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Telltale – Signs of Life

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The Tale of Telltale

Video game studios are often as beloved as the games they produce. In the era where social media is so prevalent, fans are more connected than ever with the developers and staffers behind their favorite franchises. Social media has acted as an amazing vehicle to deliver news and excitement to legions of eager awaiting fans.

In the same vein, social media can be used to do the opposite: speak of a beloved studio’s demise.

Such was the fate of Telltale Games.

On September 21, 2018, the company announced a majority studio closure, letting go of around 90% of its workforce that day. The studio had been burdened with issues for a while but the sudden development had caught almost everyone affiliated with it off guard. Meanwhile, anonymous Telltale employees had been stating to online news sites and other outlets about the sort of financial trouble and other issues plaguing the developer.

Telltale had reforged an identity for itself with the massive success of its episodic The Walking Dead licensed video game series in 2012, cementing itself as an industry leader in episodic content and reigniting industry interest in adventure video games of years bygone. It had quickly acquired other intellectual properties, such as Game of Thrones, Borderlands, and Minecraft, to develop games for the respective franchises with the choice-dependent formula for which they were renowned. Even with the studio’s demise in 2018, memes like “so-and-so will remember that” persist even now.

However, Telltale had branched out too quickly, sticking too many fingers into uncooked pies. It churned out title after title without taking into account that certain series wouldn’t perform too well, along with the issues prevalent across all of its major games, issues the studio did not iron out despite years of time. Lack of innovation in Telltale’s games was also a prominent issue that soon led to creative decay within the studio.

Amid droves of controversy, Telltale closed its doors, but not before it barely managed to finish the final season of their long-running The Walking Dead series with the help of Skybound Entertainment. Everything else on Telltale’s list was canceled. With its final gift to fans, Telltale’s era came to a close.

However, it didn’t stay that way for long.

Telltale Lives On, just barely

In early 2019, despite liquidation proceedings of what remained of Telltale’s assets, LCG Entertainment acquired key Telltale assets that allowed it to relaunch the Telltale brand through negotiations. By August 2019, Telltale had returned, albeit in name only.

Telltale has signed on with new partners and has offered former Telltale employees positions within the company, including freelance work and full-time positions. However, many remain skeptical, some even willing to boycott future Telltale products due to their previously strained relationship with the studio and the lack of financial support it provided in lieu of termination.

Meanwhile, Telltale has not published anything new, only re-releasing titles in its back catalog. Telltale did tease The Wolf Among Us Season 2 in 2019 at the Video Game Awards to the surprise and joy of many but had remained tightlipped for almost over a year.

The silence was broken last week.

After the conclusion of the VGAs, Telltale tweeted an update of what the team had been up to the past year. The tweet explicitly stated that the studio had started pre-production on The Wolf Among Season 2 and would be working on it in its entirety, rather than piecemeal like it had done in the past. It also meant fans wouldn’t be getting any sneak peeks soon.

Though disappointing to fans who were hungrily waiting since The Wolf Among Us ended on a cliffhanger seven years ago, it is comforting news to hear that Telltale continues to persist after its plunge in 2018 and will be back swinging in 2021.

Telltale has lost the licenses to many of its more well-known or hyped properties, such as The Walking Dead and Stranger Things, but it has managed to hold onto Batman and The Wolf Among Us.

Its catalog may be smaller, but hopefully that works in Telltale’s favor. It will prevent it from branching out too much like it did before and let it hone in on ironing out the issues that have plagued its mainline games for years: shoddy frame rates, buggy interfaces, broken sounds, etc. Keeping a smaller product pool will be a small price to pay for better functioning Telltale games.

Though it was a small update, it is exciting to see what Telltale has in store for the future. Whichever direction it takes, hopefully it learns from its past mistakes and strives to be better than before.

Maybe then fans will finally get to visit Fabletown once more as their favorite Big Bad Wolf.

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