The creator of Five Nights at Freddy's will step back from the popular series, abandoning development of the sixth game in the process.
Scott Cawthon, the series' creator, had been "dropping hints" about another entry in what has become a sprawling media franchise in the space of just three years. However, in a post on his Steam community page, the Texas-based developer said he was stopping work on the new project - "call it Five Nights at Freddy's 6, if you like," he said.
"After forcing myself to keep working on it day after day, I realized something," Cawthon continued. "I just don't want to work on this.
"With each game's release, I think the expectations get higher and higher for the next, and rightfully so. Each game should be better than the last! But that pressure starts to mount, and I fear that I've been neglecting other things in my life for the sake of trying to keep up with those mounting expectations."
Nobody could accuse Cawthon of slacking since the original Five Nights at Freddy's launched in August 2014, first on PC and Android, then on iOS the following month. The sequel followed in December of the same year, a third in March 2015, and a fourth in July 2015. After six months without a game, Cawthon then released two in 2016: Five Nights at Freddy's World, an RPG-like spinoff set in the same fictional universe, and a fifth entry in the main series, Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister's Location.
"After forcing myself to keep working on it day after day, I realized something - I just don't want to work on this"
According to Cawthon, details of the abandoned sixth game will not be released, and while he won't retreat from games altogether, he wants to, "get back to what made game-making enjoyable in the first place."
Exactly what that means isn't clear, but his comments clearly suggest that the main series of Five Nights at Freddy's games will be shelved for an indefinite period. Cawthon referred to Foxy Fighters, a mini-game released in an update to Five Nights at Freddy's World, as an example of how he might continue to work with the IP.
"I loved working on that game," he said. "It was a lot of fun, and it took a lot of the pressure off me knowing that it was just for the fans of the games. That's the kind of project that I'd like to work on again. Maybe I'll try my hand at a pizzeria tycoon game, who knows."
Just as the pace of releases for the game series slowed, so too have its sales - judging by Steam Spy's data at least. The first game has more than 900,000 owners on Steam, while the second, released just three months later, has 500,000. The third, which launched in March 2015, has 355,000 owners. This represents a very healthy business for such a small developer, of course, particularly when mobile sales are included, but the trend appears to be one of decline.
Maintaining game quality is evidently a concern for Cawthon, and not for the first time. He actually removed Five Nights at Freddy's World from Steam within a few days of its release, citing negative reviews as a primary reason. An updated version of the game was later released for free.
However, the games are only part of the picture. Cawthon has also co-authored two novels based on the IP, and, after a period of uncertainty, a movie adaptation was confirmed as being in development at Blumhouse Productions in May this year.
"There are some big things in the works elsewhere," Cawthon said. "The movie is in amazing hands with Blumhouse. I'm also still working to get a VR title out at some point (because that would be awesome). And of course I can't leave everyone hanging with the cliffhanger at the end of the second book.
"But as far as the games are concerned, I think this is where I step back."