The Future Of Telltale Games Is Bleak, But Can It Be Salvaged?

Jason Fanelli,

September 25, 2018 8:05 AM

The Telltale Games debacle has affected a lot of people and games like The Walking Dead, and we're far from the finish line. There are a few ways that this whole thing could play out.

The saga of Telltale Games continues to unfold after Friday’s abrupt ceasing of operations. You’ve heard the numbers by now: a workforce of 250 reduced to 25 in an instant, the affected 225 left without severance or paid accrued vacation time and health insurance only until the end of the month. It’s a horrific yet telling example of how volatile this industry can be, as not half a decade ago Telltale was the pinnacle of narrative-based video game storytelling.

After the company’s initial statement Friday, they issued another one yesterday that, well, didn’t sit well with those watching the situation:

Hi everyone. We have a Walking Dead update for you. Multiple potential partners have stepped forward to express interest in helping to see The Final Season through to completion. While we can’t make any promises today, we are actively working towards a solution that will allow episodes 3 and 4 to be completed and released in some form. In the meantime, Episode 2 will release tomorrow across all platforms as planned. We hope to have answers for your other questions soon.

There are people out there, myself included, that have followed the story of Clementine since her exploits with Lee in Season One and would love to see that story to its end. However, the majority of those same people, again myself included, are focused on the more pressing concern of the two hundred and twenty five people that are without jobs, income, and soon health insurance. Job Stauffer, former head of public relations at Telltale, Tweeted as much after the statement came out:

There are three ways I see this Telltale Walking Dead situation being resolved, ranging from “not bloody likely” to “*sigh* yeah, probably”:

Will we see the end of Clementine's story? Honestly, there are other things to take care of first.

Complete the final episodes of The Walking Dead and release them for free

This is the most consumer-friendly option, but honestly the consumers aren’t the ones that Telltale need be concerned with at the moment. This solution caters to the, uh, more entitled portion of the gaming world that has reared its ugly head in Twitter replies and article comments, particularly this gem:

I don’t want this scenario to be the end game, because shitbirds like the person in that screenshot don’t deserve to be catered to, but I can’t deny the possibility. If the partners in Telltale’s statement are willing to eat the money and get these episodes out at no gain, then great, but there are better options,

Likelihood: Maybe, but I sure hope not

Complete the final episodes of The Walking Dead, release them at normal cost, and use all of that revenue to pay the severed employees

This is pie-in-the-sky, unicorns and rainbows, glass eternally half full talk here, but in some alternate universe where the right thing happens in every situation Telltale is trying to finish The Walking Dead in order to start a fund for the employees displaced by upper management’s wonky decisions. This scenario would A) help the people in need, B) earn the Telltale brass some PR brownie points...not much, but some, C) give the people closure with Clementine, and D) salvage the legacy of the once-proud studio and allow it to leave the industry with some dignity. This would also require any potential partners to support the development of the final two episodes at a loss, but the cause here is a far more noble one and (I would think) one they’d be willing to support. After all, anyone Telltale partners with could also claim the PR brownie points, right? I know the chance of this happening is not great, but this is the scenario I’d love to see play out.

Likelihood: Not bloody likely

Complete the final episodes of The Walking Dead, release them at normal cost, and treat the revenue as usual

In this scenario Telltale finishes The Walking Dead, releases the last two episodes piecemeal at normal cost, and takes the revenue in as it has with every other episode of every other game they’ve ever made. Potential partners and the remaining Telltale employees are the only ones who see the benefit of this revenue, and even then most of it would likely have to go to Telltale’s debts and other issues. This is the “business as usual” scenario: treating the game as a normal product, ignoring all of the noise surrounding the studio, and creating a big ol’ asterix on the Telltale legacy. This is the scenario equivalent of “the brown note,” and unfortunately I think we all better be looking for a new pair of pants.

Likelihood: *sign* Yeah, probably.

Telltale Games does not deserve to have its final act be a sour one. Its employees do not deserve to be left on the streets with barely any recompense. This situation is dire and bizarre and sad and so many other things, but if done well the brass as Telltale could give the studio the death it deserves. Considering how this whole mess started, I wouldn’t hold my breath.


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