Baldur’s Gate 3 – Microsoft didn’t rate its chances (Picture: Larian Studios)

Microsoft is paying up to $300 million for games to be on Game Pass and yet its ability to pick the winners and losers is a bit off.

Right about now, Xbox HQ must be crawling with lawyers, furious that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has unwittingly released mountains of highly sensitive information online, including details of a mid-gen Xbox console, a next gen console, and attempts to buy Nintendo. [Update: it turns out that Microsoft accidently uploaded the documents, not the FTC – so, err… good luck on the job market to whoever pressed the wrong button there.]

As people dig through the files, more is being revealed almost every minute, with some of the juiciest details relating to Game Pass and how much it costs to have third party games on the service – and why Baldur’s Gate 3 isn’t one of them.

Ignoring the fact that Baldur’s Gate 3 isn’t actually available on Xbox yet – which couldn’t have been known at the time – it does appear amongst a list of third party games that Microsoft was considering adding to the service.

As can be seen from email exchanges between Xbox boss Phil Spencer and Xbox head of ecosystem Sarah Bond, there was concern that the delay of Starfield had created a large dent in the Game Pass line-up and it needed to be filled.

It was estimated it would cost $5 million to have Baldur’s Gate 3 on the service but it was roundly dismissed as a ‘second-run Stadia PC RPG.’ Which is embarrassing now, as it’s gone on to become the most critically acclaimed third party title of the generation.

It seems Microsoft had a hang-up about the game being first announced by Google Stadia but while it wasn’t a massive sales hit, Larian’s previous game, Destiny: Original Sin 2, was also a critical smash, so dismissing its follow-up in this way seems very short-sighted.

Although Spencer suggests using the Dark Souls trilogy to plug the gap left by Starfield, which was delayed multiple times, Bond came up with a variety of other suggestions and the email includes price estimates for how much it was likely to cost Microsoft to get them on Game Pass.

The most expensive is Star Wars Jedi: Survivor at a minimum of $300 million, which Microsoft admit to themselves EA would never do. Which is interesting because, since Survivor went on to become one of the best-selling games of this year, it creates an upper limit for what these deals cost.

The email was sent in May 2022, long before the disastrous State of Play featuring Suicide Squad, and so that game is still listed as costing $250 million. DC Comics stablemate Gotham Knights was down as worth only $30 million.

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Mortal Kombat 1 has a price tag of more than $250 million, Assassin’s Creed Mirage (or Rift as it was codenamed) was listed as $100 million, with Dying Light 2 at $50 million and Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga at $35 million.

GTA 5 is also mentioned as likely to cost Microsoft up to $15 million a month, with Red Dead Redemption 2 estimated at $5 million a month.

As you can see, Microsoft never went with any of the more expensive options but the fact that they were even considering them is telling. It also illustrates exactly what people mean when they say Sony cannot compete with Microsoft’s vast cash reserves, when it comes to services like Game Pass.

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