The Walking Dead Dev Telltale Games Shutting Down, Future Projects Cancelled

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Sep 21
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Update 3: An anonymous source has told USGamer that the 25 employees remaining at Telltale aren’t remaining to finish The Walking Dead: The Final Season, but instead working on the Minecraft Story Mode TV series for Netflix. According to this source The Walking Dead team have been laid off, and the season will end prematurely with Episode 2. Of course, given the anonymous nature of this report, you may want to take it with a grain salt. We’ll update if the cancellation of The Walking Dead: The Final Season is confirmed.

Update 2: Telltale Games has issued a statement

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“Today Telltale Games made the difficult decision to begin a majority studio closure following a year marked by insurmountable challenges. A majority of the company’s employees were dismissed earlier this morning, with a small group of 25 employees staying to fufill the company’s obligations to its board and partners. […] Telltale will issue further comments regarding its product portfolio in the coming weeks. “

Original story: One of the most acclaimed developers of the past decade is about to close their doors. According to a report from The Verge and numerous tweets from journalists and now-former employees, Telltale Games, the developers of story-driven games based on The Walking Dead, Batman, and more, has been slammed by massive layoffs. The studio has gone from approximately 310 employees to only 25, meaning around 285 people have lost their jobs. Telltale has yet to issue an official statement, but word is the studio has had to file for bankruptcy.

The timing of the layoffs is particularly surprising, as Telltale just launched The Walking Dead: The Final Season – per a report from USGamer, the 25 still at Telltale will focus on getting the remaining The Walking Dead episodes released. A previously-announced second season of The Wolf Among Us and a series based on the Netflix’s Stranger Things have been cancelled.

There were warning signs things weren’t going well at Telltale, but few suspected thing were this dire. Telltale laid off a quarter of its staff last November, and earlier this year reports emerged of toxic management and chronic crunch culture within the studio. Following a series management changes, Telltale was pushing the launch of The Walking Dead: The Final Season and a move to the Unity engine as a new start for the studio, but, apparently, it was too little, too late.

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I reviewed the first episode of The Walking Dead: The Final Season, and found it to be an impressive return to form for Telltale:

“The debut episode of The Walking Dead: The Final Season is one of Telltale Games’ best efforts in quite some time. It builds its cast of likeable new characters with uncommon skill, lets you feel a glimmer of hope, and then tears it all down in devastating fashion. I’m afraid of what might come next for Clementine and AJ, but I can’t look away…The Final Season has already sunk its teeth into me.”

Update 1: Telltale co-founder and former CEO Kevin Bruner, who left the studio during the recent restructuring, has addressed the layoffs in a blog post:

“Today is a very, very sad day. […] I’m mostly saddened for the people who are losing their jobs at a studio they love. 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. While I look forward to those games and new developments, and continuing to contribute,  I will always find “A Telltale Game” to have been a unique offering. I know that Telltale will be remembered fondly for what it has done best.”

This is indeed a sad day for gaming. Behind-the-scenes mistakes aside, Telltale was one of the most creative forces in the industry, and it’s unfortunate they won’t get a chance to redeem themselves. Any adventure game fans out there? What were your favorite Telltale series?

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