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Manor Lords publisher rejects early access concerns as “distorted”

Responding to a criticism of its early access development, the publisher of Steam strategy game Manor Lords says it's been a great success.

Manor Lords early access is a success, publisher says, warning of dangerous expectations - A red-robed figure walks through the streets of a snow-covered medieval village.

By all accounts, medieval Steam city-building game Manor Lords can be considered one of the big successes of 2024. It might not have soared to quite the highs of Palworld, Helldivers 2, or free games like The First Descendant, but it’s tough to complain about two million sales in its first three weeks, a peak player count of 173,000, and a very positive Steam review score of 88% across more than 43,000 user responses. Responding to a criticism of the game’s early access launch, its publisher Hooded Horse says the team is “thrilled beyond belief” with its performance so far.

Hooded Horse CEO Tim Bender takes to LinkedIn to respond to a claim that Manor Lords is “a case study in the pitfalls of early access development.” The original post points to a slow rollout of updates for the city-building strategy game, claiming that “early access is a marathon, and when you launch you need to have your next major content expansion pretty much in the queue.”

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“This is exactly the kind of distorted endless growth/burden of expectations/line must go up perspective that causes so much trouble in the game industry,” Bender writes in response. He points to the game’s sales, which include 250,000 copies in the last month on top of its initial success (and despite its availability on Game Pass), its excellent user review score, and a median playtime of nearly nine hours per player – an impressive count, especially for a relatively new release.

“Players are happy, the developer is happy, and we as the publisher are thrilled beyond belief,” he continues. “Before the release, I had a chat with Manor Lords’ dev. I told him that after release, he was going to hear from all sorts of commenters talking about missed opportunities because he failed to grow as fast as they wanted, and judging the game a failure by some kind of expectation they formed.”

“I told him to ignore all that – to 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 – for both his own health and stress levels over the coming years and for preserving the state of calm and peaceful mind that supports his creative vision.”

Since launch, Slavic Magic, led primarily by developer Greg Styczeń, has continued to roll out updates and bug fixes. The team regularly polls the community on big decision points – from potential reworks to the economy to whether it should remove rude-sounding but historically accurate NPC names – and often offers a range of options to best deliver solutions that players are happy with.

Manor Lords - An overview of a small villague surrounded by forests.

“If this industry is to find a more sustainable path forward, we need to move away from takes like the below,” Bender says of the original post. “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.”

If you’re one of the many who have picked it up or are playing via PC Game Pass, our Manor Lords beginners guide is a great place to start, and we’re also here to help you learn how Manor Lords trade works.

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