The Walking Dead Developer Telltale Games Shuts Down, Lays off Majority of Staff
Telltale Games announced yesterday that they were closing down the studio after fourteen years in the industry. They released a statement on Twitter which provided details of the layoffs, which come almost exactly a year after the company hired Pete Hawley as their new CEO. Twenty-five staff are staying on "to fulfill the company's obligations to its board and partners," the message read. Pete Hawley also added that Telltale "released some of our best content this year and received a tremendous amount of positive feedback, but ultimately, that did not translate to sales."
In recent years, Telltale had struggled to capture the success and magic of their first few titles such as The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. Diverging into other licences such as Batman, Game of Thrones and Minecraft provided mixed results, and though the final season of The Walking Dead was in production with the first episode released in August, the remaining instalments are unlikely to be made. A second season of both Game of Thrones and The Wolf Among Us were also in development alongside new IP Stranger Things. These have all been shelved, but the next season of Minecraft: Story Mode will be completed according to US Gamer, presumably to fulfil its contract with Netflix.
The timing of the move is a surprise given the studio's new head greenlighting a replacement for their existing Telltale Engine and moving to Unity. Pete Hawley also oversaw the layoff of around 25% of the company's staff last November as part of a major restructuring. The statement does suggest that money was the cause of the decision since sales were apparently not good enough to keep it running. However, the company was also rocked by a lawsuit from the previous CEO and founder Kevin Bruner who was fired in 2017 amidst claims of a toxic workplace and a desire to rapidly release titles at the expense of quality. How much impact this alleged approach ultimately contributed to the studio's downfall is unclear, but it is apparent that the new CEO's changes were not enough to save Telltale.
There is no word yet on how Telltale plans to deal with customers who have purchased the full season pass of The Walking Dead's final season given the remaining episodes will no longer be made. It is a sad and abrupt end to a studio who has been a big name in the games industry for much of the 21st century.