Stardew Valley is one of the most successful indie games of all time, with lifetime sales of over 20 million copies since its launch in 2016. Since then, developer ConcernedApe has expanded the brand to include new ventures such as the Stardew Valley board game and is currently working on his next game, Haunted Chocolatier.
ConcernedApe, also known as Eric Barone, is now working with the Tokyo-based music company SOHO to bring Stardew Valley’s soundtrack to the orchestral realm with a live tour called Stardew Valley: Festival of Seasons. The tour will launch in 2024 starting in Los Angeles and will make its way around the world to places like South Korea and Australia.
IGN sat down with Barone to talk about curating the tour’s setlist, the challenges of coordinating a live orchestral production, who he’d like to handle a hypothetical Stardew Valley film adaptation, and what to expect from Haunted Chocolatier’s music score.
As the tour begins next year, Barone is still working in the process of approving orchestral arrangements of the Stardew Valley soundtrack. Every month, he receives MIDI files of the scores and receives feedback. As a composer himself, he’s sometimes very particular about small details.
When choosing which songs to add to the setlist, Barone explained that it’s a mix of fan and personal favorites. With a Stardew Valley concert, there are certain songs that audiences should expect, such as seasonal music as they’re one of the biggest parts of the game that players repeatedly hear. He also wanted to meet fan expectations too, especially when it comes to songs tied to specific characters.
Barone said, “If we pick one specific character’s music and it’s represented, but then these other characters’ music isn’t represented, some people might be upset because they’re like, ‘hey, my wife’s theme isn’t in the game.'”
While he won’t reveal the whole setlist yet, he noted that he’s had the final say on everything that’s included. He was given the origins setlist that his partners came up with and provided feedback on what stayed and what didn’t.
Of course, one of his personal favorites, Dance of the Moonlight Jellies, will be included. “I really like the song but it’s also one of those things that I like because of the context in the game,” Barone explained. “It’s a very special moment in the game.”
One of the most challenging parts of organizing the concert was deciding which cities to go to. Aside from the obvious big cities in America like Los Angeles and New York City, Barone also said that both sales data and Spotify stream data was used to determine the hotspot areas. Still, he always seems to underestimate how popular Stardew Valley actually is, with scalpers being a particular problem. Tickets for the concert would often sell out in minutes and then he’d see them later on on third party reseller sites for many times the price.
“I don’t want someone to have to spend $300 to go through the concert when that’s not what the ticket price was,” Barone explained. “It’s just some middleman who’s not providing any value whatsoever. Just taking advantage of that. And that’s just it’s rotten.”
Given how popular Stardew Valley is, expanding the brand into different ventures makes sense, right? He’s already done with the Stardew Valley Board Game as well as the upcoming concert. However, Barone is careful with the Stardew Valley brand. “I’m just too protective of my IP to just hand it over to someone and say go ahead and make a Stardew Valley movie or whatever,” he explained. “I would need to be closely involved with that.” According to Barone, there are some cool opportunities within that medium for Stardew Valley, but he feels like it’s risky giving characters voice acting and having them move around on their own.
He also felt like his time could be better spent just developing more games. Barone would only agree if particular and esteemed studios came knocking on his door to create such projects. “If Studio Ghibli approached me, I would probably say okay, let’s do it,” he chuckled. “If David Lynch approached me and wanted to make a Stardew Vally movie, I would say go ahead, just do it.”
As for what’s next for Barone, he’s currently working on his next game, Haunted Chocolatier. It was first officially revealed in 2021 and currently doesn’t have a release date. Compared to Stardew Valley’s more country-laden soundtrack, Haunted Chocolatier’s music will be more magical and ethereal. While he’s going to have more synthesizers and electronic elements, he clarified that the soundtrack isn’t an EDM playlist.
With Stardew Valley, Barone said that he constrained himself because he was trying to fit a certain theme—the traditional Harvest Moon kind of atmosphere which typically has a very peaceful and lighthearted soundtrack. But with Haunted Chocolatier, he’ll compose more naturally without any limits.
Barone said that his biggest musical influences came from the 90s with games like Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy. Back in the 2010s when Stardew Valley was in development, that sound became popular again. He noted that there’s always a 20-year cycle when it comes to trends, and now Y2K trends are on the come up. He expects that PS2 era nostalgia will be next on the “retro train.”
Barone explained that kids are impressionable when they play certain games and when they grow up to be young adults, they have nostalgia for what they loved as kids. “They’re at the age where they’re creating stuff,” he said. “They’re the creators now and they’re dipping into that nostalgia of their own, so there will always be this 20 year element.”
He wants the Stardew Valley: Festival of Seasons to be an unforgettable experience, especially being with other people that all enjoy the game. By attending the concert, he wants to trigger memories of special experiences that fans have encountered while playing the game. Additionally, SOHO and ConcernedApe will be announcing more tour dates for Festival Seasons on November 29. And when asked about a potential release window for Haunted Chocolatier in 2024 or 2025, Barone smiled, “Still gonna be a while. I won’t say.”
George Yang is a freelance writer for IGN. He’s been writing about the industry since 2019 and has worked with other publications such as Insider, Kotaku, NPR, and Variety.
When not writing about video games, George is playing video games. What a surprise! You can follow him on Twitter @Yinyangfooey