Telltale Games

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Telltale Games, Inc.
Type Private
Industry Video game industry
Founded June 2004
Founders Kevin Bruner
Dan Connors
Troy Molander[1]
Headquarters San Rafael, California, United States
Products Graphic adventure games
Employees 180[2]
Website www.telltalegames.com

Telltale Games is an American independent digital publisher founded in June 2004 as Telltale, Incorporated. Based in San Rafael, California, the studio includes designers formerly employed by LucasArts. Its business model revolves around episodic gaming and digital distribution,[3] and it is best known for its various graphic adventure game series based on popular licensed properties.

Many of the games that have been developed by Telltale Games are released episodically. Several episodes, released together in a season, are released periodically through a certain timeframe, often concluding around half a year or so after the initial release.

Notable titles by Telltale include adventure-game adaptations of Sam & Max, Homestar Runner, Monkey Island, the movie series Back to the Future and Jurassic Park; the comic book series The Walking Dead and Fables; the book series A Song of Ice and Fire and the video game series Borderlands.

History[edit]

Company foundation[edit]

Telltale Games was founded by a group of former LucasArts employees who had been working on Sam & Max: Freelance Police, a sequel to the 1993 game Sam & Max Hit the Road, prior to its cancellation on March 3, 2004. In an early press release the vocal public response to said cancellation was cited as a main reason the company was founded.[4] The Telltale Games team has a large collective experience working on LucasArts' famed classics.

On February 11, 2005, the company released their first game, Telltale Texas Hold'em, a poker card game simulator which was intended primarily to test the Telltale Tool, their in-house game engine.[5] This was followed by two games based on Jeff Smith's Bone comic book series. More episodes were planned, but later aborted. They then developed CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder for Ubisoft, and although it was composed of several free-standing episodes, it was released exclusively at retail as a single package. The same is true for the follow ups, CSI: Hard Evidence, CSI: Deadly Intent, and CSI: Fatal Conspiracy.

After securing two rounds of angel investment from San Francisco Bay Area angels including superangel Matthew Le Merle and members of angel group Keiretsu Forum,[6] Telltale attempted to buy the rights to complete Sam & Max: Freelance Police from LucasArts, but when they were denied, they secured the rights to create new games from series creator Steve Purcell. Unlike their previous games, Sam & Max: Season One (published in collaboration with GameTap) was their first episodic series released on a tight monthly schedule—a landmark for the game industry. The series proved successful, and Telltale went on to produce two additional Sam & Max seasons. Since then, they have continued to produce series based on popular licenses released in monthly episodes. Several series that Telltale went on to work with were largely comedic, including games based on Wallace & Gromit and Homestar Runner. Tales of Monkey Island, based on the popular LucasArts series, marked one of their most successful series to date, owing in part to the history many of its developers had with LucasArts adventure games.

Pilot Program[edit]

To supplement their normal episodic games, Telltale created a Pilot Program in early 2010 to explore one-off games that would explore other gameplay and storytelling approaches that could eventually be incorporated into their episodic games.[7] The first game, Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent, a puzzle-solving game in collaboration with Graham Annable, was released in the middle of June 2010, while Poker Night at the Inventory, a crossover poker game featuring characters from Sam and Max, Homestar Runner, Valve's Team Fortress 2, and the webcomic Penny Arcade, was released late in 2010. Telltale later went on to follow up Puzzle Agent with a sequel, Puzzle Agent 2, in 2011. Additionally, in 2013, Telltale continued the Poker Night series with Poker Night 2. The Pilot Program is also utilized by Telltale Games to develop new game play ideas that are then adapted to their normal episodic game series. The Walking Dead started out as a Pilot Program title that was known internally as the "zombie prototype".[8]

Growth and franchise acquisitions[edit]

Having established themselves as working with comedy franchises, Telltale later chose to work with dramatic franchises as well in addition to comedy series. In June 2010, Telltale announced that they had secured licences with NBC Universal to develop two episodic series based on Back to the Future and Jurassic Park.[9] Further series based on licensed properties were announced in February 2011, including series based on the comic book series The Walking Dead and Fables in association with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment,[10] and a series based on the King's Quest adventure games by Sierra.[11] Telltale's King's Quest was confirmed to be cancelled on April 3, 2013.[12]

