There was a time when The Walking Dead adventure games were amongst the most popular and respected in the video game industry. In fact, they are still popular and respected, even if the studio behind them, Telltale Games, closed its doors in 2018.
The story of Telltale Games is a long, complicated, and unfortunately very depressing one. It was a studio that had, for all intents and purposes, hit the jackpot, only to flush the success away in a series of bad decisions, and extremely poorly thought out business decisions.
Let’s take a closer look at the studio and learn how they went from the top of the world, to almost overnight bankruptcy.
From Humble Beginnings
Telltale Games was founded in 2004, having officially been around for far longer than many assume. The company originally experimented with a wide variety of creative ideas and concepts, before deciding to truly sink its teeth into adventure games with the likes of Tales of Monkey Island and Jurassic Park. The games weren’t smash hits by any means but served to at least keep the lights on.
Then, a turnaround; the company managed to receive $8 million in venture investment, which is no small achievement. For any organisation to be willing to throw millions at a fairly small, mostly unknown developer, someone must have seen some pretty major potential.
But it is also important to keep in mind, though, that investment of this kind comes with a pretty big asterisk attached. Namely; venture investors expect to get the money back, with a ton of interest, at some stage. More on that later.
The point is that Telltale was suddenly able to really stretch its legs for the first time since original inception, and the design team decided that a proper, fully fleshed out adventure game was the way to go. So, first and foremost, a ton of cash was splashed out on a real, current franchise license; The Walking Dead.
The game was released to the world in 2012.
The success found with the game, as most are aware, was nothing short of extraordinary. The Walking Dead was a fresh new concept; a fusion of deep storytelling, strategy, and puzzle solving, which turned out to be a recipe that the world had been craving. Even if some players were put off by the dark, brooding tone, and truly disturbing plot twists.
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Either way, Telltale delivered an absolute smash hit, with the first game estimated to have sold somewhere around 1 million copies in the first 20 days. As episodes were added to the story, this number absolutely skyrocketed to around 28 million copies by July 2014.
Thus ends the story of a studio that struck gold, only to fumble and crash. There is talk that the studio has been revived but be aware that this is the same company in name only, with the original team having moved on to other prospects.
The Walking Dead video games, however, still live on in many hearts as a masterpiece, and that can never be taken away. Other games, with extremely similar design, such as Detroit: Become Human, have more or less taken over where Telltale Left off. So, if anything, Telltale is a company that very literally shaped an industry. That in itself is truly remarkable, and perhaps where the real impact of a single, once tiny studio can truly be felt.