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Manor Lords publisher doesn't think devs should be "forced to run on a treadmill until their mental or physical health breaks" just to regularly update a game

"Not every game should be aimed at becoming some live-service boom or bust."

Manor Lords screenshot of farm fields filled with growing vegetables, with people tending to the land.
Image credit: Hooded Horse

Manor Lords' publisher has defended the strategy game over a post that it thinks espouses an "endless growth" perspective "that causes so much trouble in the games industry."

Earlier this year, Manor Lords released into early access, and it did so very successfully, racking up two million copies sold in its first three weeks. But, like many early access games, buzz around it has died down a bit, in part because big updates haven't been released too frequently since its release. A post from The Long Dark developer Hinterland's CEO Raphael van Lierop appeared to criticise this very point on LinkedIn, saying that while they "really love what is here" there's "very little to it" and that it's a "pretty interesting case-study in the pitfalls of Early Access development."

Lierop continued, "It launched with a pretty strong base game but without much content. A heavily systems-centric game needs either a range of maps, game modes, or some amount of proc-gen dynamism to keep it fresh.

"Early Access is a marathon, and when you launch you need to have your next major content expansion pretty much in the queue. The game has been out for 2.5 months and there have been three fairly small patches with no new features or content. As such, I've put the game aside and don't expect to look at it again for another 6 months, at which point I'll probably be focused on playing something else. It's really hard to get people's attention back once you've lost it."

Tim Bender, CEO of Manor Lords' publisher Hooded Horse, disagreed with this stance though, responding on LinkedIn that this is "exactly the kind of distorted endless growth/burden of expectations/line must go up perspective that causes so much trouble in the games industry." Bender explained that prior to release they spoke with the Manor Lords devs, and that they were going to hear a lot about "missed opportunities," but that they should "ignore all that" and "focus on his core vision for the game, and to keep in mind that the Early Access road is long and that he should not feel any sense of pressure from the expectations of others."

Bender went on to note that "if this industry is to find a more sustainable path forward, we need to move away from takes like the below. Success should not create an ever raising bar of new growth expectations. Not every game should be aimed at becoming some live-service boom or bust. And a release should not begin an ever-accelerating treadmill on which devs are forced to run until their mental or physical health breaks down."

It's a great point to make, especially with how much pressure is placed on early access games, and it's nice to know that Manor Lords' publisher is supportive of more sustainable dev practices. So let's hope Manor Lords keeps taking it's time!

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