Story-driven pseudo-cel-shaded adventure creator Telltale Games has confirmed that it is effectively shutting up shop, laying off the vast majority of its staff and retaining only a skeleton crew to finish its contractual obligations on a streaming title for Netflix.
Founded in 2004 by LucasArts alumni Kevin Bruner, Dan Connors, and Troy Molander, Telltale Incorporated - which trades as Telltale Games - got its start with something far removed from the games which would make it famous: Telltale Texas Hold'em, a card game. Using the title as proof its in-house game engine worked, Telltale got busy with more adventurous fare: Episodic, story-driven titles using third-party intellectual property including Jeff Smith's Bone comic series, the CSI TV series, and following an injection of cash former LucasArts franchises Sam & Max and Monkey Island.
As the company grew, its desire for new IP grew also: From smaller brands like Homestar Runner and Penny Arcade to blockbuster franchises including Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, Batman, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Walking Dead. With so many plates in the air, the company found itself some 400-strong, and between the cost of payroll, the cost of the licences, and the fact that it was releasing ever-increasing volumes of content for a fairly static market dominated by its own products the company found itself in financial trouble.
That trouble has now come to a head, with multiple staffers confirming that Telltale has laid off the vast majority of its staff - which it had already reduced from 400 to around 250 as part of a 2017 restructuring exercise - leaving just a skeleton crew of 25 to finish a story-driven title based on the Minecraft franchise for which it is currently under contract to Netflix.
'It's been an incredibly difficult year for Telltale as we worked to set the company on a new course. Unfortunately, we ran out of time trying to get there,' Telltale chief executive Pete Hawley, who took on the role less than a year ago, confirmed in a press release. '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.'
As well as leaving some 225 staff out of a job, reportedly without severance pay, the partial closure leaves fans bereft: Telltale has cancelled the majority of its projects, including the second series of The Wolf Among Us and Game of Thrones, leaving story threads unfinished. While the company has yet to officially confirm it, the closure is also thought to have resulted in the cancellation of The Walking Dead: The Final Season part-way through its release, with the voice actor for character Clementine stating that she expects the company will release Episode 2 but no more.
Rival development companies, including Ubisoft, have reached out to those left jobless with the promise of interviews.
Telltale Games has announced via its official Twitter account that it is in talks with unnamed partners regarding the release of the as-yet uncreated final episodes for its take on The Walking Dead franchise, though without promising that anything beyond the latest Episode 2 will ever see the light of day. The company has also not responded to queries from followers as to whether any such partnership would allow the company to pay severance to the 225 staff it has let go without payment.