Layoffs At Everybody's Gone To The Rapture Dev, As Studio Plans To "Go Dark"
"Layoffs are never pleasant."
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The Chinese Room, the British studio known for games like Dear Esther, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, and Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, is facing an uncertain future, it seems. In a blog post, founder Dan Pinchbeck confirmed layoffs and said the studio is "going dark."
Pinchbeck said he had a non-life-threatening health issue in June, which gave him pause and led him and the team to "have a serious think about things." This happened at the end of the development of the studio's newest game, So Let Us Melt, and after a stressful-sounding time when the team was conducting game pitches and negotiations to sign a deal for a new game.
"To cut a long story short, the situation--between financial pressures, trying to keep the lights on for the employed team, the stress of end-of-development, health issues--just wasn't a tenable thing anymore. It was time to take a break, recharge, recover, and have a good think about the future," Pinchbeck said.
The result was that it was decided to lay off the development team. "So we let our team go," Pinchbeck said. "Layoffs are never pleasant, particularly when you're all trying to wrap a game. We did our best to try and help the team secure new positions, and then we all--the whole team--threw everything we had at wrapping the game. It didn't feel fair to anyone, least of all people who had spent a year working on a project, to have its completion and release overshadowed by news about the studio closing, so we've held off on the announcement until we felt we were clear of all of that."
Also in the blog post, Pinchbeck confirmed that The Chinese Room is not ending. This is only "a pause." The Chinese Room's games are staying on sale, as are things like merch and soundtracks, while Pinchbeck says the team will stay active on social media. Right now, it sounds like The Chinese Room is only three people. They are working on a game called 13th Interior (formerly known as Total Dark) and will bring on a bigger team when needed. Looking ahead, Pinchbeck said the studio has secured funding for a new game called Little Orpheus, and this project will go into the prototyping phase at the end of this year.
"So we'll still be about, just not a fully active development team for the time being," Pinchbeck said.
Pinchbeck also said the The Chinese Room grew faster than it intended. "We'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," Pinchbeck said. "We're taking time to figure that out; how we get to be creatives, not managing directors. That's a whole other job and skill set and lots of people do it really well and love doing it. But it's not for us--it just led to stress and burn-out and a desperate need to actually make stuff again--whether that’s art, music, games, writing. So this break is a chance to reconnect with all of that, and we figure we've earned that time."
"Is it the end of The Chinese Room? No, I don't think so. But it's the end of a chapter, and we hope you can all be patient with us whilst we figure out what happens next."
There will be a media story tomorrow (September 25) in which Pinchbeck says he will share further insight into the current sit The Chinese Room. Keep checking back for more.