Layoffs at The Chinese Room as Dear Esther creator 'goes dark'

"Between financial pressures, trying to keep the lights on for the employed team, the stress of end-of-development, and health issues, it just wasn’t a tenable thing anymore."

UK studio The Chinese Room had laid off the majority of its team as the Dear Esther and Everybody's Gone to the Rapture maker prepares to temporarily 'go dark.'

Company co-founder Dan Pinchbeck broke the news in a blog post, where he explained that a combination of financial, development, and health-related issues created an untenable, unsustainable situation. 

"This has been on the cards since earlier this year. Back in June, I had a health scare -- nothing life-threatening -- but enough to pull me up short and make us have a serious think about things," he wrote.

'This was right at the tail end of development on So Let Us Melt, following a long period of ongoing pitches and negotiations to secure the follow-up project for the studio.

"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."

Although the studio is winding down for the time being, Pinchbeck stressed this isn't the end of the journey, but rather "the end of the a chapter." 

Things are still ticking over behind closed doors, where Pinchbeck, fellow co-founder Jessica Curry, and lead designer Andrew Crawshaw continue to plug away at projects. 

"The games are still on sale, merch, soundtracks, the Dear Esther tour, all of that. We’ll keep things gently ticking over: talking to fans, being on Twitter, the usual stuff, just… less. 

"We're still making The 13th Interior (formerly Total Dark) -- me and Andrew and Jess, pushing that forwards until it’s ready to throw a whole team at -- and we've got plans (and funding) to go into a prototype period on Little Orpheus at the end of the year. So we’ll still be about, just not a fully active development team for the time being."

Beyond that, Pinchbeck also hopes the break will give himself and Curry time to figure out how to become creators again. 

In a candid assessment of The Chinese Room's journey from small-time indie to full-fledged studio, Pinchbeck explained the business grew faster than he and Curry planned. 

While that gave them the chance to work on all manner of projects with friends and fellow creators, it also forced the pair to step back from the front lines of development and take up managerial roles.

"We're taking time to figure that out; how we get to be creatives, not managing directors," finished Pinchbeck.

"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.

"We've always been proud of being open and honest about everything, so take this, and the interview tomorrow as just that. An honest reflection of where we’re at and what we want and need to do next."

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