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.

thelongdarkupdates

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.”

 

Greg Micek

Greg Micek

Editor at Cliqist
Greg Micek has been writing on and off about games since the late nineties, always with a focus on indie games. He started DIYGames.com in 2000, which was one of the earliest gaming sites to focus exclusively on indie games.
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  • Dawnyaaa

    Greg..that is one of my crusade on KS.
    While being a backer is nice, some creators will make you honestly feel used.
    Either, without giving you any notice, or not giving all the rewards (aka Linux etc..or physical..).
    Or it’ll be as the kind Serena spoke off on FF article, they launch the game, lower the price..etc..
    There is so many different angle and exemple..that it is scary.

    What annoy me the most though and i don’t waste one opportunity to say it.
    It’s the fact of being ditch for Steam customers. If you’ve never interact with them..
    while there is probably some nice people..there is also in there some of the worst people i’ve ever met on the internet.

    They don’t mind insulting backers, saying they have no more right than them, asking for rewards..exclusive for backers who paid a good price for them..going as far as either boycott or petition the creator.

    Interacting with those people will make you regret ever backing a game, because they don’t feel any gratitude towards those that backed it. They just feel endorse like any 8y old kid to just get what they want when they want and screw others.

    Honestly, if one day i stop backing altogether it’ll probably be because of them.
    I know myself. I feel..confused already by contributing to the happiness and enjoyment
    of those types of lowlife jackasses.

    • Totally agree. Hinterland is definitely not as bad as many, but having to go to forums, twitter, steam, facebook or where ever is annoying and unnecessary. When we track MIA campaigns we have two classes. MIA1 and MIA2. An MIA1 is a campaign that’s completely disappeared on all levels. MIA2 campaigns are ones that have Kickstarters that are basically dead but update elsewhere. I think the distinction is important because some backers (me!) don’t want to track down status updates for the dozens or hundreds of campaigns they back across dozens (or hundreds) or channels.

      • Here’s my take on this. Back in 2012 when I only had a handful of projects backed I had no problems going to forums, checking on Facebook and Twitter, and the like. I had hundreds of posts in each (usually the big name Sierra ones). However, as I quickly reached triple digits it became harder to keep track of every single one. I like to have most of my news on Kickstarter these days because it’s more convenient. And I get e-mails when one is posted. I can’t be bothered to jump through hoops to get every little thing. I don’t mind updates being posted in several places as long as Kickstarter backers get updated at least once a month or so.

  • Holly

    Wait, so this is based on you wishing they’d update the KS page every once in awhile? Oh good lord. Put your big boy britches on and go home.

    • More than once a year would be great. As a backer whats your expectation?

      • Holly

        As a backer my expectation is that they deliver on what they promised, which Hinterland seems to be perfectly capable of doing without updating us on every detail on their Kickstarter page. I honestly think you’re being irresponsible, and a big whiner, making something out of nothing.

        • Snark aside, a respect where you’re coming from. Some people just have different expectations. To each their own! Hope you’re enjoying the game, it’s pretty awesome.

        • I’m not a backer of this game, but I’ve backed 260 projects (not all of them games). You can’t expect me to go searching through that many Web sites, forums, Steam, and all the various social media accounts on the hope that something important might have been posted. I much prefer to have at least the most important information given through a Kickstarter update because that’s where I put my hard earned money down. I’m not asking for the developers to tell me what they had for breakfast but I would like to be informed every now and then about the development.

          Also, for the record I happen to know plenty of people who hate…HATE…using Steam. I like using it but I also don’t follow all the thousand games that I have in my library either.

  • Josh Griffiths

    This campaign is nowhere near as bad as Republique.Funded in May 2012, and now in October 2015, they’ve only got three of the five episodes out. So far this year, other than the release date for PC, they’ve made 1 update back in June. Several people are still without their phyiscal rewards, which were promised by August, but nothing was ever announced and a lot of people are still saying they haven’t got anything yet.

    • Didn’t realize the Republique situation was that bad. Definitely going to look into that!

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