Manor Lords publisher argues "not every game" needs to be a live-service, and developers should never be "forced to run until their mental or physical health breaks down"

Manor Lords screenshot showing medieval-style farm fields featuring autumn-esque colouring
(Image credit: Slavic Magic)

Hooded Horse's CEO Tim Bender, who runs publishing duties on several strategy-focused games including Manor Lords, has come out against the idea that every game needs to keep players perpetually hooked with post-launch plans à la a live-service.

In response to a LinkedIn post that claims "Manor Lords is a pretty interesting case-study in the pitfalls of Early Access development when a game with a small team (and heavily marketed as such) hits the reality of a hungry audience" - pointing to the game's falling concurrent player numbers - Tim Bender argues 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." (Good spot, Eurogamer.)

"Manor Lords just sold 250,000 copies in the last month — after selling over 2 million copies in its first 3 weeks — and has a Very Positive review rating of 88% with a median playtime of 8 hours 48 minutes per player (very long for any game, especially a recently released one)," Bender continues. "Players are happy, the developer is happy, and we as publisher are thrilled beyond belief."

Bender then points out that one of Manor Lords' first patch notes exceeded 3000 words and, regardless of the post-launch support or lack thereof, there's nothing wrong with people "enjoying their purchase of a premium, single-player title" before jumping into another. "(The horror! The horror!)," Bender jokes.

"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," Bender notes.

The Hooded Horse boss recently said that publishers shouldn't be judged on their biggest successes, but on how they react to fumbles. In an age where big publishers are chasing endless growth and the "high-impact titles" while cutting studios and employees, Bender's comments are more than welcome.

Manor Lords publisher shouts out benefit of letting developers cook as its bug-themed RTS and Soviet city-builder launch to rave reviews after up to 8 years in early access.

Freelance contributor

Kaan freelances for various websites including Rock Paper Shotgun, Eurogamer, and this one, Gamesradar. He particularly enjoys writing about spooky indies, throwback RPGs, and anything that's vaguely silly. Also has an English Literature and Film Studies degree that he'll soon forget.