Lots has been happening in August, in this roundup we're talking about Baldur's Gate 3, Starfield, and whether being featured in the biggest games events is worth it.
Baldur's Gate 3
August 2023 - otherwise known as the month my new favourite game of all time came out. I am, of course, talking about Baldur's Gate 3 - the CRPG that has taken over the internet and millions of players' hearts by the simply being....a really good game. I knew I was going to love it even before playing because this was a game lauded as the spiritual successor to Dragon Age: Origins (another incredible CRPG) and was being made by Larian Games (my favourite game developer). What I didn't know was just how magnificent the final product would be - it is an experience, more than a game. The love and care poured into every part of Baldur's Gate 3 by Larian has created an immersive world that is a joy to explore, characters that talk, move and feel like real people, freedom to roleplay any character you wish - all underpinned by the tried and tested game systems of Dungeons and Dragons.
All of that - and my favourite thing about it is the writing. From the ridiculously hilarious, to the bizzarrely grotesque - every inch of the world, every NPC, every item has a story to tell you if you're patient and curious enough to listen.
Finding treasure in a hard-to-reach area that's almost invisible from the well-trodden roads. Talking to an imperious cat to comment on their majesty (TALK TO ALL THE ANIMALS). Calling an annoying character a tw*t, before defeating him with a demon explosive. Watching your entire party (and several NPCs) wipe in seconds because you stood a little too close to a suspicious mushroom. Following clues in a journal you found by rummaging around, only to discover a legendary weapon. Using persuasion to defeat bosses without fighting.
This is Baldur's Gate 3 - and I love it.
Battle of the RPGs
There's been a lot of talk about Baldur's Gate 3 this month! Firstly, because it's so beloved, and a strong contender for Best Game of the Year. But it's also raised discussions about the power of the Xbox Series S, the value of AAA games, and more.
With such a cultural behemoth dominating the conversation, who would possibly want to launch another big RPG at a time like this? Enter, Bethesda.
Starfield is finally on the brink of release, and promises open world thrills for Xbox fans who like their roleplaying with a sci-fi slant. It's been a long road, and Microsoft, by their own admission, have struggled to release consistently great software for the Series X and S so far. No pressure then... Microsoft purchasing Bethesda was a big swing, and the release of Starfield will be the first major test of whether it has been money well spent. It comes as Microsoft have re-structured their proposed Activision deal, an even bigger acquisition that will see yet more big titles come under the Xbox banner. The new version will see the Cloud Streaming rights sold off to Ubisoft, in a bid to appease the CMA here in the UK.
Elsewhere, Charles Martinet has stepped down as the voice of Mario, after 27 years in the role. A new voice actor is expected to take up the mantle for Super Mario Bros. Wonder, due out in October.
Reviews have started pouring in for Starfield, the highly anticipated space RPG from Bethesda, which comes out worldwide on 6th September. Whilst the reviews are mostly positive, content creator and accessibility consultant Steve Saylor, who has worked with studios like Naughty Dog and Ubisoft, reviewed the game and found that it has a number of accessibility problems, including:
- Lack of customisable controls. The game does not allow players to remap buttons or change the control scheme, which can be a major problem for players with motor disabilities.
- Poor text-to-speech support. The game's text-to-speech feature is slow and inaccurate, making it difficult for players who are blind or visually impaired to play.
- No colourblind mode. The game does not have a colourblind mode, which can make it difficult for players with colourblindness to see important elements of the game.
- No difficulty settings. The game only has one difficulty setting, which can make it too difficult or too easy for some players.
Saylor also notes that Starfield has a few "okay" accessibility features, such as a centre dot that helps with motion sickness and high-contrast visuals when using the in-game scanner. However, these features are not enough to make the game accessible to a wide range of players.
Bethesda isn’t alone here. Many games, especially large open-world RPGs, have difficulty in this area. However, Starfield is a high-profile game from a major developer, and its accessibility problems are a reminder that the gaming industry still has a long way to go in terms of accessibility.
Is it worth being on the big stage?
Over the years, myself and the Etch Play team have been involved in numerous games announcements. Some as featured titles in events such as Opening Night Live and The Game Awards, some at smaller individual events such as the Humble Game Showcase, and others in a much quieter affair through their own channels and targeted PR buys.
They all have their merits, and there really is a no one size fits all strategy for announcing a game. Lots of factors come into play, such as budgets, where you are in the development process, who your publisher is if you're using one, if you're self publishing, the type of game you have, the list goes on and on.
With Gamescom having just ended, the team at Fancensus did some research into the value of being featured on Opening Night Live. You can check out their article over on gamesindustry.biz here for all of their findings. They have dug into the amount of press coverage games featured on the show got, compared to those that weren't, as well as doing some sentiment analysis across different countries following the show.
Ultimately, rather unsurprisingly, the short answer is, yes being featured is helpful. But as mentioned, it's not always suitable for everyone, and not everyone can run to that budget. The article also correctly mentions that although helpful, it isn't enough to rely on only that, there needs to be some meat on the bone for journalists to get a hold of and players to be interested in. Equally, if you're not on the big stage, that doesn't mean you're toast - it just means you need to utilise other mechanisms for gaining attention and have a different strategy. And that's part of the fun!
More Etch Play
If you enjoyed this roundup, why not check out the rest of our blog for previous editions and plenty of articles full of game marketing tips. If video is more your style then head over to TikTok or to the Etch Play YouTube channel where you'll find industry interviews, marketing discussions and good old gameplay.