As a Kickstarter backer there are few things more annoying to me than a developer ditching their backers. Delays, broken promises, and cancellations don’t leave me awake at night since I understand that those things happen regardless of whether developers get their money from publishers, or Kickstarter backers. However, developers ditching the people that helped get their game off the ground really bothers me. A developer not updating backers is like a big-name studio cutting off communication with the publisher paying for their games development. In what world would that be ok?
That brings me to wilderness survival sim The Long Dark from the team at Hinterland Studio. From the time The Long Dark Kickstarter launched on September 16th 2013 until the time the campaign closed on October 16th 2013 the developers raised $256,218 CAD and posted 29 backer updates. To break it down a bit more, in September 2013 Hinterland posted 15 updates and made 136 comments, in October they posted 18 updates and 195 comments. That’s a ton of engagement. Now let’s look at Hinterlands’ engagement with backers post-campaign; keeping in mind that updates and comments slow down significantly once a Kickstarter campaign concludes.
See all those flat spots? Those are months of zero engagement with Kickstarter backers on the part of Hinterland. One campaign update in the past 12 months? That’s pretty appalling.
Am I saying that Hinterland took off with all the money? Not at all, in fact since launching The Long Dark on Steam Early Access in September 2014 they’ve been updating folks over there constantly; 74 times total, and 46 times in 2015 alone. Hinterland also remains very active on their official website and community forums.
In comparing the Kickstarter chart above to the Early Access activity it’s plain to me that Hinterland has effectively moved on from their Kickstarter backers to their Early Access customers. From a cynical business standpoint this makes sense: the Kickstarter money has already been delivered, while Early Access cash still needs to be earned.
The whole situation is a shame though. As a backer I’ve already received my Early Access key and wrinkled poster, but I’m still waiting on a number of features. Unfortunately as someone who has backed quite a few campaigns I don’t have time or energy to track down updates on The Long Dark (or any other games I back), that’s the entire point of Kickstarter backer updates.
Hinterland doesn’t need to post Kickstarter updates as regularly as they post to their Steam page, but at least one every few months would be great. Responding to some backers comments from time to time couldn’t hurt either! As it stands now Hinterland appears to be dutifully continuing development of an already amazing game and updating one segment of their customer base as they go along, unfortunately the folks that were with them from the beginning are being left in the dark.
Update – 10/7/15
Raphael van Lierop of Hinterland Games has sent along the following response to the above piece.
“Our community is at the heart of everything we do at Hinterland, and in the 2 years since we ran our Kickstarter campaign for The Long Dark, the vast majority of our ~7000 backers have joined the 450,000 other players of The Long Dark in getting project updates on Steam, social media, our official forums, our website, mailing list, etc. Kickstarter isn’t the primary communication channel we use to communicate with backers anymore (and hasn’t been for a while), because we don’t segregate backers from the rest of our community, but we are highly active in communicating game progress and there’s no reason any of them should feel “left in the dark”. If anything, their numbers have been amplified massively, and their initial support of our game has blossomed into a groundswell that has ensured The Long Dark has a chance to live up to our grand ambitions.”