90 people lose jobs at Telltale

Telltale Games have laid off 90 people today, shrinking the company’s workforce by around 25%. The company says it won’t affect any of their currently announced projects, which includes The Walking Dead’s fourth season, Batman: The Enemy Within, and a second season for Wolf Among Us.

As originally reported by GamesIndustry.biz, the layoffs are part of a company-wide restructuring. Telltale say that the changes are to “make the company more competitive as a developer and publisher of groundbreaking story-driven gaming experiences.” Which doesn’t really mean anything.

“Our industry has shifted in tremendous ways over the past few years. 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,” said Telltale Games CEO Pete Hawley in the statement released to GamesIndustry.

The company also say they’re planning on moving development of their games to “more proven technologies that will fast-track innovation in its core products as it works with new partners to bring its games to new audiences.”

Telltale’s games currently use Telltale Tool, a proprietary game engine, but it sounds as if they’ll be moving over to something more like Unity. That’s a potentially good thing. Their games – all episodic point-and-click adventures – have been criticised for years for running on old technology that undermines the attempts at storytelling.

That’s no comfort to those who have lost their jobs. If you worked at Telltale and have been affected by the layoffs, we’d love to talk to you – get in touch.


  1. Trodomir says:

    “The company say it…” *says
    “Which doesn’t really many anything.” *mean

    • renner says:

      “The company say” and “the company says” are both correct; it’s mostly a regional thing. The US goes with “says” as if the company is a single entity rather than a group of people.

      • thither says:

        “The company say” and “the company says” are both correct; it’s mostly a regional thing.

        Really? I’ve never heard company used as a plural noun, maybe with the exception of a theater company. Is this common usage in UK English?

        • buzzmong says:

          “the company say” is something I’ve never heard in the UK.

  2. Risingson says:

    “point n click adventure” is really devaluated as a definition, is it? It’s like Batman were the same game as Quest for Glory. Anyway.

  3. kament says:

    I just gotta say: I love your choice of pic.

  4. Uberwolfe says:

    Wow, if 90 people are only 25% of this company, this seems a massive amount of people for relatively simple productions. I know they produce a few different IPs in sync, but still…

    • malkav11 says:

      I was going to say – it sounded like a ton of people for what I had assumed was a pretty small operation, but if it’s only a quarter they’re way bigger than I thought.

    • Nogo says:

      Seems about right. Roughly 2-9 ‘teams’ in their rapid turn-around model. Company was probably bloated from an art heavy budget hampered by constraints from aging tech.

      According to their site they’re hiring for several engineering positions despite these layoffs.

      So ya, new engine and stronger relationships with core IPs, with a hint of long-tail monetization scheme.

  5. Baines says:

    Our industry has shifted in tremendous ways over the past few years. 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.

    That’s not an industry shift. Telltale came to fame for limited, high(er) quality products. It was Telltale that then decided to release as many games as physically possible, as well as to cut corners and drop quality to boost that number. And now the company seems to be surprised that things have turned out the way that they turned out.

    • joer says:

      I like Telltale all right. But what was their quality era productions in your opinion? All their stuff, while good in some key ways, also seems to cut a lot of corners. I haven’t noticed a shift. I have played Walking Dead, Wolf Among Us, and am at the end of a playthrough of Game of Thrones. Once you realize you will end up at the same place regardless of your choices, it loses a lot of the magic.

      • joe80x86 says:

        That is why I never went past season 1 of TWD. The choices really didn’t matter in the long run.

        • malkav11 says:

          Depends on what you consider “mattering”. Does the story branch off in 162 different directions based on choices you made in the first 30 minutes? Of course not. That would be an impractical amount of effort and generate an enormous amount of content that would on average only be seen by a tiny fraction of consumers, hardly rewarding for that effort.

          But the details differ quite a bit, and the act of making those decisions impacts the person making them.

        • thither says:

          That’s why it’s imperative to never replay a Telltale game. I’m loathe to even reload when I made an actual mistake and chose the wrong thing by accident. If you play them on (mental) iron man mode they become about 400% more enjoyable.

    • FranticPonE says:

      Telltale used to be near the top of my favorite game companies. The Wolf Among Us and Tales from the Borderlands had me going 2 for 2 for one year. Surely I thought, they’d continue this streak with game of Thrones. Nope. Batman? Nope. Guardians of the Galaxy? Nope.

