Chances are you haven’t heard of Dread Hunger despite it being one of the biggest games in the world right now.
A cocktail of Among Us-esque social deduction amidst the ticking clock scare of a survival game, the game has quietly amassed a huge player base, to the point where it’s been in and around the top 10 most played games of the world for well over a month Steam is. This success was so big and so sudden that the Dread Hunger development team had to re-prioritize development to meet demand.
While it was available for months in Early Access, where Dread Hunger averaged a few hundred players at a time, the game rocketed to success around its official release in January, climbing to more than 100,000 players, one million copies sold and rubbing shoulders with Grand Theft Auto V and Elden Ring on Steam’s top ten concurrent player list.
"The rise in popularity was totally unexpected but extremely exciting"said Romy Gellen, Marketing and Communications Coordinator. "We were thrilled to see the hype building and people discovering our game as we neared full release."
Dread Hunger is a survival game that asks eight players to sail their ship through the 19th Century Arctic, stopping and walking in search of fuel, food and other resources. While this is difficult enough in itself, two of the players become corrupted by evil forces and begin secretly sabotaging the group.
The mix of deception and survival gameplay clearly worked, but popularity brought challenges, primarily in the form of cyberattacks, which the team behind Dread Hunger – made up of about eight people working together between developers Digital Confectioners and Slowdrive Studios – forced to refocus their resources.
"The biggest challenge we faced was DDoS attacks and the need to strengthen our infrastructure," Gellen added. "But that’s what happens when you grow up – you become a target – it shows that we have to do something right."
While the Dread Hunger team believes they have these attacks under control now, the need to strengthen their digital defenses has meant that new content releases have been put on hold.
"A heavy focus on infrastructure as well as anti-cheat has historically taken precedence over new content while" said Gellen. "We’d love to work on new content, but obviously cheating and server downs mean you won’t be able to play the game at all, so you’ll need to tackle the major ones as soon as possible.
"We’re over the moon with the growth that Dread Hunger has seen, so right now we’re looking to improve the experience for our dedicated players. We feel like we have these issues pretty well under control now, so we look forward to releasing new content as soon as possible."
This content is outlined in the Dread Hunger 2022 roadmap, which promises new prestige tiers and cosmetic types are on the way soon, while larger additions such as a new zone, ship customization options, and spells are planned for later in the year.
Additionally, given the unpredictability of Dread Hunger and the amount of unexpected work it has required so far, the developers have no further updates planned.
"We have a roadmap that stretches out to 2022 and beyond that anything could happen," said Gellen. "As a small team we try to keep our heads down and work hard on the roadmap content so we don’t have much time to plan further ahead."
That’s not to say the team haven’t been thinking about the future, and while nothing’s confirmed yet, they’ve already considered moving it beyond PC. "We’d like to consider exploring consoles at some point so everyone can enjoy Dread Hunger regardless of platform." said Gellen.
With so much going on, it’s not surprising that the Dread Hunger team is only focused on getting the day-to-day work done, but Gellen made it clear that despite the challenges, it was overall a great experience.
"It was very enlightening and taught us a lot" he said, and it was humiliating too "especially when players go that little bit further and create their own creations such as cosplays, fanart, and fanfiction. That was a real highlight for us."
The team has been through a lot in the past three months, struggling to survive even amidst cyber attacks and the pressures of a booming player base. But now the storm is hopefully over and Dread Hunger’s ship can be steered through calm waters again – albeit with significantly more fans on board.
Ryan Dinsdale is an IGN freelancer who occasionally thinks about tweeting @thelastdinsdale. He’ll be talking about The Witcher all day.
https://www.ign.com/articles/dread-hunger-massive-success-content-roadmap-steam Dread Hunger became so unexpectedly massive on Steam that development had to be refocused