Video games are memorable experiences and it’s often tied to the staff who have made these games possible for thousands of gamers to enjoy. But when a studio makes the decision to abruptly close and lay off their staff without warning, what settles in is shock, confusion, and uncertainty for those involved and the projects now in limbo. This is the situation Telltale Games has found itself in.
When news broke last week about Telltale Games’ sudden shutdown and mass layoffs of most of their staff, with only 25 people remaining to finish off Minecraft: Story Mode, I had some difficulty processing the news. I thought it was a joke. How did one of the most famous studios in video games, the same one that brought us The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, Tales From The Borderlands, and many others, just shutter? Weren’t they doing well? They had future projects lined up, like a Stranger Things game with Netflix. The Walking Dead: The Final Season was currently in the process of releasing episodes to close out Clementine’s story. It didn’t sound like a studio that was in trouble. Yet, there was much more going on behind the scenes than anybody ever realized.
My first introduction to Telltale Games, like most people, was through the very first game of The Walking Dead. I was never a fan of the comics or the TV show. I just didn’t get into it in the same way my friends and most other people seem to be obsessed with Robert Kirkman’s world of walkers and the humans still fighting to survive. But when I read plenty of good things about Telltale’s brand new choice and story driven video game, I eventually made the decision to play it. My love of stories and rich characters was what convinced me to give this one a chance despite not being well-versed in TWD lore. You have no idea how glad I was to have purchased and played the game when I did.
The relationship between Lee Everett and little Clementine, the father and daughter type relationship they develop over the course of the first season, captivated as much as it shattered me to pieces. A combination of the tough decisions you would have to make as Lee along with the genuine heart infused into the story has made this one of my top favorite video games. After beating The Walking Dead, I believed Telltale was a special studio that would continue to do great things in whatever project they undertake next. This is why the announcement of their studio shutdown has been so disheartening.
I always thought Telltale Games would be one of those studios that kept chugging along to produce more games that spoke to gamers who loved a compelling story with an element that the decisions you make in a game will have weight and will change the course of how your game played out, even if sometimes those choices were a mere illusion. Telltale Games proved once again that big name studios can be brought down if they’re careless and take what they have for granted. Unfortunately, the ones who almost always pay the heavy price are their employees.
The staff that was let go last week were not only blindsided by the news but they were told they would not be receiving any severance pay. It’s the biggest slap in the face to all the men and women who worked so hard to create a high quality experience all gamers can enjoy and remember. Of course, plenty of questions have been swirling since Telltale’s closure. What will happen to the remainder of The Walking Dead: The Final Season?
I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an instance where a studio closed while half of a game has been released and the other half is still in development. The situation TWD is in is pretty much the video game version of your favorite show being canceled without any resolution for the characters you’ve come to care about. While recent news has come out that there might still be hope for Clementine’s story to get the proper ending she deserves, I can only hope there will be a way to let the original team behind The Final Season to finish the game and get some compensation from it. As much as I want to know how Clementine’s story will end, I prefer the former staff of Telltale Games get what’s owed to them.
With the fate of the last two episodes of The Walking Dead: The Final Season uncertain and the hopes for a sequel to The Wolf Among Us dead, it’s an unfortunate end to what once was a studio that produced emotionally resonant games.
Which games did you play or enjoy from Telltale Games?