With several seasons of games currently in production—the season finale of Guardians of the Galaxy drops today—there was no indication Telltale Games was in any trouble, but the studio announced today that 90 employees, roughly 25% of the the company, have been let go as part of a "comprehensive company restructuring."
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/ne3qbk/telltale-games-lays-off-25-of-employees-as-part-of-massive-restructuring
Yeah, this blows. It feels like the studio scaled up way too much too fast after scoring a few successes with their new narrative-focused game format and lost something along the way. I’m astounded that 90 people are only a quarter of the whole studio, that’s nuts.
Best of luck to those affected.
Ye, I think the impression that they’re a small company is perpetuated by the press around them as a “plucky indie who you can’t expect to actually provide working tech and modern visuals”. In fact, they’re at the larger end of AAA development studios (broken into more smaller teams than the usual studio but still with that tier of head-count). They’re independent as in Valve or Epic Games (this layoff probably actually shrinks them to be closer to those other companies, at least if the Wikipedia employee references are roughly accurate).
Hopefully everyone affected will find positions or funding for independent life outside of the company (as several former staff have managed to find investment and start their own actually-small indie studios).
I’m seeing Twitter chatter about this being another example of the games industry being unsustainable, and while the industry absolutely is not sustainable, I think Telltale brought this on themselves by taking on too many projects too quickly to be able to grow to effectively handle that many projects. Absolutely terrible for the 90 people who have been laid off because of that mistake. Hopefully they can land at another studio or make it work as indie developers.
This is really awful for the folks who lost their jobs. Hopefully they, like the Campo Santo and other ex-Telltale folks, go on to form some really cool studios and work on some really cool games. Lots of talented people there.
There was a conversation on the Bombcast not long ago about how quickly Telltale ballooned and this seems like something that was going to happen eventually. I love all their games, but that engine was getting so long in the tooth and becoming a massive problem impacting enjoyment in their properties. Would not be surprised if they moved to Unity (which Life is Strange Before the Storm uses) or something like that.
Oh hey it’s the exact same shit that happened to Crunchyroll a year or so ago -
As part of the restructuring, the company will apparently “move internal development over to more proven technologies that will fast-track innovation in its core products as it works with new partners to bring its games to new audiences.”
One thing to note: Unity CEO John Riccitello is on the board of directors for Telltale.
Basically Crunchyroll had a person in a high position who was also the head of the company that they were outsourcing some work to. Said person was put as head of technology (? I think) and proceeded to lay off the entire Crunchyroll tech staff in favor of hiring the people at his company.
I’m not really interested in whether or not Telltale’s technology was up to scratch - the whole reason that stuff suffered was that the company at high levels was making deals that forced the tech staff into situations where they couldn’t improve it. The whole situation sucks, fuck CEOs, etc. etc.
Ugh. Move out of San Francisco, and stop pushing quantity over quality. This is so sad. Like Vinny said on a Bombcast, they became the Burger King of game dev. Slap a franchise on it. They apparently haven’t ever had time to breathe and rework their technical stuff, working on too many games at once and needing to get them done too quickly.
25 percent of staff. Good God.
I tried interviewing there recently for a programmer position, the things I’ve heard about the codebase from other developers are not good. I was curious when they’d move to Unity for things, and I guess we have that answer. The recruiter I talked to boasted that the company never had layoffs, but I guess they can’t brag about it anymore.
I personally know someone at the company who is a programmer, so I’m very worried for them.
I was also laid off as a developer 2 months ago, with each layoff the labor pool gets people with more experience than I applying for the same positions and I have to compete.
It’s hard, I worked at a studio that at one time had a top 100 grossing IOS game, and 2 years later shuttered. my last 2 jobs have lasted only 6 months before a sudden layoff swept it all way. I, and many of these other workers, have highly specialized skills and talents that take years to build, and the stamina to ship products of protracted years of crunch and development.
The industry is going to have to unionize at some point to remain viable. When that will happen is anyone’s guess, it’s something everyone wants, I feel like if there were a few figureheads that would organize it, it would be easy to have everyone else join. the IDGA and ESA are essentially worthless for labor protection and advocacy.
In the mean time, Loot Crates
I hope you’re right, and I also really hope that what forms is a global union of developers, totally cross-discipline and operating in every region. The response to multi-national, many-billion-dollar companies servicing a truly global market cannot be some fractured national unions all fighting for some exclusive deals to guarantee their dues (possibly only supporting single disciplines). What is needed is an effective negotiator backed by the workers at all non-executive positions in games development.
Can you imagine the damage if entry-level QA positions required people to hand over some of their minimum-wage salaries for dues in order to secure a position, advertised as the gateway to high earnings and a position of power making games. Maybe a worst case but the industry seems to be set in the “disruptive” mindset that could actually generate such outcomes if not pushed to properly consider how unionisation needs to work.