American video game developer and publisher
Telltale Incorporated, doing business as Telltale Games, was an American video game developer based in San Rafael, California. The company was founded in July 2004 by former LucasArts developers Kevin Bruner, Dan Connors and Troy Molander, following LucasArts' decision to leave the adventure game genre. Telltale established itself to focus on adventure games using a novel episodic release schedule over digital distribution, creating its own game engine, the Telltale Tool, to support this. It closed in October 2018 after filing for bankruptcy protection.
Telltale's initial successes were on games using intellectual properties with small but dedicated fan bases, including Sam & Max, Wallace & Gromit, Homestar Runner, and Bone. Around 2010, the studio gained more lucrative licensing opportunities in more mainstream properties such as Back to the Future and Jurassic Park. Telltale's critical breakout game came in 2012's The Walking Dead, based on the comic book series of the same name. It introduced a more narrative-directed approach that diverged from the standard adventure game "point and click" gameplay. The Walking Dead gave the player the ability to make choices that may affect how future events in the game or its sequels play out, effectively allowing players to craft their own personalized take on the offered story. Nearly all of Telltale's adventure games afterwards featured this player choice-driven approach. The Walking Dead was critically praised and considered to have revitalized the adventure game genre since LucasArts' departure from it in 2004.
Telltale continued to expand with new licensing deals for episodic adventure games over the next few years, including for Minecraft, Game of Thrones, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Batman, but the rate of production created a "crunch time" culture behind the scenes, leaving poor company morale, little room for creativity to veer from the formula set by The Walking Dead or improvements on the Telltale Tool. A management shakeup occurred in early 2017, with CEO Bruner stepping down, and Pete Hawley, formerly of Zynga, brought in to fix Telltale's problems. Internal restructuring led to a layoff of 25% of the company's staff in November 2017, along with an emphasis to slow down game production to improve production quality, retire the Telltale Tool for a more standard game engine, and seek other lucrative properties to develop for. This resulted in an early 2018 deal with Netflix in which Telltale would adapt its Minecraft: Story Mode into an interactive program for the streaming service, and Netflix licensing the rights to Telltale for an adventure game based on its show Stranger Things.
In the midst of releasing The Walking Dead: The Final Season, the company was forced to initiate a "majority studio closure" after their last investor had pulled out of funding. Telltale announced on September 21, 2018, that it had let go of all but 25 of its staff as part of this closure, with the remaining skeleton crew completing specific obligations, such as finishing the Minecraft: Story Mode project porting to Netflix. Telltale Games filed for assignment in October 2018. Many assets were later acquired by LCG Entertainment, which revived the Telltale Games name as part of its business in August 2019, retaining many of the company's previous licenses and offering former staff freelance positions.
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