Telltale Games Is (Sort Of) Back From The Dead; Old Staff Offered Freelance Roles
"We're working very hard not to make similar mistakes."
Telltale Games, creators of the episodic The Walking Dead, Batman, and Game of Thrones games, shut down last year after a tumultuous timeline of events, but a company called LCG Entertainment is bringing the beloved studio's name back from the dead. The new company plans to sell some of Telltale's back-catalog and will work on new games based on Telltale-associated properties and new licences.
Jamie Ottilie and Brian Waddle are heading up the new Telltale. Ottilie has spent much of his career in mobile games and was previously the founder and CEO of Galaxy Pest Control, a studio known for its work on licenced games such as Duck Dynasty, Power Rangers Legends, and Hotel Transylvania 2. Waddle, meanwhile, ran sales and marketing for the Havok game engine at Intel and later Microsoft.
In an interview with Polygon, Ottilie said that some workers from the original Telltale Games will be offered freelance roles at the new Telltale, with full-time positions possible in the future--so this is very much Telltale in name only at this point. He also confirmed that the new company still has back-catalog rights to licenced properties like The Wolf Among Us and Batman, as well as full rights to original Telltale games such as Puzzle Agent.
Before Telltale closed its door last year, the company was working on a sequel to The Wolf Among Us, with an announcement in 2017 and a planned release window sometime in 2018. Obviously that never happened, but Ottilie says it's possible the new Telltale will pick up some stories where they left off. "We're still evaluating, but we definitely want to continue some of the stories," he said. Whether The Wolf Among Us 2 is part of that equation remains to be seen, and it's not likely to resemble the game the original team was working on. What we do know, however, is that The Walking Dead won't be coming back. The licence is now owned by Skybound, the company that finished development on the last two episodes of The Walking Dead's final season after Telltale shuttered.
Ottilie didn't shed light on the status of other previous Telltale licences like Borderlands, Minecraft, and Guardians of the Galaxy, but he did say the rights for the Stranger Things game Telltale had announced have now gone back to Netflix.
Negotiations for Telltale's rights began six months ago and were purchased from a company assigned by the creditors of the original Telltale. A purchase price has not been announced, but despite the "incredibly complex" negotiations, Ottilie proceeded with the deal because of his belief in the future of adventure games. "This is a viable business that went away due to market conditions and some scale choices [Telltale's previous management] made," he said. "I like games that tell stories and I think our industry should have a company that specializes in narrative-driven games."
The new studio will be based in Malibu, California, with publisher Athlon Games handling storefront operations and distribution. A number of games industry figures are involved in financially backing the studio, too, including Lyle Hall (Heavy Iron Studios), Chris Kingsley (Rebellion), and Tobias Sjögren (formerly of Starbreeze).
"We’re going to stay small over the next six months and we will work for more of a distributed development pipeline than Telltale was known for," Ottilie explained. "We’ll focus on tools, technology and design in-house. Some things like animation and motion capture will be done with the right partnerships externally." Ottilie also wants to evolve Telltake's episodic model. "We will probably keep the concept of episodes but with different pacing. This is a different world, from a media consumption standpoint. We need to look at how people like to entertain themselves. I like the idea of binge-watching.
"[Telltale] brought me some of my favorite stories to play and they did an amazing job building a company. It's unfortunate the way that it ended. Certainly we're working very hard not to make similar mistakes."
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