Telltale Games has been a mainstay of the narrative-driven gaming landscape ever since its 2004 incorporation by former LucasArts developers. Known for its smart, episodic adventures based on popular IPs, it's garnered many fans - myself included - and put out a huge range of titles. The most well-known is its excellent Walking Dead games, but the studio's also done great work with everything from Borderlands to Batman to Back to the Future to...I could go on. Hell, those are only the "B"s.
Today, reports emerged that Telltale has issued massive layoffs, with no severance in sight, possibly angling towards a complete shutdown of the studio. The Verge reports that the company is retaining a skeleton staff of 25 - just 10% of the previous workforce - with the aim of seeing out the final season of The Walking Dead, while USGamer adds that previously-announced titles Stranger Things and The Wolf Among Us 2 will be canceled entirely. Multiple Telltale employees have tweeted that they're out of a job. It's bad - it's real bad.
The video game industry can be a volatile one, and Telltale is no stranger to troubling headlines. In 2017, the studio laid off 90 people, after finally acknowledging years' worth of poor management. This year, former CEO Kevin Bruner sued the company over his ousting. Like many other studios, employees have complained of a toxic work environment and "crunch" culture, with management pushing their staff to breaking point to reach punishing deadlines. What's more, that speed of development also meant Telltale was stuck with an aging proprietary engine that didn't cut it for the current gaming generation. Plans were to revamp that engine after the final Walking Dead season, but that seems to be moot now.
Still, though, Telltale's games are beloved by their many fans, and it's tragic to see so many talented developers put out of jobs. Few other studios made games quite like Telltale's, which prioritised character development and cinematic storytelling over action or open worlds. As a scriptwriter, it's a studio I'd personally always kind of wanted to write for. It's a gross understatement to say this is a bummer all around.
This story is still developing, and we'll keep you updated with any major news. In the meantime, there's a massive trove of Telltale games on nearly every modern gaming platform. Check 'em out, won't you?
UPDATE: Telltale Games just posted this statement: