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Sumo Digital acquires The Chinese Room

Brighton-based developer of Dear Esther becomes the fifth Sumo Digital studio

The Sumo Group has acquired The Chinese Room, the UK developer of Dear Esther and Everybody's Gone to the Rapture.

The Chinese Room will now be part of Sumo Digital, its fourth in the UK and the fifth worldwide. Dan Pinchbeck, one of the founders of the studio, will take the role of creative director, while his co-founder Jessica Curry will continue her work as an independent composer.

Investment documents reveal the acquisition cost £2.2 million, comprised of £1.6 million in cash and £600,000 in net consideration.

"Sumo will provide the support and experience I'm looking for to take The Chinese Room to the next level," Pinchbeck said in a statement. "Our aim is to build on the reputation I'm proud to have earned, to create a truly world-class studio delivering bold, imaginative new games."

Pinchbeck confirmed that The Chinese Room is already working on new concepts, and is in "discussions with partners" about games that are already in various stages of development.

Paul Porter, Sumo Digital's managing director, said that the intention behind the acquisition is to allow Pinchbeck and his team to, "[continue] to create the unique, innovative games they are known and loved for." Sumo has also committed to investing in The Chinese Room, further growing that team.

"The Chinese Room has an outstanding reputation and its acquisition will enhance and extend Sumo Digital's capabilities," said Carl Cavers, CEO of Sumo Group. "Having a studio in the south of England opens new doors for the Group and we are confident that it will create exciting opportunities."

This will come as a relief to followers of the Brighton-based studio, which faced apparently extreme difficulties in September last year. Pinchbeck let the studio's entire team go shortly after the release of its VR tite So Let Us Melt.

In a blog post, Pinchbeck explained that he and Curry are, "makers, fundamentally, and our roles were increasingly making it very difficult to be practically involved in doing the things we love and we started the company to be able to do. We're taking time to figure that out; how we get to be creatives, not managing directors.

"Is it the end of The Chinese Room? No, I don't think so. But it's the end of a chapter, and we hope you can all be patient with us whilst we figure out what happens next."

The Chinese Room's next chapter will play out as part of Sumo Digital. This is the second studio acquisition Sumo has made this year, following the deal to buy CCP Newcastle in January.

We discussed that deal with Sumo in an interview published yesterday. You can read it here.

Sumo's management has warned investors that it expects "to incur a small operating loss" for the rest of 2018 as it hires new staff to repopulate the Brighton studio, but "should be profitable in 2019".

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Matthew Handrahan

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Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.

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