Trent Oster will be the first to tell you he owes much of his success to nostalgia. His game development studio is known for enhancing classic roleplaying games (RPGs) from the 90s after all. But did you know he also owes a debt of gratitude to the late Steve Jobs?
In 2009, Beamdog — now the largest independent game studio in Edmonton — was struggling to distinguish itself in an ever-crowded online gaming market. Firm believers in direct sales, Oster and his co-founder Cam Tofer set up a digital distribution platform similar to online PC-games retailer Steam. Despite more than 300 unique titles on offer, Beamdog barely had any sales. This was the same year the iPad launched.
“It’s a big iPhone,” Oster thought when news of the tablet broke. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
So naturally he bought one.
His opinion quickly changed. Not only was the tablet ideal for casually surfing the web or answering emails, but it was perfect for playing tactical RPGs similar to Baldur’s Gate, which Oster and Tofer both helped develop while working at BioWare.
“With a PC you can cook in three or four, maybe five hours of focused, intense gameplay,” Oster explains, “then you need a break. Whereas when you’re on your couch playing [on an iPad], you’re relaxing. You can set it down for a minute, come back. You can just engage in a different manner.”
The pair immediately started chasing down the rights to Baldur’s Gate, and a year later came away with a deal that would allow them to enhance five classic RPGs: Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate II, Icewind Dale, Planescape: Torment and Neverwinter Nights.
It’s taken years to fully take advantage of this deal. (The plan to make targeted, focused improvements was abandoned two weeks into enhancing Baldur’s Gate, when Tofer was forced to delete more than 300,000 words of code.) But the studio finally released its last Dungeons & Dragons title in 2018 — leaving fans to wonder what was next.