By 2010, Telltale has proven itself successful, with yearly revenues of $10 million, 90% greater than the previous year.[10] Part of this is attributed to Back to the Future: The Game, which Steve Allison, the senior vice president of marketing, called in 2011 their "most successful franchise to date".[13] Allison states that for most of their games, they only need to sell 100,000 copies to break even, but many of their recent releases have seen twice that number or more; Allison anticipated that The Walking Dead series could be a $20 to $30 million franchise.[10] Telltale expects with the additional licensed franchises, the studio and its revenues will continue to grow at a similar pace. They announced expectations of the studio to expand from their 90 employees to 140.[10]

In April 2011, Telltale announced another licensed episodic series, based on Law & Order: Los Angeles,[14] which later changed to encompass multiple Law and Order shows.

In 2012, Telltale had its biggest success yet with The Walking Dead, which sold one million copies in 20 days,[15] and topped the sales charts on Xbox Live,[16] PlayStation Network, and Steam.[15] Due to the success of the first game, Telltale announced a sequel in July 2012.[17][18][19] Telltale announced intentions to move to a new location and expand from 125 to 160 in Spring 2013,[20] after The Walking Dead sold 8.5 million episodes.[21]

Telltale announced two additional series, Tales from the Borderlands, based on the Borderlands series from Gearbox Software, and Game of Thrones, based on the HBO television show adaption of the books, at the 2013 Spike VGX video game awards program. Tales from the Borderlands came out of ideas discussed during the 2012 Spike Video Game Awards between Telltale and Gearbox who were sitting at adjacent tables, noting the narration and unique characters of the Borderlands series. Sometime afterwards, Telltale approached Gearbox with their game concept and Gearbox readily welcomed the project. The Game of Thrones game arose from internal discussions within Telltale of what other popular franchises they would write games around, with much support given for Game of Thrones, considering it emotionally equivalent to their The Walking Dead game. They approached HBO with the concept, and after a year of negotiations, were able to secure the license.[22]

Development philosophy[edit]

Telltale Games presents itself specifically as a developer of episodic games. Many critics feel that Telltale is the only company to have done episodic gaming right,[23][24][25][26] usually citing its ability to consistently deliver on a monthly schedule. Telltale is also seen by movie studios and other content producers to take a more realistic approach to movie tie-in games; rather than the difficult model of "see the movie; play the game", Telltale is noted for working with studios and screenwriters to create a strong experience that pays homage to the original film or franchise.[10]

While chiefly a developer, Telltale Games values its ability to self-publish their games;[27] the only times it has had a classic developer-publisher relationship is with Ubisoft for the CSI games.[28] They have struck financial arrangements with GameTap for the first two seasons of the rebooted Sam & Max games, but for the rest their publishing arrangements have been made after the games were already completed and had already been sold via digital distribution.

Telltale aims to have a presence on as many platforms and avenues of digital distribution as possible.[29] To date, they have released games through GameTap, on Windows and Mac through Steam and similar services in addition to their own online store, on Wii via WiiWare and disc, on Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade and disc, on PlayStation 3 through PlayStation Network and disc, on iPhone and iPad through iTunes, on PlayStation Vita, and on Kindle Fire HDX.[30] They normally port their own games to other systems, but CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder was ported to the PlayStation 2 by Ubisoft Bulgaria[31] and Bone: Out from Boneville was ported to Mac OS by Vanbrio.[32] Telltale Games was one of the companies who Sony confirmed have pledged third party support for the PlayStation 4 at the PlayStation Meeting 2013.[33]

Development history[edit]

