Mikes Rant – Telltale Is Going And I’m Not Surprised!



/ 3 months ago

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Mikes Rant 19

A short time ago the gaming industry was hit with the sledgehammer news that Telltale Games, the creators of the highly popular Walking Dead gaming franchise and The Wolf Among Us franchises was shutting down. It’s a move that came completely out of the blue and surprised everyone. Well, nearly everyone.

You see, I kinda predicted this would happen and a surprisingly long time ago. While it’s sad to see them finally end, I think if you paid close enough attention the writing was on the wall!

Let us, therefore, take a look at the companies history and write (as much as it pains me) a brief obituary.

Telltale Games Sued by Ousted Former CEO Kevin Bruner

A Promising Start

Telltale games initially began life in 2005 as a low-level developer. The games they created were largely low budget/expectation affairs. The kind of thing that is just mildly (at least by the standards at the time) better than a well-made flash game. Through the development of their story-telling engine though, Telltale games hit it’s first early successes.

Managing to secure the rights to big game franchises such as the Monkey Island, Sam & Max and Back to the Future universes between 2007-2011 gave the company solid if mildly mediocre platform to set their sights on more ambitious projects. The games themselves were more indicators of what Telltale Games could do rather than any indication of the pinnacle of their achievements.

Most importantly, they had effectively proven that, on a reasonably small budget, they were able to make games that made money! Publishers like that! A lot!

Their ambitions though were soon set much, much higher with some big releases between 2012-2014.

The Golden Years

I think you would struggle to find many who would argue that 2012-2014 were the best years for Telltale games. During that brief time, we saw some of their greatest games. This included the first season of The Walking Dead, the 2nd season and The Wolf Among Us. There were a few other little things, but these were the big ones!

This really was Telltale games at their peak with many praising them for their narrative-driven games and the ethical choices placed within in. Incidentally, how many of you made Clem kill Lee?

The Wolf Among Us actually perhaps stands out as their greatest release. Probably of all time now. Therein, however, lies the problem. After hitting such heights, Telltale Games have never quite managed to do it again since.

It sounds harsh, but they got complacent and lazy!

The Wolf Among Us Season Two Confirmed and More

Stagnation!

You would have thought that based on their history, Telltale Games would have used this even greater success to propel them to higher levels. Sadly though, it just never happened. What came next was at best mediocre and at worst boring. The ‘Game of Thrones’ was dreary. The Walking Dead while not bad, wasn’t anywhere near as good as it had been. The less said about ‘Tales from the Borderlands’ the better.

In brief, for this period between 2015-2017 Telltale games didn’t have a single hit on their hands. They might have covered expenses every now and then, but a run-away to keep the budget in line? No.

Worse, they were grinding their engine which was great in 2012 into the ground!

What didn’t help either is that following the continued success of the earlier periods, Telltale Games was expanding and hiring more and more staff. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky as far as they were concerned. Until, of course, things came to a head.

The First Signs Of Trouble

The first signs that things were not well at Telltale Games came in September 2017 when it was announced that a new CEO of the company was being appointed. At the time, many shrugged this off as being a simple change of management to take the company in a fresh new direction. To me though, I saw this an indicator that things were not going well (financially) at the company. You can read my report here on it at the time, but in brief, I speculated that money was the real reason a new boss was being brought in.

The next major sign came in November 2017. As part of any company experiencing financial problems, usually, the first to suffer are the staff. As such around a quarter of the staff at Telltale were let go. This, at the time, wasn’t made out to be an issue in terms of cash-flow. Again though, I was cynical.

Well, following the recent news, it seems that this ‘restructuring’ didn’t even get the company into another year!

walking dead telltale

Mistakes!

TT Games’ single biggest mistake was buying up the rights to TV series, games and films left right and centre. Think about it. Following the initial success of The Walking Dead, what did TT Games do? They bought the rights to Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, Minecraft, Borderlands, Batman and Guardians of the Galaxy over a period of just 2-3 years!

It was too much. Why did they decide to try and flood the market so heavily with releases from difference franchises that were, ultimately, oh so similar to each other? It was over-ambitious and greedy.

Even worse, it’s believed that not a single game from the 8+ made in those franchises met their sales target. I’m not saying every one of them was a dud, but TT Games likely lost money on about half of them!

Telltale Games is Producing a 'Stranger Things' Video Game

Hammerblow As The Company Looked To Have Turned A Corner

With the news now that Telltale Games has shut down, the staff has summarily been cut down to a team of about 25 people. This, from a peak of around 250 and a rough 90% cut. These remaining staff will (hopefully) remain to ensure that the remaining episodes of the final season of the Walking Dead go without too many problems and to complete a Minecraft series that is being made for Netflix. There is, however, a lot of doubt surrounding the former. Yes, The Walking Dead’s final season might be cut midway through!

After that, put simply, the last person out of the office is asked to switch the lights off, for good!

The biggest pity is that with the release of the latest Walking Dead series, it seemed like the company had turned a corner. There was a definite improvement on the whole and with The Wolf Among Us 2 on the horizon for next year, the future was, ironically, looking a little brighter!

The Wolf Among Us Season Two Confirmed and More

What Will Happen Now?

In fairness, this isn’t the first time that a company has been through such a rollercoaster life. It is actually a little reminiscent of how Trilobyte Games (creator of The 7th Guest) went from a massive success to an abject failure within a few years.

In terms of the continuation of the ‘games’ as a whole, the best thing we can hope for is that someone comes in to buy out the IPs and assets. As disturbing as it seems, the only company that I think would perhaps be interested (with good resources) would be Ubisoft.

It is, therefore, a sad end to a gaming company that came out of nowhere became one of the biggest names within only a few years and will now, seemingly, cease to exist. They leave behind a great gaming legacy, but at this point, I just can’t help but wonder what could’ve been had they been taken in better directions and put a little more effort into what they were producing.

What do you think?

Surprised at the news about Telltale Games? Will you be sad to see them go? How disappointed are you that we’ll no longer (probably) get a 2nd season for The Wolf Among Us? – Let us know in the comments!

Disclaimer

Part of us suspects that Mike only wrote this rant just so he could say how he predicted this would happen around a year ago. Despite that though, he does seem to know his stuff about the company and as such we might refrain from pointing that out to him in person. Remember though that Mikes Rant is an opinion piece and may not reflect the opinions of eTeknix.com as a whole!

Did you enjoy Mikes Rant? If so, please check out his previous ones which include:

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