After a successful Kickstarter, Hinterland Games released hardcore survival game The Long Dark via Early Access in 2014, hitting version 1.0 in 2017. It's continued receiving free updates since, both to its episodic story mode Wintermute and its survival mode, but as director Raphael van Lierop explains in this month's developer diary (opens in new tab), that's going to change.
While previously The Long Dark's survival updates had to be be limited in scope due to both modes being connected, the team has been working since the release of episode four to decouple them. That work is now complete, making more significant additions to survival mode possible—though not for free.
"Last year we ran a community poll," van Lierop writes, "asking how you would like us to dedicate our focus for the future of The Long Dark. Amongst other bits of useful feedback, we discovered that nearly 80% of you wanted us to begin producing paid expansion content for Survival Mode."
The Long Dark's first paid update, which van Lierop describes as resembling a season pass, will be out later this year: "It'll be some kind of 'season pass'-type approach (actual name TBD), where we have a ~15-18 month campaign of updates that unlock for anyone who has purchased the pass." Over the course of that campaign, buyers will receive "a combination of content and gameplay system updates, including new regions, new challenges, new mechanics, etc., as well as general improvements and updates to core systems in the game."
Those who'd rather not buy a season pass will have access to the updates after the campaign ends, when they'll be repackaged as three or four separate paid DLCs. Free updates will continue as well. "These updates will generally be smaller," van Lierop explains, "more modest improvements compared to what you will see being added to the paid content stream, which seems only fair."
At the same time, van Lierop is stepping down from his role as project lead on The Long Dark. Katie Sorrell, lead designer of the story episodes and designer of new regions added from Pleasant Valley on, will be taking over. "My final hands-on contribution to The Long Dark is the script for Episode Five," van Lierop writes, "where the WINTERMUTE story is brought to its conclusion." He'll still be creative director, and will "always have a hand in reviewing and guiding the experiences we make, so this doesn't mean I won't still look at every bit of The Long Dark that goes out the door to you."
Anyone who owns The Long Dark will still receive episode five for free whenever it's finished, and the plan is for paid updates to begin in the second half of 2022.