You can't get much more indie than breaking up with a small publisher to go entirely solo, and that's exactly what Eric "ConcernedApe" Barone is doing with his enormously popular farm 'em up Stardew Valley. As of December 14th, he'll be sole developer and publisher of the game on PC, Xbox, PS4 and Vita. The break with Chucklefish seems amicable and not all-encompassing too, with the publisher still handling the Nintendo Switch and Android versions of the game. In his statement, he also teases "announcements concerning the future of Stardew Valley soon" - exciting!
It's interesting that thanks to Stardew Valley's enormous, Harvest Moon-eclipsing success, Chucklefish's very identity changed. Originally known for the sci-fi Terraria-like Starbound (a game which many people are still furious about for reasons that baffle me) Chucklefish have been known as 'The Stardew Valley publisher' in recent years. That reputation is likely to continue thanks to the Switch and Android versions still being in their hands, but anything new from the series is entirely up to a more experienced Barone now.
While mostly a solo project, Stardew Valley's last major feature - multiplayer - was a collaboration between Barone and Chucklefish's Tom Coxon. Considering how many people I know that still regularly run Stardew Valley co-op streams, it seems to have been a beneficial team-up. Still, without anyone to answer to but himself and undoubtedly armed with a prodigious war-chest, the sky's the limit for Barone. What's next for Stardew Valley? My guess is as good as any, but I'd not be too surprised to see some kind of official expansion.
As for what this means for existing players in the short-term? Absolutely nothing, barring any last-minute twists. As of December 14th, most versions of the game will no longer be officially published by Chucklefish, but should be available for the same price on the same stores as before. Fittingly for Stardew Valley, there's not really much drama here, just good vibes.