Game Release Date # of Episodes Platform(s)
Telltale Texas Hold'em February 11, 2005 1 episode (standalone title) PC
Bone: Out from Boneville September 15, 2005 1 episode (standalone title)E PC, OS X
CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder March 21, 2006 5 episodes (standalone title) PC, PS2
Bone: The Great Cow Race April 12, 2006 1 episode (standalone title) E PC
Sam & Max Save the World October 17, 2006 - April 26, 2007 6 episodes (monthly) PC, X360, Wii
CSI: Hard Evidence September 25, 2007 5 episodes (standalone title) PC, OS X, Wii, X360
Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space November 8, 2007 - April 10, 2008 5 episodes (monthly) PC, X360, Wii, OS X, PS3, iOS
Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People August 11, 2008 - December 15, 2008 5 episodes (monthly) PC, Wii, PS3, OS X
Wallace & Gromit's Grand Adventures March 24, 2009 - July 30, 2009 4 episodes (monthly) PC, X360, iOS
Tales of Monkey Island July 7, 2009 - December 8, 2009 5 episodes (monthly) PC, Wii, OS X, PS3, iOS
CSI: Deadly Intent October 20, 2009 5 episodes (standalone title) PC, X360, Wii
Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse April 15, 2010 - August 30, 2010 5 episodes (monthly) PC, OS X, PS3, iOS
Hector: Badge of Carnage D June 2, 2010 - September 22, 2011 3 episodes (monthly) PC, OS X, iOS
Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent June 30, 2010 1 episode (standalone title) E P PC, OS X, PS3, iOS
CSI: Fatal Conspiracy October 26, 2010 5 episodes (standalone title) PC, PS3, X360, Wii
Poker Night at the Inventory November 22, 2010 1 episode (standalone title) E P[34] PC, OS X
Back to the Future: The Game December 22, 2010 - June 23, 2011 5 episodes (monthly) PC, OS X, PS3, iOS, Wii
Puzzle Agent 2 June 30, 2011 1 episode (standalone title) E P PC, OS X, iOS
Jurassic Park: The Game November 15, 2011 4 episodes (standalone title)
4 episodes (bi-monthly) (iOS)
PC, OS X, PS3, X360, iOS
Law & Order: Legacies December 22, 2011 - March 29, 2012 7 episodes (bi-weekly) PC, OS X, iOS
The Walking Dead: Season One April 24, 2012 - November 20, 2012 5 episodes (bi-monthly); 1 DLC episode (July 2, 2013) PC, OS X, PS3, X360, iOS, PSV, Android, PS4, XONE
Poker Night 2 April 24, 2013 1 episode (standalone title) E P PC, OS X, PS3, X360, iOS
The Wolf Among Us October 11, 2013 - July 8, 2014 5 episodes (bi-monthly) PC, OS X, PS3, X360, iOS, PSV, Android, PS4, XONE
The Walking Dead: Season Two December 17, 2013 - August 26, 2014 5 episodes (bi-monthly) PC, OS X, PS3, X360, iOS, PSV, Ouya, PS4, XONE
Game of Thrones[35] 2014 Episodic PC, OS X, PS3, X360
Tales from the Borderlands[36] 2014 Episodic PC, PS3, PS4, PSV, X360, XONE
The Walking Dead: Season Three[37] TBD Episodic TBD
E. ^ Episodes within season released as standalone titles
P. ^ Pilot Program title
D. ^ (Developed by Straandlooper, converted to Telltale Tool and published by Telltale)[38]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Sam & Max team forms new studio". GameSpot. 2004-10-01. Retrieved 2014-05-11. 
  2. ^ Lingman, Kris (2014-01-17). "Q&A: Turning a Telltale game into 'a Telltale experience'". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  3. ^ GameCyte - The Telltale Art: Heads of Tales
  4. ^ "Telltale Games, A New Game Development Studio, Opens Doors In Northern California". Telltale Games press release. 2004-10-04. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  5. ^ Morganti, Emily (2009-05-15). "Give us your opinion, we'll give you Telltale Texas Hold'em". the Telltale Blog. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  6. ^ Telltale Games: Downloadable games lure exuberant investors San Francisco Business Times, March 12, 2006
  7. ^ "Telltale Games Kicks Off New Game Pilot Program to Foster Innovation" (Press release). Telltale Games. 2010-05-10. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  8. ^ "Telltale on Weird Experiments, Revisiting Comedy". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. 2013-05-17. Retrieved 2013-12-12. 
