The Chinese Room, makers of Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, have temporarily closed their studio, laying off all of their staff in the process.
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In an interview with Eurogamer, co-director Dan Pinchbeck says that the costs of running the studio was the biggest factor in the decision to ‘go dark’. Those financial issues, however, stemmed from a decision to move away from the walking simulators that had made the studio its name and earned it a total of three BAFTAs.
Pinchbeck says “we’re done with doing walking sims and story stuff. We wanted to do something more complex, more involved and bigger scale. And that takes a long time to negotiate, which makes it difficult if you are coming to the end of a project, you're burning £35-40,000 a month, and you know you're probably looking at another five or six months worth of negotiations going ahead, where you've got no income coming in."
Looking ahead to their next project, an RPG/survival-horror called 13th Interior, Pinchbeck says that, for the moment at least, “we probably just need a couple of us doing that for the time being until that’s really there.”
As a result, the studio went dark at the end of July, with only the directors, Pinchbeck and his wife Jessica Curry, remaining. Pinchbeck is keen to suggest that “the studio is not closed, but we closed the development team.”
The money, however, is not the only reason the studio is scaling down. Pinchbeck’s suggestion that the team were “done” with the walking simulator genre was coupled with a health scare, which he talks more about in a blog post on The Chinese Room’s website. He closes that post asking for patience from the studio’s fans while he and his wife determine what will happen next.