The studio announced plans to "take a break, recharge, and recover" in a blog post Sunday, Sept. 24.
The Chinese Room Is Going To Take A Break
Plans to "go dark," or to go temporarily inactive, that is, has apparently been planned since early 2017, according to The Chinese Room. Dan Pinchbeck, the studio's creative designer, received a health scare in June, which, despite it being non-life-threatening, convinced the studio to reflect about the future.
The Chinese Room is a small indie studio, and being one is risky. Not only are they often lacking in tools, research, and development power bigger companies can afford, but players also expect them to create games that'll rival million-dollar-budget titles. To keep their ship afloat, indie game companies pitch and negotiate to land projects even before their in-current-development titles are released.
The Chinese Room contemplated plans to take a break right near the end of development for So Let Us Melt, but before this the developers had already pitched to and negotiated with companies to secure a follow-up project. Financial pressures, the struggle to keep the team afloat, end-of-development exhaustion — these all hurt the company to the point where the situation simply wasn't sustainable.
"So we let our team go. Lay-offs are never pleasant, particularly when you're all trying to wrap a game," wrote Pinchbeck.
But Wait, The Chinese Room Isn't Exactly Shutting Down
But Pinchbeck noted that The Chinese Room isn't going anywhere. Its games will continue to be on sale, in addition to the merchandise and soundtracks. Also, the Dear Esther tour is still happening. The studio will remain in conversation with fans and continue its Twitter presence. But it'll be less active than before.
While there's no fully active development team at this time, there are still a couple of titles in the works: The 13th Interior, which is being pushed forward until it's developed enough to require a full team, and Little Orpheus, which could enter prototyping by the end of the year.
Hopefully The Chinese Room goes ahead with those projects, because truth be told, indie games are the hidden gems of gaming, often offering unique and rich experiences absent on games from bigger companies.
"[I]t's the end of a chapter, and we hope you can all be patient with us whilst we figure out what happens next," wrote Pinchbeck.