Saltsea Chronicles and Mutazione studio Die Gute Fabrik is closing its doors due to lack of funding

2024 continues its efforts to be the worst year in my memory, as delightful indie development studio Die Gute Fabrik have halted work. The studio, notable for its lovely story-driven games about forging personal connections in strange or difficult worlds – e.g. Mutazione and the more recent Saltsea Chronicles – was unable to find funding for its new project, after a year of searching, so is shutting up work. All of the staff, including the leadership team, will be looking for new work come mid-march.

The company’s official Xitter account posted the announcement earlier today. “We halted production on the 19th Feb, and used our remaining runway to give the current team a month of paid time to catch their breaths. We will still try and seek funding to resume production, but wanted to announce this publicly in order that the team can share that they’r2 looking for new roles.” In a linked thread, the account shared a Google Doc with info on the developers now looking for work, if anyone is able to hire them. The account also shared that company leadership will return to founder Nils Deneken, and “will hibernate until it’s possible to secure funding for a next project.”

It’s upsetting whenever layoffs and closures happen, but this one feels somehow more saddening than when a giant corporation run by business bastards shaves off a few percentages in the form of human beings. At least then you have someone to blame. In this case, Die Gute Fabrik actively thought about the studio’s part in climate change, operated on a four-day week, and even during this closure has offered “mentoring and career support” to the employees. As studio lead Hannah Nicklin said via Xitter, the intent was to lead “in a way which was as radically welcoming, equitable & accessible as possible”, including equal pay and paid internships. (I reached out to Nicklin in case she had any further comment on the situation, but at time of writing received no reply – she probably, justifiably, has other things on her mind).

Thus this feels like a case of Star Trek TNG’s Peak Performance: “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness, that is life.” Die Gute Fabrik seems to be a victim of the current context of the games industry as a whole. So I suppose I can just be angry at the business bastards, then?

In the meantime, the best way to support Die Gute Fabrik is by buying Mutazione and Saltsea Chronicles, which will remain on sale (the former is about gardening on a lovely island of friendly mutants, and the latter is an undersea mystery about taking different paths).

Update 27th February 2024: Hannah Nicklin has provided the following comment to RPS via email:

I would just reiterate what a privilege it was to be given the opportunity and the freedom to lead the studio, and a real honour to work with the team in producing Saltsea Chronicles. I’m sure your audiences are aware of how constricted funding for games is right now. There are some forces we couldn’t work against and a lack of funding/risk on behalf of publishers and investors at this scale was one of them. I hope that on the rebound (whenever that is) games can find an equilibrium which recognises what other art forms do: that grassroots, independent and experimental games of Die Gute Fabrik’s scale, and the DIY and smaller are a crucial part of the creative ecosystem of the field of games. I also hope that the company’s hard work in producing a more equitable work place, four day week, and climate impact report aren’t lost in that. We also need to work to make sure any future of games is sustainable: for people and planet.

Hannah Nicklin has previously written for RPS.


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