The Walking Dead developer Telltale hit with devastating layoffs as part of a ‘majority studio closure’

Telltale Games, creators of episodic adventure games like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, and Batman: The Enemy Within, laid off approximately 250 employees today as part of what the company is calling a “majority studio closure.” According to multiple sources The Verge spoke with, employees were let go with no severance.

“Today Telltale Games made the difficult decision to begin a majority studio closure following a year marked by insurmountable challenges,” the company said in a statement. “A majority of the company’s employees were dismissed earlier this morning.” The company will retain a small team of 25. These remaining employees will stay on “to fulfill the company’s obligations to its board and partners,” according to Telltale.

The final season of Telltale’s award-winning series, The Walking Dead, kicked off last month. The second episode is slated to launch next week. Staff were informed of the layoffs today and were given roughly 30 minutes to leave the building, according to one source.

Telltale had previously announced a second season of The Wolf Among Us and a game based off of Netflix’s wildly popular show Stranger Things. The company has not yet commented on the status of those projects, though the outcome seems dire. On Twitter, one former lead writer wrote, “I’m so sad we won’t be able to show you all Wolf.

The layoffs come a few months after revelations that Telltale was a studio mired in toxic management that included employees being subjected to constant overwork. Once an industry darling that worked on iconic brands like Game of Thrones and Minecraft, Telltale quickly spiraled. In June, co-founder and former CEO Kevin Bruner sued the company seeking recovery of financial damages. Telltale described the suit as “meritless” and “an apparent means of extracting revenge on a company already under financial strain.”

In a post on his personal site today titled “Telltale closure,” Bruner wrote that he is “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.”

This isn’t the first time Telltale has been subject to layoffs; last November the company laid off 90 employees, which was approximately 25 percent of its workforce. “The realities of the environment we face moving forward demand we evolve, as well, reorienting our organization with a focus on delivering fewer, better games with a smaller team,” CEO Pete Hawley said at the time.

“It’s been an incredibly difficult year for Telltale as we worked to set the company on a new course,” Hawley said today. “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. With a heavy heart, we watch our friends leave today to spread our brand of storytelling across the games industry.”

Update September 21st 5:40PM ET: This article has been updated with Telltale’s statement about the layoffs.

Comments

Laying everyone off with no severance is just be the icing on the cake for what complete d-bags Telltale management are.

Polygon article said they will be paid to the end of the year

Which article?

The article from Polygon is referencing an article by the Verge from March and is specifically talking about the layoffs that occurred November 7th, 2017.

So it hasn’t been reported that the people from this month’s layoffs received anything.

worked in a 100 person video game company as a designer. No severance layoffs are standard in the industry. Most people there came from other no severance layoffs from square & activision. I work in tech now, thank god!

Plus the so called 30mins to leave the place is pretty crappy. I got a few of their games but through humble bundle so dirt cheap. I won’t give them another dime if they survive this.

I mean, that money won’t go to Telltale; they’re practically insolvent. It’ll all go to pay their debtors, I’d imagine.

Yeah.

Staff were informed of the layoffs today and were given roughly 30 minutes to leave the building

So they knew this was coming for a while I bet and didn’t even have the decency to let people know with more time so they could look for work.

I feel really sad for all the people that lost their jobs. I’m sure there are several reasons for why the company came under so much financial stress, but I think a big one is probably the fact that their newer games weren’t as popular as the earlier ones like The Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us.

It also doesn’t help that they kept their garbage Telltale Tool engine throughout the transition from last gen to current gen, and just kept licensing expensive properties while forcing their devs to work overtime with broken tools.

Their games lost popularity because the quality went down, and they put out too many games too quickly. It seems Dontnod (Life is Strange) is going about their release cycle in a much more intelligent way.

Life is Strange really is what Telltale should have been.

Yep. They kept churning out titles on the old creaky engine and it’s what made me get off the Telltale train, and probably was so for many other people, thus the sales drop. And they only decided to slow down and fix the engine near this sad end.

I know people need jobs, but given the fact that they laid off all those people without severance I would never stay on board voluntarily to help them fulfill anything to "the board" or "partners".

I always hate seeing corpo-speak about how difficult the decision is without mentioning that the reason they had to make that decision was because the company leadership were so terrible at their jobs.

I would never stay on board voluntarily to help them fulfill anything to "the board" or "partners".

You might stay on board so that you continue to have an income to feed your family while you look for your next opportunity. It’s easy to say "Yeah I’d just leave" when it’s not your money, but it’s pretty doubtful that most people would do that when it was actually their own livelihood in question.

My very first line was "I know people need jobs" so I understand that, however that type of attitude exemplifies two major problems. One, it means that said employee did not save money in a "rainy day fund" which is a well known tip for personal finance. Second and more importantly, it is enabling these worker-hostile companies to get away with treating employees like shit which just perpetuates the same cycle over and over.

Damn. I didn’t know their situation was this bad. I enjoyed their games.

I wonder if MS looked at purchasing the studio, with their interest recently on buying up smaller studios. It just feels like the episodic formula of Telltale games would have been a good fit for Xbox Game Pass

Man…I hope someone picks up the Wolf Among Us 2 Project and finishes it. I was so looking forward to that game.

Mm yea seriously. I think even if MS did want to pick them up, I doubt they would have wanted to take on the associated baggage. It’s probably much much cleaner to pick up the key talent and/or pick up the licenses on firesale, and stick em under new and proven management. I think telltale as an entity is dead (at least until we have a THQ style zombie revival).

But yes, perfect type of game release cadence for games pass.

Telltale presents: Banjo Threeie

Might have been the only way we got it, lol

NOOOOO!!! I was eagerly waiting for their GoT follow-up. What will happen of House Forrester now?

This sucks. I recently played their GoT game on mobile and was hoping they’d put out a second season for that. I think that once they blew up with their Walking Dead game, they began spreading themselves too thin really quickly. I also feel sorry for all of those people who got laid off after working so hard for so long.

Microsoft buy for Game Pass please!!!

They had so many options, but whatever decision they made it was always going to end up at this point.

I’m really surprised by this, they seem to cater to the "I’m not into in mechanical skill games" crowd really well.

It’d be a shame if someone didn’t pick them up, they’d work well as switch exclusives.

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