      Here we are years later with the distant promise of maybe getting sequels to The Wolf Among Us and Tales, and I haven’t enjoyed their games since.

      • puppybeard says:

        I would class the Game of Thrones game as a success, though the sense of “no matter what, you’re f**ked” does take away from it.

  6. Hyena Grin says:

    My impression of Telltale is that they had a lot of unexpected success in previous years, and grew their company exponentially in order to multiply their formula across new IPs.

    But the Telltale novelty has kind of worn off, hasn’t it? Nobody’s really excited about Telltale games anymore. They’re fine, basically. But the magic of novelty is gone and there are some other studios doing more interesting things in that space.

    So is that accurate? Are they scaling back from a growth spurt, or is this catastrophic? I assume that even with 25% of their employees gone they are still well ahead of where they were when The Walking Dead came out. But I could be wrong.

    Anyway, in either case it’s still bad news for the people laid off. I hope they all land on their feet.

  7. tslog says:

    That’s what happens when you turn into a mediocrity factory worse then Call if Duty ever was.

    1st walking dead was their only good game. Rest riding it’s coattails since.

    The way they treated their walking dead series – which is the reason for their position- as it got worse and worse, tells you all you need to know.

    • basilisk says:

      I disagree. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Tales from the Borderlands is the best Telltale series by a wide margin. Because it was clearly made by people who cared and doesn’t feel like a product spat out by an assembly line.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    Wow. Way to be an asshole about people losing their jobs.

    (Also you are wrong.)

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      This was a reply to a now deleted comment.

      • Maxheadroom says:

        got me curious now, what was the nature of the original comment?

        • Vandelay says:

          Someone being a dick and simply saying something like “This is a good thing,” with no further explanation.

          Which, to be fair, it might well turn out to be a good thing for us as consumers, as Telltale taking a look at how they are doing things and shaking them up could result in better games. Plus, looking at this from a purely cold business sense, that seems like a very large team to be producing what they produce and a restructure must have been inevitable. The fact they believe they can cut 25% of their workforce and still continue with their multiple products does indicate that there was a lot of waste.

          Still shitty for those 90 people that are having to find employment elsewhere. Wish them the best.

  9. coburnAlpha says:

    It’s never great when people lose their jobs but this does seem to be the nature of a lot of game companies. Hopefully they’ll get gainful employment elsewhere.

    I lost a lot of interest in Telltales games when they started making games based on big IP’s; Guardians of the Galaxy, Batman etc.
    The best ones were the less “popular” names like The Wolf Among Us and Borderlands where it felt like they were a bit more free to tell a proper story and it didn’t have to be involved in a bigger universe.

  10. Jovian09 says:

    I don’t claim to know anything about the earnings reports, but it hasn’t felt to me like any of Telltale’s games has had as great a cultural impact as TWD season 1. Don’t get me wrong, I love Telltale’s work, and would like to see more (please bring back Tales from the Borderlands). But if their appeal is relatively niche, 270 people still seems like a big number. If their idea is to bring those people together onto fewer overall projects, I hope that manpower translates into quality and revenue for them.

  11. Jay Load says:

    Question: do we ever hear about hires? When devs take on a few new people, and they’re not big celeb names, do we ever get stories about that? And I don’t mean the creation of new studios either, because we do get those. Negative headlines are all well and eye-catching/click-making but it’s be nice to a see a few the other way for a change. EPIC DOING WELL: EXPANDING WITH 10 NEW STAFF IN OCTOBER, for instance. Is that even considered news?

    • riadsala says:

      Good point well said.

    • teije says:

      Rarely. Only if the government is involved (such as tax credits for gaming studios offered in Canada), in that case there will be some PR blurb from the govt about how subsidizing big for-profit companies is “investing in the future”.

      But steady hiring isn’t seen as newsworthy – take my company (don’t own it, just help run it) for instance. We’ve hired 35+ people (devs, QA, etc) to go from 90 to 125 people this year. So pretty significant for a smaller dev shop, but not “news”.

  12. Premium User Badge

    zapatapon says:

    “more proven technologies that will fast-track innovation in its core products as it works with new partners to bring its games to new audiences.”

    What insufferable managerial jargon.

    So in plain english they will switch to a new engine, and… will try to enter the adult game segment, I guess? (I’m joking, but at least that would be slightly less boring that what they’ve been doing lately)

  13. Ham Solo says:

    Some say none of their choices did matter in the end.