Today Chucklefish is handing back the last of its Stardew Valley publishing duties to developer ConcernedApe. In a blog post announcing the move, the UK-based publisher praised ConcernedApe's Eric Barone, and detailed how their publishing agreement evolved as Stardew Valley's popularity rapidly ballooned.
Now that Stardew Valley is entirely being self-published, it'll definitely be worth watching how the game is managed, especially with ConcernedApe working on another original title.
However, there's something else that's curious about Chucklefish's blog. ConcernedApe founder Eric Barone publicly distanced himself from Chucklefish in 2019, after the publisher found itself under fire for alleged use of unpaid labor on games like Starbound.
Not only did the normally reclusive Barone go out of his way to explain that Stardew Valley did not have any unpaid contributors, he also specified that Chucklefish had little direct involvement in the game's development. He noted that Chucklefish was only publishing the game's mobile version at the time, and that one Chucklefish employee had created the netcode for Stardew Valley's multiplayer update.
Barone did speak more positively of Chucklefish just a few months prior when he made the jump to self-publishing.
Chucklefish's departure note (written by chief operating officer Donna Orlowski) doesn't contradict Barone's blog post, but it sure seems to be a last shot at explaining what is responsible for in Stardew Valley's success.
Orlowski laid out the "joint achievements" of Chucklefish's partnership with ConcernedApe, which included new languages for the game, developing the wiki, implementing the aforementioned multiplayer, supporting console and mobile releases, and releasing physical editions and merchandise for the game.
She also credited former employee Tom Coxon as the individual behind Stardew Valley's multiplayer netcode, and thanked developer Secret Police for its tech support and contributions to the mobile valley of Stardew Valley. Additionally, she thanked Sickhead Games' Tom Spillman for "all of the console porting work," and added a "thank-you" to Chucklefish's internal team for delivering publishing and community support.
Is there anything directly malicious or spiteful in this blog post? Not really. But we don't see a lot of messages like this when publishers release rights back to developers. Given Stardew Valley's semi-mythical status as a game "made by one person," it's notable to see a publisher list many of the names responsible for its commercial success.
In Chucklefish's defense, it's rare—almost impossible—to say exactly one person can develop a game, market it, and be solely responsible for its success. Giving credit to contributors is absolutely the right thing to do, it's just weird to see this from the company that faced credible accusations of not paying key contributors to Starbound.