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Telltale, Acclaimed Maker of Story-Based Video Games, Lays Off Most of Its Staff

September 24,2018 13:14

Telltale created point-and-click adventure games based on well-known entertainment properties like “The Walking Dead,” “Game of Thrones” and Batman. The games could be bought piecemeal as each $5 episode was released — usually two to three ...

Players may have grown fatigued with games by Telltale, however, as they became familiar with what was once an innovative formula, Mr. Skolnick said. Although the games suggested that players could influence the unfolding story, like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book in digital form, the various pathways ultimately converged.
The success of The Walking Dead, which was named game of the year by publications like USA Today and Wired, led Telltale to nearly double the size of its offices and expand to 400 employees. It began churning out episodic content based on intellectual properties like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and Minecraft.
But after rapid growth came a rocky collapse. The studio laid off 90 employees in November, and harsh working conditions at the company were detailed in a March article by The Verge. In June, Telltale’s former chief executive, Kevin Bruner, sued the company, which he had helped found.
“We did have demanding projects and demanding deadlines, and it is kind of an industry norm,” said Mary Kenney, a writer for Telltale who was laid off on Friday.
Telltale said it retained 25 employees “to fulfill the company’s obligations to its board and partners.” The studio had been working on an interactive series for Netflix involving Minecraft. A game based on the Netflix show “Stranger Things” was canceled, according to news media reports.
Even so, the studio’s influence on video game narratives will continue.
An anticipated sequel to Life Is Strange, an episodic game by Dontnod Entertainment that prioritizes conversations, is set to be released this week. And in Firewatch, the first game by Campo Santo, a studio founded by former Telltale writers, the two main characters build a powerful relationship while communicating with walkie-talkies.
Despite the layoffs at Telltale, the second episode of The Walking Dead’s fourth and final season is being released on Tuesday. Ms. Kenney, the lead writer of that episode, said all the writers and designers on the project were laid off, but the company said on Monday that it was “actively working towards a solution” to publish the final two episodes.
“It’s still shocking and it’s heartbreaking” to abandon the game after working on it for a year, Ms. Kenney said. She added, “Not to be able to celebrate that final launch party is pretty gutting.”

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Telltale, Acclaimed Maker of Story-Based Video Games., Lays Off Most of Its Staff
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