomes.

But even if developer interest in Stadia grows after this, Google will have to start paying its developers more if it wants to build a larger library of games. There’s also that lingering fear that Google will abandon Stadia like it has abandoned other large projects in the past. But while Crowd Choice, won’t fundamentally change the game, its interesting enough to where — and I never thought I’d say this before, but here I go — I want to buy Baldur’s Gate 3 on Stadia instead PC.

Editor’s Note: Google Stadia is not currently available in Australia.