The demise of isometric role-playing games (RPGs) can be partially attributed to the influence of retail companies such as Best Buy, Walmart, and GameStop. Industry veterans, including Josh Sawyer from Obsidian Entertainment, have shed light on how retailers’ decisions and forecasting practices led to a decline in the popularity of this genre in the early 2000s. These retailers often made sales forecasts based on subjective opinions and self-fulfilling prophecies, resulting in lowered stocks for isometric RPGs and subsequently lower sales.

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecies of Retailers

Josh Sawyer, renowned for his work on games like Fallout: New Vegas, Pentiment, and Pillar of Eternity, argues that retailers played a crucial role in the fate of isometric RPGs. He recalls instances where popular games like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale enjoyed significant sales, but once BioWare announced Neverwinter Nights, retailers declared that 2D isometric games were obsolete. Sawyer suggests that these decisions were often made by sales representatives with little to no supporting data, leading to reduced stocks and ultimately lower sales for isometric RPGs. The retailers’ reliance on vibes and assumptions rather than concrete evidence resulted in self-fulfilling prophecies that hindered the growth of the genre.

David Gaider, former lead writer at BioWare, offers another perspective on the decline of isometric RPGs. He highlights the presence of an “industry wisdom” that permeates development teams, causing certain game styles or genres to be declared as dead or outdated without valid justification. This mindset prevails until someone comes along and proves it wrong. Gaider suggests that this lack of opposition to commonly held beliefs further contributed to the decline of isometric RPGs. The industry’s collective dismissal of this genre as old-fashioned hindered its growth and innovation.

A Resurgence in Isometric RPGs

Despite the decline and difficulties faced by isometric RPGs, the genre has experienced a resurgence in recent years. The success of Baldur’s Gate 3, developed by Larian Studios, has breathed new life into isometric RPGs. Its triumph has given hope to other development teams and provided them with a reference point to pitch their own projects to publishers. As a result, developers now have a better chance of securing funding for unique and unconventional RPGs, driving further growth and diversification within the genre.

The resurgence of isometric RPGs, propounded by the success of Baldur’s Gate 3, signifies a promising future for the genre. Developers are now encouraged to explore new ideas, experiment with different gameplay mechanics, and challenge the traditional conventions established by other RPG subgenres. With the support of both players and publishers, isometric RPGs are poised to make a significant impact within the gaming industry, captivating a new generation of gamers and reinvigorating the love for this classic genre.

The decline of isometric RPGs can be partially attributed to the influence of retail companies and the subjective sales forecasts they employed. The industry’s tendency to prematurely declare certain genres as dead or outdated further hindered the genre’s growth. However, recent successes have sparked a resurgence in isometric RPGs, offering hope for a diverse and exciting future for this beloved genre.

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