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Telltale Games lays off much of its staff, plans studio shutdown (update)

September 22,2018 10:11

Telltale Games, developer of licensed adventure games such as the Walking Dead series, Game of Thrones and Batman, has laid off most of its staff, with the intention of closing down the studio. The company posted the following message on its official ...


Telltale Games, developer of licensed adventure games such as the Walking Dead series, Game of Thrones and Batman, has laid off most of its staff, with the intention of closing down the studio.
The company posted the following message on its official Twitter account after online reports surfaced that the layoffs had taken place:
“Today Telltale Games made the difficult decision to begin a majority studio closure following a year marked by insurmountable challenges,” the message reads. “A majority of the company’s employees were dismissed earlier this morning, with a small group of 25 employees staying on to fulfill the company’s obligations to its board and partners.”
We’ve reached out to Telltale Games for further comment, but CEO Pete Hawley offered last words of his own.
“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,” he said, hinting at reports that bankruptcy played a part in the decision to close.
The final season of the Walking Dead game launched this year. The second season of Wolf Among Us and an upcoming Stranger Things series were also in development, but the future of those games is unknown. The recent partnership with Netflix seemed to suggest a company planning for the future.
Telltale co-founder Kevin Bruner, who left the company a year and a half ago, also published a blog post discussing the layoffs.
“Today, I’m mostly saddened for the people who are losing their jobs at a studio they love,” Bruner wrote. “And I’m also saddened at the loss of a studio that green-lit crazy ideas that no one else would consider. I’m comforted a bit knowing there are now so many new talented people and studios creating games in the evolving narrative genre.”
A Verge feature story from earlier this year described layoffs at a company that suffered from mismanagement and a lack of new ideas, leading to a plan that would focus on fewer, higher-quality games.
“By all accounts, the layoffs were handled as professionally and gently as possible,” the Verge reported. “Those who had lost their jobs were paid out until the end of the year, and Telltale planned a job fair for them to meet and speak with recruiters. People were not denied severance or escorted from the building by security, but given time to gather their things and say goodbye. The remaining staff was given the rest of the day off so that they could spend time with their departing co-workers; they gathered at a pub in downtown San Rafael.”
Founded in 2004, Telltale Games spent nearly 15 years popularizing the choice-based, story-heavy adventure game genre. The studio was built from the DNA of LucasArts, another studio that led the way in making games with quirky, meaningful storytelling. Despite the highs of The Walking Dead seasons and The Wolf Among Us, recent superhero retellings and other projects failed to capture much commercial notice.
Update (5:52 p.m.): Telltale Games confirmed that the studio has cut its staff down to 25 people as it readies a full-scale closure. We’ve added further details above.
Update (9:21 p.m.): Both Game Informer and USGamer, citing unnamed sources, say that The Walking Dead: The Final Season will not be completed. Their reports say the skeleton crew remaining is working on the Minecraft: Story Mode adaptation for Netflix, due later this fall.
The Walking Dead: The Final Season’s first episode premiered Aug. 14, and the second is due to launch on Sept. 25. Polygon has reached out to Telltale Games for confirmation that the season is canceled, and to ask what, if anything, it intends to do about those who paid $19.99 for the Season Pass comprising four episodes. A $29.99 “Season Pass” disc was also due to launch on Nov. 6 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

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