Things may be looking up for the troubled studio. With all the recent negativity surrounding the corporate side of the company, it is encouraging to see progress on the creative front. Variety has noted that the final season of The Walking Dead will be the last time the Telltale Tool engine is used. Fans have long been waiting on this transition, as many have complained about the clunky physics and dated animation consistent with all of the studio’s titles. Telltale’s Stranger Things from the Netflix deal will mark the first of their games to utilize the new Unity engine. However, despite welcoming this long overdue change, the team will undoubtedly take a while before hitting consistent strides. Variety’s sources pointed out growing pains due to developers “relearning how to manage workflow as they adapt to the new engine.”
The past couple of years have not been the best for Telltale Games. The award-winning studio saw leadership changes, employee dissatisfaction stemming from a toxic work environment, and financial woes that necessitated drastic corporate changes. At the peak of their success, Telltale was slinging out hit after hit, and they cemented themselves as the standard-bearer of choose-your-own-path graphic adventure games. Titles like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us skyrocketed them to industry fame along with massive fan support.
However, mired by incompetent leadership and creative stagnation, the company observed a slew of unsuccessful and critically panned titles that ran counter to their initial spark. These projects largely reflected the increasingly stifling corporate philosophy of the once tight-knit company. Despite investments by Lionsgate, a recent partnership with Netflix, and a strong lineup of licensed IP (including Marvel and HBO), it was clear that the company needed a new slate.
Some of the more drastic changes catalyzed by new CEO Pete Hawley included substantial layoffs of the staff and the decision to delay The Wolf Among Us 2, a project that has long been anticipated by fans. For the slumping studio, these changes mark a change for the better, especially with the help of Netflix. This invaluable partnership will allow Telltale access to world popular IPs as well as a huge market for streaming existing games.
Telltale’s story is one of turbulence, a history of courting success and its subsequent downfall. Nevertheless, they have managed to produce a trendsetting résumé of groundbreaking adventure titles. Though they have seen better days, these are not their last. Perhaps with change, whether in company structure, philosophy, or game engine, the beloved studio can once again scale its creative peaks and reclaim cultural relevance.