Update, 4:45 PT – According to an update from USgamer, the remaining 25 people are responsible for finishing Minecraft Story Mode for Netflix. The team working on The Walking Dead Season 4 has been laid off, and the game is effectively canceled. Episode 4, which releases next week, is set to cap off the series.
The rest of the story follows below.
Much like in Telltale’s own games, hard decisions needed to be made at the developer’s studio today. Many now former Telltale employees took to Twitter and other social media platforms looking for new jobs as the studio, led by CEO Pete Hawley, laid off most of its staff. This is the first step in “a majority studio closure following a year marked by insurmountable changes,” Telltale tweeted out. Reports say 25 people remain to finish out the last season of The Walking Dead, which released its first episode only last month.
Telltale tweeted a statement today, calling this a “difficult decision.” The 25 remaining employees are set “to fulfill the company’s obligations to its board and partners,” confirming the early reports stating that they would finish the last season of The Walking Dead. What this means for previously announced titles like The Wolf Among Us Season 2 and Game of Thrones Season 2 isn’t clear. The company plans on releasing further comments about its portfolio in the next few weeks.
“It’s been an incredibly difficult year for Telltale as we worked to set the company on a new course,” said Hawley, who was formerly with Zynga. “Unfortunately, we ran out of time trying to get there. We released some of our best content this year and received a tremendous amount of positive feedback, but ultimately, that did not translate to sales.”
Former CEO and company co-founder Kevin Bruner posted on his personal blog about the recent events. Although the studio hasn’t officially closed its doors just yet, Bruner’s words all but doom the company.
“Today, I’m mostly saddened for the people who are losing their jobs at a studio they love. And I’m also saddened at the loss of a studio that green-lit crazy ideas that no one else would consider,” Bruner wrote in his blog. “I know that Telltale will be remembered fondly for what it has done best.”
Telltale Games has been in a downward trend in recent years. Despite its breakout success in 2012 with the first season of The Walking Dead and winning multiple awards, its recent titles haven’t had universally favorable reviews. The company took a hard hit last November when 25 percent of its workforce were out of jobs, and with this new wave of layoffs less than a year later, the company’s future looks bleak.
This bad news comes to the studio while its in the middle of being sued by none other than Bruner himself, who claims that Telltale’s board of trustees removed him from the company without having the proper votes to do so.
Additional Opinion from the Author
The writing was on the wall for this one. Even before last November’s losses, people commonly complained about Telltale’s stagnant engine, which hasn’t really changed since the days of the first season of The Walking Dead. Not only was it getting stale, it was affecting the performance of its recent games, especially the Batman series. The studio did recently say it was updating the engine, with TWD Season 4 showing some new game mechanics. But it’s a sad story of too little, too late.