On September 21 through an official statement Telltale Games announced it's closure. The company founded in 2004 dismissed all of its employees excluding barely 25 to fulfill obligations before it's official closure. In the statement Telltale Games states they will issue further comments regarding it's products in the coming weeks, yet, all projects including sequels of The Wolf Among Us, Tales from the Borderlands, Game of Thrones or even the first season of Stranger Things are all cancelled. It is also very unlikely to see a proper ending to The Walking Dead, with it's Final Season's first episode having launched just a few weeks ago and the second one announced. With other companies welcoming the former employees I won't focus on their situation, but rather on the company's one. So, how come Telltale came to it's closure? In this article we will analyze the rise and fall of Telltale Games.
Telltale Games was founded by former LucasArts employees, and as many already know LucasArts were one of the biggest companies with their Monkey Island series, and the first big successful of Telltale Games was in fact Tales of Monkey Island, fifth installment in the series coming nearly a decade after the fourth. Since then Telltale Game's games were all great, most were visual novels coming from the ashes of LucasArts but it could be seen, the enthusiasm, the freshness, with every new game.
Then came the Walking Dead, and it was amazing. Nothing seen before was like it, well expect for previous Telltale titles. but The Walking Dead was the rebirth of Visual Novels, a dying genre. Winning multiple game of the year awards, selling millions of copies and being just something. This was the highest peak a nearly indie studio like Telltale Games at the time could even dream of. But they failed, today Telltale Games is closing. Why did this happen thought?
As already stated Telltale's success came from the rebirth of visual novels, yer, history repeats itself and the same thing that brought doom to the old visual novels brought doom to Telltale games too, repetitiveness. It is obvious for anyone that played their games that Telltale Games desperately tried to fix this in any way possible but it all came to press this button now and if you fail you die and have to try again most of the time. From games such as Detroid: Become Human we saw every fail can be a choice, not shooting in time is a choice, failing to avoid a bullet has consequences etc. and that is not the case for Telltale games. If gameplay can be a "secondary" thing in this type of games, story and character development are a crucial element. And while some characters are memorable, and the formula of Walking Dead worked for a few games, it failed after. Every episode of every Telltale Games's Game from Walking Dead onward begins with a phrase, "this game series adapts to the choices you make, the story is tailored by how you play" and that is the BIGGEST LIE in today's gaming. When I personally first played the first season of Walking Dead i restarted multiple times cause i believed that phrase and wanted to see all outcomes, and I discovered Telltale Games's formula of narrative, the formula the internet named - Illusion of choice. And oh, boy Telltale mastered it already. They give you this timer, the screen shakes you really get the feeling it is a crucial decision.
Yet it will be useless. And I really felt betrayed with the deaths of some characters in Walking Dead season 1. Now, Telltale Games tried to fix this, in fact they were aware of all the problems and after dismissal some employees came clear on twitter. They tried with Batman's Joker Villain/Vigilante routes, they tried with Walking Dead Season 2's multiple endings (which they only mentioned with a couple scenes in Season 3), they did a great job with Tales from the Borderland's ending. Yet, they had already lost many fans that realized what their formula was. Realizing they had just different dialogues and at max a few filler scenes different than the others playing. Telltale was destined to fall.
Perhaps, this journey that brought the company to be LucasArts's successor was not even imaginable when the first Walking Dead was in development. The previously mentioned Detroid: Become Human showed the world what Telltale Games could and should be, as did other projects growing day by day. The games weren't selling anymore. They tried to fix this by quantity over quality and buying new IP's that are popular among the youth like Stranger Things or even Guardian's of the Galaxy were the last straw of the fall, the fall of an indie studio that had raised too high, a fall of a piece of gaming history. And here we are today, Telltale Games is closing.
Telltale Games is non arguably one of the most impactful companies in today's gaming industry. It's closure affected many, employees and fans.
Regarding cancellation some titles can be auto-conclusive (Batman, Tales from the Borderlands), while some ended on cliffhangers (The Wolf Among Us, Game of Thrones) or didn't end at all (The Walking Dead). The Walking Dead The Final season is going to release it's second episode that we hope can at least not end on a cliff hanger and rather have Clementine leaving everything and everyone behind at the end and at least make it seem like an ending.
Rest in peace Telltale Games, you did your job, telling us the best tales.