Image: Telltale Studios, IGDB

Dead men tell no tales pt. 1

The writing has been on the wall for quite some time and what’s more is that the blame rests at Telltale’s own feet. The main factor that led to collapse of Telltale Games is honestly rather simple: their video games weren’t selling. According to the Steamspy, the first Walking Dead game sold between 2 million and 5 million copies on Steam and due to its incredible success launched the visibility of Telltale Games. Yet this success did not sustain itself and the first signs of struggling sales appeared in Winter 2014 with the release of both Game of Thrones and Tales from the Borderlands which underperformed with between 500,000 and 1 million copies sold on Steam. What compounded this situation was the fact that Telltale developed second seasons of Batman and Minecraft: Story Mode, which sold less than the originals rather than choosing to work on their better-selling franchises such as The Wolf Among Us.

The issue comes down to the quality of the finished video games in all aspects

Lack of sales crippled Telltale Games but it doesn’t explain why the games didn’t sell in the first place. The issue comes down to the quality of the finished video games in all aspects from technical to gameplay to the sheer amount of time put into it. Starting off with the technical aspects, Telltale Games used a game engine called Telltale Tool, originally created as a tech demo for a poker game, as the base for every Telltale game from The Walking Dead until this year. This engine created unrealistic animations, a plethora of game glitches, bugs and even when the game worked properly, it ran poorly with frame rate drops on many platforms.

But that is only one half of the issue with Telltale games, with the other half being their stories. When The Walking Dead was released, it was heralded for its amazing writing, great storytelling and the way it revolutionised the point and click, choose your own adventure genre. They then proceeded to re-use this formula for every game which meant that gamers were paying full price for thematic re-skins of lackluster quick time events and the illusion of decisions that actually mattered.

Telltale was mismanaged as a company and the people who paid the price were the workers

The problems that plagued Telltale’s games were very obvious. Telltale was mismanaged as a company and the people who paid the price were the workers. Considering the company of under 300 employees was developing somewhere around six to seven different games within the space of a year. Consider that workload and couple it with a management that disregarded its staff as people and fostered a toxic culture in the workplace (at least from the few stories that have come out from former employees). You can see why there was no improvement in their games.

In summary, I find it ironic Telltale became what made them so popular: The Walking Dead. Once filled with life but has now died inside, leaving nothing more than a shambling husk that destroyed everyone who ever loved and supported it. The shame here is not that Telltale is gone but that the bullet to the brain came too late to save the people it hurt the most.

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