Approximately 250 of the brightest minds in the video game industry walked into the Telltale Games studio on Sep. 21, expecting to finish work on the final season of the episodic story game, “The Walking Dead.”
When they walked out the door that same day, they were unemployed, without warning, without severance, and without any apparent cause.
According to a public statement made by Telltale on the day of the layoffs, the company had begun the process of a “majority studio closure,” and would only maintain a team of 25 employees for the time.
In addition to the remaining episodes of “The Walking Dead,” Telltale had previously announced a follow-up to “A Wolf Among Us,” another popular series in the studio’s portfolio. They had also confirmed an upcoming video game adaptation of Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”
Telltale also built series in other iconic brands including “Batman,” “Minecraft,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and “Game of Thrones.”
The studio’s signature style of experimental art design, quick-time events, and choice-based dialogue encounters became a staple of the industry, lending itself to comparisons and derivations from other studios. The games were hugely influential, and according to their sales reports, hugely popular.
So what went wrong?
Earlier this year, “The Verge” published an investigative report detailing Telltale’s long history of poor business practices, including toxic management, extreme overwork, and creative stagnation.
The consequences of a tumultuous work environment manifested themselves in November 2017, when 90 employees—about a quarter of Telltale’s staff—were laid off.
According to “Variety,” another contributing factor could have been economics. AMC and Smilegate were both in talks to invest in Telltale.
Both companies exited negotiations the day before the studio’s closure.
While detailed reports still have yet to be released to the public, and the causes of the layoffs are still up for speculation, the future of Telltale’s projects look grim.
More public statements from the company have indicated that the remaining employees plan to complete the final season of The Walking Dead in some form or another, but the release dates have been postponed indefinitely.
The aforementioned skeleton crew of 25 employees were originally kept onboard for work on the studio’s “Minecraft” TV show on Netflix, but sources publicly confirmed on Twitter that this team laid off Oct. 4.
The studio has yet to make announcements regarding the progress of any other projects.