The Chinese Room released the ambient exploration game Dear Esther in 2012. Five years and several games later, co-founder Dan Pinchbeck says the studio will be pausing operations for the time being.
Pinchbeck announced the news via a post over at the company’s blog filed earlier today. In it he writes,
“There’s an interview coming out tomorrow in Eurogamer, where I talk at length about the ups and downs of being a small developer, and the challenges you face as a business-owner and employer as well as a game maker. It’s centred around the news that for the immediate future, we’re going dark as a studio.”
The rest of the staff were apparently laid off back in June around when development on the company’s latest project, a VR game called So Let Us Melt, was winding down. With that game now ready to ship, Pinchbeck decided it was time to announce the “end of a chapter” in The Chinese Room’s story. “Is it the end of The Chinese Room? No, I don’t think so,” he concludes the post, asking fans to be patient while he and those who were left toward the end figure out what to do next.
Dear Esther was the studio’s sleeper indie hit, coming out as a mod back in 2008, a year after The Chinese Room was formed. From there the group released Korsakovia, another mod, and eventually the survival horror game Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. The studio’s growing visibility and size culminated in Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, a 2015 exploration game created in collaboration with Santa Monica Studio. The release of that game and what The Chinese Room underwent to achieve it led co-founder Jessica Curry to depart the studio in 2015 due to the “toxic relationship” she described enduring in order to get Sony to publish the game.
That growing tension and apparent identity crisis has culminated in studio’s current soul searching with Pinchbeck writing, “[W]e’re makers, fundamentally, and our roles were increasingly making it very difficult to be practically involved in doing the things we love and we started the company to be able to do. We’re taking time to figure that out; how we get to be creatives, not managing directors.”