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News video games 09 January 2024, 02:45

author: Adrian Werner

RPG Veterans Explain How Stores Contributed to Death of Isometric RPGs

Veterans Josh Sawyer and David Gaider talked about what they believe led to the disappearance of isometric 2D RPGs on PC for a long time.

Source: BioWare

At the beginning of this century, the PC market experienced a collapse in the category of isometric 2D RPGs. It was even stranger because just a moment earlier, Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, released in 2000, had triumphed. Two veterans of Black Isle and BioWare from that period tried to answer the question of what led to this collapse.

  1. The thread on X was started by Josh Sawyer, who worked on the Icewind Dale series, and later, at Obsidian, he was the main designer behind, e.g. Fallout: New Vegas. He claims that stores were responsible for the downfall of isometric RPGs.
  2. As Sawyer explains, the approach of store managers has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. After the 3D game Neverwinter Nights debuted, many people thought that 2D RPGs were done for. As a result, they started ordering significantly fewer copies of this type of games. Their modest presence on the shelves caused a noticeable drop in sales, and shopkeepers could pat themselves on the back, thinking they had accurately predicted a trend, when in reality they were the ones who caused it.

As a result, the last major isometric RPG with 2D graphics was 2003's Greyhawk: The Temple of Elemental Evil. The genre was revived only when digital distribution flourished, and Sawyer himself played a key role in the return of this type of games, thanks to the successful kickstarter of the first Pillars of Eternity.

  1. Sawyer claims that he has repeatedly heard various bigwigs from the retail industry declare a certain category as "dead" despite the lack of any data that would back this claim. The Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale series sold very well, and yet stores decided that there was no need for more games of this type.
  2. David Gaider, the main screenwriter of many classic BioWare games, including the Dragon Age series, joined the conversation. He claims that the blame for such a state of affairs was not solely borne by those managing the stores. According to him, often the developers themselves believed that a certain category made no sense and they stuck to this belief for a long time, until finally someone achieved success with a game of this type, showing that the belief was mistaken.

The successes of the kickstarters for Torment: Tides of Numenera and games from the Pillars of Eternity and Shadowrun series have shown that the demand for games of this type has not disappeared. This type of gameplay, although transferred to 3D, is also present in Baldur's Gate 3, which turned out to be one of the biggest hits of last year. In the era of digital distribution, shelf space in stores is no longer limited, which enables many genres previously considered "dead" to still receive worthy new productions.

Adrian Werner

Adrian Werner

A true veteran of the Gamepressure newsroom, writing continuously since 2009 and still not having enough. He caught the gaming bug thanks to playing on his friend's ZX Spectrum. Then he switched to his own Commodore 64, and after a short adventure with 16-bit consoles, he forever entrusted his heart to PC games. A fan of niche productions, especially adventure games, RPGs and games of the immersive sim genre, as well as a mod enthusiast. Apart from games, he devourers stories in every form - books, series, movies, and comics.