Stardew Valley creator ignites new fan theories with five simple words: ‘Here’s a Haunted Chocolatier screen’

“Here’s a Haunted Chocolatier screen”: That’s what you say if you’re ConcernedApe, aka Stardew Valley creator Eric Barone, and it’s apparently a slow Tuesday and you want to wind things up a little bit. And then you post the screen in question, and all your followers immediately go bananas.

That’s literally it: A flex from the man responsible for the biggest indie game sensation since Minecraft, and a reminder of the awesome, terrible power he wields:

So, what are we looking at? A kindly-looking old man in a nightcap, snuggled up in bed, which is itself ensconced within the confines of a large, cozy bedroom filled with books and stars. But there are signs that perhaps all is not entirely well: Cobwebs in the corners, for instance, and what may be a layer of undisturbed dust on the floor. And who is that small person standing beside his bed? A child? An elf? A vestige of his terrible dream, determinedly resonating through his haunted, half-conscious mind?

One follower floated the theory that the man in bed is actually Grandpa, the character who gifts the farm to players at the start of Stardew Valley. Grandpa was in fact a bit of a local mogul, so the theory goes, and the chocolate shop is another business gifted to another grandchild. I have no idea how valid that theory might be, but at least one person on Twitter was prepared to give it consideration:

Barone didn’t reveal anything more about what’s happening in the Haunted Chocolatier image, but he did reassure everyone—because several of his followers asked—that he is still working on the Stardew Valley 1.6 update. “[I] just wanted to share a HC screenshot, I’m sitting on a lot of screenshots that I could share, just felt like it,” he tweeted.

“There’s plenty more that I haven’t revealed, I just like to work in secret mainly,” he said in a separate tweet.

That seems true enough: After years of vague teases about working on a new game, Barone surprised everyone with a Haunted Chocolatier announcement in 2021 that included a surprisingly substantial trailer. He’s been awfully quiet about it ever since though, and in April 2023 he said he’s taking a break from working on the new game so he could focus on the Stardew Valley 1.6 update instead.

But unlike Bethesda’s Todd Howard, who recently admitted that he may have lifted the curtain on The Elder Scrolls 6 a little prematurely, Barone doesn’t seem to regret announcing Haunted Chocolatier when it was still so far from release. In response to a follower who said they felt the new game had been revealed “way too early,” Barone replied cryptically, “I had my reasons.”

Echoing comments he made in a 2018 blog post about being “deliberately secretive” with his new game “because I want to be able to work on it without any pressure for the time being” (this was before Haunted Chocolatier was revealed), Barone also asked followers to have patience while they wait for the 1.6 update, tweeting that he doesn’t want “any pressure” to get it done.

Barone also announced today that preorders for the third printing of Stardew Valley: The Board Game are now live. For the moment, it does not appear to have sold out, but based on how quickly the first two printings went, I’d imagine it will happen fairly soon.

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