Another game developer has bitten the dust. Well, not yet anyway. Telltale Games announced earlier this week that they will be closing their doors once The Walking Dead: The Final Season is done. It seems rather fitting that the last game the company will be working on will be also the game that made them a big time success way back in 2012.
It’s always very sad news whenever a game developer announces they will be closing their doors. But, even if this news breaks my heart a little bit, this didn’t surprise me at all. A part of me knew that it was only a matter of time before Telltale Games shut down.
Like a lot of you, I was introduced to Telltale Games through The Walking Dead episodic adventure games. While they were already publishing this style of gaming before with games like Tales of Monkey Island and Back to the Future: The Game, there was something about the first “season” of The Walking Dead that made it stand out. Maybe it was the art style that made everything look like it was from a gritty comic book. Or was it because the gimmick where you made decisions at certain points of the story and it impacted who lived or died. Whatever it was, the first Walking Dead game was something special and deserved all the critical acclaim it got. I liked the game so much I even tried my hand with both Tales of Monkey Island and Back to the Future: The Game just to see how they were!
After the first Walking Dead, it seemed like Telltale Games were unstoppable. They then made the astonishing The Wolf Among Us, an episodic adventure game based on the Fables comic book franchise, and Tales from the Borderlands, based on the Gearbox FPS-RPG hybrid series. Of course, they followed everything up with Season Two of The Walking Dead, which was also amazing, by the way.
It was all downhill from there.
It seemed like Telltale Games were willing to shill out for any and every intellectual property that was popular after that. I remember a lot of fans being so excited for Telltale Games’ version of Game of Thrones. But, when I heard the announcement, I knew there was something wrong. It just didn’t fit the mold of the previous games they made before. Something as complex as all of the politicking and scheming that’s shown in Game of Thrones isn’t something you can work in a Telltale Game story.
Then came Minecraft: Story Mode, which I thought was a joke when it was announced, and Batman: The Telltale Series as well as Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series. The Batman game really took me for a loop as this really didn’t make sense to me. I’m sorry, but if I’m playing a Batman game, I want to be exploring Gotham, beating up thugs and doing all sorts of superhero badassery! I don’t want to be restricted from moving around, shuttled from location to location and just responding to button prompts! That’s just not very Batman-like, is it?
I guess a lot of gamers had the same sentiments as well. While all of the Telltale Games received positive praise, a lot of them just didn’t sell well. Even Batman’s name wasn’t enough for Telltale Games, apparently. And when you have The Dark Knight’s name on something which gets high praise and it still doesn’t sell well, then there’s just something wrong! And it appears that the situation was more dire than we all thought as, from what I’ve read, most of Telltale Games’ employees have been let go without warning and without severance pay as well.
Come to think of it, the last Telltale Games product I played was The Walking Dead: Season Two. I generally stopped buying their games because, well, they’re essentially the same thing! While it was a welcome change from all the running and gunning most games use, it was obvious that Telltale Games were a one-trick pony. Now, there’s nothing wrong with doing the same thing over and over again. I mean, lots of game genres do that. But it’s important to experiment and try new things as well. Even tell their stories in different and shocking ways instead of being boxed in with the Telltale Games formula it stuck with for all those years. Heck, it was like Telltale Games was using the same game engine for everything they produced and this made everything look like you were playing the same game. Well, maybe not the Minecraft game. But when you have difficulty determining if you’re playing a Walking Dead game, a Borderlands game, a Batman game or a Guardians of the Galaxy game, then you’re in trouble.
But the thing that actually turned me off from the Telltale Games style was the episodic structure they used for all their adventure games. I know a lot of fans who love this style, making choices in one episode and then waiting a couple of months to see how their decisions impacted the story. But I hated it! I absolutely loathed episodic gaming! I don’t want to wait for half a year to finish my game! I don’t want to be shackled from playing against my own pace!
I picked up the first two Walking Dead games, The Wolf Among Us and Tales from the Borderlands as collections and I pretty much breezed through each of them in a couple of days each! It was like Telltale Games knew how short the actual length of their games were and artificially inflated it by releasing them piece by piece.
I also hate that this started the entire “episodic” trend where even games like Resident Evil Revelations copied the format when it was totally unnecessary! I’m betting this was also one of the reasons why a lot of games didn’t buy their games immediately as, just like me, waited for them to be released as a collection. You can say I was part of the reason why Telltale Games sales started to flag but, like I said, I never bought into the entire episodic structure they employed since forever. Maybe I would have been more supportive if they actually released full fledged complete games before. But that ship has sailed, hasn’t it?
While it’s disappointing to hear that Telltale Games is shutting down, I have to reiterate that it wasn’t all that shocking because, while they did release a lot of games over the years, not many of them were actually making it to a lot of fans’ radar anymore. It was like they kept on pumping out game after game, hoping for another smash hit like the Walking Dead to reinvigorate them, without really thinking if they should reinvent themselves or try something more adventurous.
I feel sad for all the players who bought the Season Pass for the Final Season of The Walking Dead as they will not get their money’s worth and my heart does go out to the hundreds of Telltale Games employees who are now unemployed. It’s heartwarming to see the dozens of game companies opening their doors to them, by the way. While it wasn’t a surprise to hear Telltale Games was shutting down, it is a nice surprise to see the rest of the game developer community stepping up to help them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgSF2aY9MtM
What was your reaction to Telltale Games announcing that they were closing up shop? Let me know in the comments section below!