What happened to Telltale Games?

Telltale Games was an American video game developer founded by Kevin Bruner, Dan Connors, and Troy Molander in 2004.

The company established itself as an adventure game developer, with its game engine supporting an episodic release schedule. 

Perhaps the most iconic Telltale game was the 2012 title The Walking Dead, which introduced a more narrative-directed approach.

In other words, players could make choices that affect future events in the game or even how sequels are eventuated.

The company continued to prosper in the following years, releasing episodic interpretations of Guardians of the Galaxy, Batman, Game of Thrones, and Minecraft.

Despite a winning formula, Telltale Games declared bankruptcy in October 2018 after laying off around 90% of its workforce a month earlier.

Founding and Early SuccessTelltale Games, founded in 2004 by former LucasArts employees, quickly gained recognition for its innovative approach to storytelling in video games. It specialized in episodic adventure games with player-driven narratives.
Iconic TitlesTelltale Games produced several iconic game series, including “The Walking Dead,” “The Wolf Among Us,” “Tales from the Borderlands,” and “Minecraft: Story Mode.” These games were known for their branching narratives and impactful player choices.
Rise to ProminenceThe success of “The Walking Dead: Season One” in 2012 propelled Telltale Games to the forefront of narrative-driven gaming. It received critical acclaim and numerous awards, bringing the company considerable attention.
Expansion and PartnershipsTelltale expanded its portfolio by partnering with popular franchises such as “Game of Thrones,” “Batman,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which allowed fans to experience these worlds in an interactive storytelling format.
Financial ChallengesDespite its creative success, Telltale Games faced financial difficulties due to high development costs and a reliance on external funding. Layoffs and studio closures became a recurring issue.
Sudden ClosureIn September 2018, Telltale Games abruptly announced its closure, laying off the majority of its staff. The announcement shocked fans and left several ongoing projects, including “The Walking Dead: The Final Season,” in limbo.
Rescue by Skybound EntertainmentFollowing the closure, Skybound Entertainment, a company founded by Robert Kirkman (the creator of “The Walking Dead”), stepped in to finish “The Walking Dead: The Final Season.” This allowed the story to conclude as originally intended.
Revival by LCG EntertainmentIn August 2019, a company named LCG Entertainment, headed by game industry veterans, acquired Telltale Games’ assets and revived the studio. They aimed to continue the legacy of Telltale Games with new projects and adaptations of classic titles.
Releases and Future ProspectsLCG Entertainment announced plans to re-release select Telltale titles and develop new games, including sequels to fan-favorite series. Telltale Games’ revival brought hope to fans and the gaming community.
Legacy of Interactive StorytellingTelltale Games’ legacy lies in its pioneering work in interactive storytelling, emphasizing player choices and character-driven narratives. It influenced the gaming industry and inspired other developers to explore narrative-driven gaming experiences.


The success of The Walking Dead was a company maker, giving Telltale Games the necessary clout to work with companies like Marvel and HBO.

However, this success would prove to be a double-edged sword.

Developers went on a relentless quest to add the charm of The Walking Dead into all the company’s future games.

Essentially, this was stipulated by the major license holders that struck deals with Telltale Games.

But the company board of directors also put pressure on the company to replicate the success of The Walking Dead in other titles. 

A preoccupation with what had worked in the past caused the company to develop games based on tired and overused concepts.

As a result, creativity and experimentation were stifled.

Outdated software

Telltale Games developed a proprietary game engine known as the Telltale Tool.

Though initially successful, the engine eventually became obsolete, and the company refused to upgrade or replace it.

For one, the Telltale Tool did not have a dedicated physics system.

This required that the elements in an action system be created by hand, which took vast amounts of time and money away from critical operations.

The lack of a dedicated physics system also caused characters to appear rigid and lifeless, with some games plagued with bugs, erased saves, and purchases that didn’t carry through.

According to co-founder Kevin Bruner, there were internal discussions around upgrading to Unreal, but the transition was considered too disruptive.

Belated attempts in June 2018 to replace the Telltale Tool with Unity were a case of too little, too late.

Competition and market positioning

The games industry evolved in 2013 with the release of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Both platforms offered superior graphics, and titles such as God of War and The Last of Us arguably told better stories to boot.

This put Telltale Games in a predicament.

It competed with lesser-known studios producing comparable games with much lower operating costs.

But it competed against larger players with more manpower and superior development engines. 

Stuck in the middle, so to speak, consumers grew weary of the lack of evolution in Telltale Games titles.

Critics also suggested the company had a fundamental misunderstanding of the market.

For example, its interpretation of Guardians of the Galaxy featured dark themes even though the comic and movie franchise has always been associated with comedy.

Telltale Games also developed a more sophisticated version of Minecraft for teenagers and young adults – despite the game enjoying the most success with children.

Company culture

Some former employees also criticized the company culture of Telltale Games after Bruner took over as CEO. 

Bruner was known to micromanage employees and criticize them in public.

He also discarded many of the submissions they had made, which resulted in employees having to work 100-hour weeks just to meet deadlines. 

The toxic management style of Bruner also resulted in The Walking Dead project leads Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin quitting the company.

The departure of this crucial personnel exacerbated the lack of creativity and enthusiasm for subsequent releases.

Key takeaways:

  • Telltale Games was an American video game developer founded by Kevin Bruner, Dan Connors, and Troy Molander in 2004. Telltale Games declared bankruptcy in October 2018 despite releasing multiple successful games.
  • Telltale Games management was preoccupied with the success of The Walking Dead, which could not be replicated in subsequent, unrelated releases. Outdated development software also caused inefficiencies and games riddled with bugs.
  • Telltale Games suffered competition from smaller and larger players, a fact made worse by the company not understanding its audience or market position.

Quick Timeline

  • Telltale Games was an American video game developer founded in 2004, known for its episodic adventure games that allowed players to make choices affecting the narrative.
  • The Walking Dead game in 2012 became a massive success, leading to partnerships with major licenses like Marvel and HBO. However, the pressure to replicate its success and a lack of creativity stifled the company’s game development.
  • The company’s proprietary game engine, the Telltale Tool, became outdated and caused technical issues in games. Attempts to upgrade the engine were too little, too late.
  • The gaming industry’s evolution, with superior graphics and storytelling on next-gen consoles, put Telltale Games in a predicament, competing against both smaller studios and larger players with more resources.
  • Internal issues with the company culture, including micromanagement and public criticism by the CEO, contributed to employee dissatisfaction and the departure of crucial personnel.
  • Despite releasing successful games, Telltale Games filed for bankruptcy in 2018 due to mismanagement, outdated technology, and market positioning issues.

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Who Owns Fortnite

Epic Games owns Fortnite; Tim Sweeney, co-founder and CEO, is the major shareholder, with more than 50% of the company. And Tencent with a stake of over 40% of the company. Epic Games develops, publishes, and distributes games. It comprises the Unreal Engine, making money through licensing agreements with developers and creators. While Fortnite primarily follows a free-to-play model with up-sells and digital in-app purchases.

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