Telltale Games Comes Back: 3 Questions About Studio's Future

Everything we know about former employees, rights to past games, and the new owners.

by Eric Francisco and Jen Glennon

Famed studio Telltale Games, best known for narrative-driven, episodic games like The Walking Dead, Batman, and Game of Thrones, is coming back to life. But not really.

As reported by multiple outlets and confirmed in statements to VentureBeat and Polygon, Los Angeles holding company LCG Entertainment has acquired the once-fabled studio Telltale Games, which underwent a “majority studio closure” in September 2018.

But as for the original talents who made Telltale great, LCG told Polygon the company plans to offer only freelance positions for now, with full-time roles “possible” in the future.

The founders of LCG, CEO Jamie Ottilie and Chief Revenue Officer Brian Waddle, were the architects behind the acquisition. Neither previously worked at Telltale Games.

In a statement to VentureBeat, Ottilie praised the legacy of the original Telltale. “All of us were big fans of the games Telltale created, as we strongly believe in games as a storytelling medium and nobody did it better,” they said.

So, Telltale is indeed coming back, just not in the same form gamers first got to know them. Akin to Atari, Telltale is (for now) back in name only, without many, or possibly any, of the original developers who contributed to its library of instant cult classics.

With that in mind, the impending “return” of Telltale Games raises a number of questions. Here are just a few.

Screenshot from 'The Wolf Among Us,' a 2012 adaptation of the graphic novel series 'Fables.'

Telltale Games

1. What Will Happen to the Original Telltale Games Development Team?

The new Telltale studio will be headquartered in Malibu, some 400 miles away from its original Northern California location. While this doesn’t bode well for the Bay Area residents who used to work at the studio, VentureBeat reports there will be a small satellite office in Corte Madera, just 11 miles away from the studio’s former home in San Rafael.

Ottilie told Polygon Wednesday about possible freelance roles for former Telltale employees, adding that the company plans to “stay small over the next six months” and will outsource some aspects of development previously handled in-house, like motion capture and animation.

In other words, don’t expect to see too many of the 200-plus former Telltale workers who lost their jobs after the studio’s sudden closure last September rejoining this new iteration of the company.

A number of prominent figures in gaming, including Kotaku’s Jason Schreier, expressed skepticism about what the new acquisition would mean for former Telltale employees on Wednesday.

2. Will Older Telltale Titles Get Rereleases?

According to multiple outlets, the new Telltale has the rights to all in-house IP (like Puzzle Agent) along with the licenses for Batman and The Wolf Among Us, which had been slated to receive a sequel. The new owners have yet to make any announcements regarding other notable licenses, such as Minecraft, Borderlands, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

The rights to a number of Telltale’s biggest, and now former properties, like The Walking Dead and Stranger Things, are now held by other companies. Skybound now owns the license for TWD and plans to release its own series of narrative games, continuing in the vein of the four seasons released by Telltale between 2012 and 2018.

The license for Stranger Things reverted to Netflix last September. At the time, the streaming giant issued a statement saying it was “evaluating other options for bringing the Stranger Things universe to life in an interactive medium.”

Furthermore, the remaining lifespan for Telltale games, especially ones with expired licenses like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us to stay on sale on digital storefronts is another issue the new Telltale will have to address.

In a statement released Wednesday, the new owners promised further details about Telltale’s back catalog and future plans in the weeks to come. “It’s hard to see your favorite games disappear or not get the sequels they deserve, so we thank everyone for their patience and support. We’ve got some exciting things to share soon,” said Chief Revenue Officer Brian Waddle.

Screenshot of 'The Walking Dead: Michonne,' a spin-off title from Telltale Games of its popular 'The Walking Dead' series.

Telltale Games

3. How Will the New Ownership Change Telltale’s Established Reputation?

The founders of LCG have already spoken at length about their admiration for the original Telltale. But change in ownership inevitably means changes in product. So what will become of the new games out of Telltale, and how will that change what gamers think of Telltale?

Naturally, there aren’t any games announced for “Telltale 2.0” just yet. That only leaves speculation wide open for the kind of games Telltale 2 will soon produce in the future. As previously mentioned, LCG’s Waddle intends to satisfy the existing fanbase, but will the new games with new licenses retain the hallmarks — character-driven narrative, difficult moral choices, etc. — that made Telltale so beloved in the first place?

Whatever happens, one thing is for sure: Gamers will remember this.

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