In a shocking and unexpected announcement over the weekend, Telltale Games announced that it would be closings its doors for good. The studio, which is responsible for putting out episodic, narrative-based adventures such as Tales from the Borderlands and their critically-acclaimed Walking Dead series, issued the following statement via Twitter:
— Telltale Games (@telltalegames) September 21, 2018
The announcement states that the studio has laid off the majority of its staff, with plans to close its doors completely in the near future. At the time of the closure, the studio was working on several games, including a sequel to The Wolf Among Us and a Netflix-backed Stranger Things game.
Unfortunately for fans, the studio has confirmed that The Wolf Among Us sequel won’t be seeing the light of day. Netflix, however, stated that they will be forging ahead with production of the Stranger Things title. The game won’t be developed by the skeleton crew left at Telltale; Netflix is currently “evaluating other options for bringing the Stranger Things universe to life in an interactive medium.”
The final 25 employees still employed by the studio will be finishing the Netflix adaptation of Minecraft: Story Mode, which is expected to be released later this fall. The adaptation will be the company’s final project before it shuts its doors for good. This means that the final episodes of The Walking Dead’s final season will remain unfinished. This was confirmed in a statement from Clementine’s voice actress, Melissa Hutchison:
Hello friends. I am so very deeply moved by the messages of love that I, and the folks from @telltalegames have been receiving. Yesterday was one of the toughest days ever. A lot of hearts were broken, including mine. Please read the attached. #TelltaleJobs #Clementine #TWD pic.twitter.com/Fb68z86j8e
— Melissa Hutchison (@Melyhutch) September 22, 2018
The announcement of the closure came as a shock for both fans and employees of the company alike, with many taking to social media to share in their dismay. Using the hashtag #TelltaleMemories, fans posted their favorite moments from the games and express support for the departing employees. Voice actress Laura Bailey, who voiced a variety of characters across several Telltale franchises, had this to say:
Whether it was recording Tales from the Borderlands, Batman, or GoT @telltalegames was a studio that always made me feel like family. Gutted to hear the news and I sincerely hope to see all the talented people who were there go on to even greater things. #ThankYouTelltale
— Laura Bailey (@LauraBaileyVO) September 22, 2018
Not all words were kind, however, with some former employees taking to Twitter to vent.
Re: I got laid off at Telltale
None of my sleepless nights or long hours on weekends trying to ship a game on time got me severance today. Don’t work overtime unless you’re paid for it, y’all. Protect your health. Companies don’t care about you.
— Brandon Cebenka (@Binkysaur) September 21, 2018
Exactly what led to the studio’s closure is still the subject of some speculation. However, as the tweet above indicates, signs point to toxic management and other internal problems at the company. Last fall, Telltale laid off over 90 staff members. Sources inside the company told of a toxic work environment that included problems at the management level, lack of creative direction, and a culture of employee overwork cultivated to meet unrealistic demands. Certainly, the lack of any severance pay seems to indicate as much.
Internal problems aside, it is clear that Telltale’s closure will leave a much-felt absence in a genre it helped to pioneer. Episodic story-based games have enjoyed a surge in popularity, and franchises like Life is Strange and Resident Evil have both enjoyed success with an episodic structure. The mark that Telltale left on the gaming industry is undeniable. Former CEO Kevin Bruner echoed that sentiment, stating “I’m comforted a bit knowing there are now so many new talented people and studios creating games in the evolving narrative genre.” Bruner’s hope has been echoed by many, with fingers crossed for spin-off studios forming among former Telltale employees.