A surprising turn of events occurred in September 2018 for fans of Telltale Games everywhere. The video game studio announced on social media that they were enacting a major studio closure.
They laid off 225 employees and kept on 25 people to make sure immediate deadlines were kept for their board of directors. This means that over 200 people lost their jobs in the space of a few hours with no warning.
I spent a lot of time playing their games over the past couple years so this news came as a complete shock to me. I’m sure this news came as a nasty shock to those who bought season’s passes for The Walking Dead series as well.
My biggest question to the studio is whether those folks are getting their money back for those passes. I wanted to go over the timeline for those who are wondering what all went down over the past couple weeks. It’s a doozy and took some research so here we go.
From what I gathered about the situation, the lack of funding really started in mid-2017 when they fired Kevin Bruner as their CEO. They brought in Pete Hawley over the summer, who had worked at Zynga up to that point.
One of the very first things this guy does is lay off 90 people in November 2017. This amounted to about 25% of their workforce at that time, which had totalled just over 300 employees after doing the math.
The company released a statement around this time that states this layoff was so they could focus on publishing their games on a more streamlined timetable with a more condensed company. In December 2017, Pete is interviewed and gives a great outlook about the company.
He talks about the games they are releasing in 2018 and even into 2019 as well. He gives no warning at this point that the sales for their current games are going south. Then, in September 2018, Telltale makes the announcement that they are starting the process of a majority studio closure.
This means that 225 people lost their jobs on September 22nd, which was a Friday. The employees were told to clear out their workspaces and leave the building within 30 minutes.
Emily Buck stated on Twitter that the employees were allowed to return on Monday, September 24th to retrieve the items they were not able to get the day they were fired.
Future games through the company have also been cancelled, such as the last two episodes of The Walking Dead series and a game based on The Stranger Things. People who bought a season pass for this series have not been notified of a way to get their money back at this point.
A possible lawsuit?
This former employee, Vernie Roberts, files a lawsuit against Telltale for violating the federal WARN Act. This law basically states that any company with more than 100 employees must tell their workers in writing 60 days in advance about a major layoff that is going to occur. Telltale is accused of firing these people without providing a severance package as well. Mr Roberts is asking through his lawyers for Telltale to provide the money they would have made, healthcare, and interest for the period of 60 days after they were initially terminated. He also left it open in case anyone else wanted to enter the lawsuit against him in the coming weeks.
This news is sad to me since I’ve bought several games from the studio over the past few years. I find the lawsuit to be justified on some level since the former employees do deserve some sort of severance. It makes me feel poorly for all of us fans who were looking forward to the last couple episodes of The Walking Dead series the company had been working so hard on over the past few years.
The Batman games didn’t do well from what I gathered, which could very well have led to Telltale’s ultimate demise.
I read that the company stated they weren’t doing as well with the sales of the games they published. That is what ultimately brought them down and forced them to close their doors.
I believe the most telling thing in terms of this situation is the reactions from other animators, who have all said they wished Telltale would give their former employees more respect. I agree with this on every level because the employees deserve warnings from the company that they are being laid off.
That’s the whole reason for the lawsuit, after all! I’m curious about whether the lawsuit will win in court and what kind of compensation the former employees could get in the future. I’m not even sure if they will get compensation at all since Telltale has tanked. We’ll see what happens, won’t we?