Telltale Games, best known for its choice-based narrative take on The Walking Dead, laid off the majority of its staff today. Multiple reports say that the studio is going from around 250 employees to only 25, just enough to complete one last project. After that, multiple sources have claimed it's all but certain Telltale will shut down.
It doesn't seem like that long ago that Telltale was the studio to watch out for. Back in 2012, The Walking Dead game cleaned up the "Game Of The Year" awards. The accolades seemed to indicate a reemergence of point-and-click style adventure games, and earned Telltale itself the rights to make games based on huge franchises like Game Of Thrones, Guardians of The Galaxy, and Stranger Things.
However, as The Verge reports, there was trouble behind the scenes. Trouble that was slowly leading to Telltale's undoing. Stories came out a few months ago telling of how Telltale's management was toxic and the employees were overworked. In the summer, ousted co-founder Kevin Bruner sued the studio over the manner of his firing, a move the studio called "an apparent means of extracting revenge on a company already under financial strain.”
That financial strain was the result of its games failing to reach the same level of The Walking Dead series. I wrote an article earlier this year detailing how Telltale had been working with the same game engine it used six years ago for the first Walking Dead. That, combined with gamers tiring of the seemingly pointless choices in Telltale storytelling, hit sales hard. Game Of Thrones failed to meet HBO's expectations, putting the potential sequel in limbo. Even Guardians Of The Galaxy, basically a money machine, never did as well as it should have.
Even with all of this writing on the wall, Telltale employees were surprised to arrive to work today only to be sent home. The Verge says that employees were informed of the layoffs just today, given 30 minutes to leave, and got no severance. As for the 25 remaining employees, they are supposedly just there to finish one last project before the company goes under. Future announced titles like The Wolf Among Us 2 are now in stasis.
“It’s been an incredibly difficult year for Telltale as we worked to set the company on a new course,” CEO Pete Hawley said today. “Unfortunately, we ran out of time trying to get there. We released some of our best content this year and received a tremendous amount of positive feedback, but ultimately, that did not translate to sales. With a heavy heart, we watch our friends leave today to spread our brand of storytelling across the games industry.”