  9. ^ Lang, Derrek J. (2011-02-11). "'Back to Future,' 'Jurassic Park' to become games". USA Today. Associated Press. Retrieved 2010-06-09. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Duryee, Tricia (2011-02-17). "Telltale Signs That Videogames Will Be Downloaded, Not Sold at Retail". All Things Digital. Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  11. ^ Clark, Matt (2011-02-18). "Telltale Confirms 'King's Quest' Reboot And 'Fables' Game". MTV. Retrieved 2011-02-18. 
  12. ^ "Activision is planning something for King's Quest After Recovering the Rights From Telltale Games". Digital Trends. 2013-04-03. Retrieved 2013-04-03. 
  13. ^ Hinkle, David (2011-02-18). "Back to the Future is Telltale's 'most successful' franchise". Joystiq. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  14. ^ Davidson, Pete (2011-04-18). "Telltale's next project: Law & Order: LA". GamePro. Archived from the original on 2011-12-01. Retrieved 2011-04-18. 
  15. ^ a b "Telltale Games' The Walking Dead Sells a Million". IGN. Retrieved 2011-07-14. 
  16. ^ "The Walking Dead Tops Xbox Live Arcade Chart". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2012-05-15. 
  17. ^ "Telltale Games Planning The Walking Dead Season Two". The Escapist. Retrieved 2012-07-16. 
  18. ^ "The Walking Dead Season Two Insinuated by Telltale". Joystiq. Retrieved 2011-03-08. 
  19. ^ "More The Walking Dead Games in the Way From Telltale, Activision". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2011-03-08. 
  20. ^ "Telltale Games plans major expansion". North Bay Business Journal. Retrieved 2013-01-28. 
  21. ^ "The Walking Dead sold over 8.5 million episodes since release". PC Gamer. Retrieved 2013-01-28. 
  22. ^ Charles, Alexa Ray (2013-12-23). "How Telltale teamed up with 'Game of Thrones' and Borderlands". Polygon. Retrieved 2013-12-23. 
  23. ^ Sinclair, Brendan (2008-04-10). "Q&A: Telltale tells why Sam & Max works". GameSpot. Retrieved 2008-12-07. 
  24. ^ Kollar, Philip (2007-10-17). "Why is Episodic Gaming So Hard?". 1UP.com. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  25. ^ Elliott, Phil (2009-03-16). "More companies will move into episodic games – Telltale". GamesIndustry.biz. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  26. ^ Geddes, Ryan (2009-03-16). "Are Episodic Games the Future?". IGN. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  27. ^ Remo, Chris (2007-03-19). "Telltale CEO Dan Connors on Sam & Max". Shacknews. Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  28. ^ Remo, Chris (2009-05-06). "Interview: Telltale's Connors On Episodic Gaming's Bite". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  29. ^ Grant, Christopher (2009-02-10). "Joystiq interview: Telltale's Dan Connors on XBLA, Wallace & Gromit". Joystiq. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  30. ^ "The Walking Dead is Out For Kindle Fire HDX". The International House of Mojo. 2013-01-06. Retrieved 2013-01-07. 
  31. ^ "CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder Review". GameSpot. Retrieved 2014-01-03. 
  32. ^ "Vanbrio Releases Jeff Smith’s Bone: Out from Boneville Now Available for the Macintosh". Business Wire. 2006-10-13. Retrieved 2014-01-04. 
  33. ^ "Two Tantalizing Tidbits". The International House of Mojo. 2013-02-24. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  34. ^ "Poker Night confirmed as Pilot Program title". The International House of Mojo. 2010-09-04. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  35. ^ Sarak, Samit (2013-12-07). "Game of Thrones game coming in 2014 from Telltale". Polygon. Retrieved 2013-12-07. 
  36. ^ Jackson, Mike (2013-12-07). "Telltale games reveals 'Tales From the Borderlands'". Computer and Video Games. Retrieved 2013-12-07. 
  37. ^ Sliva, Marty (2014-07-26). "SDCC 2014 Telltale confirms the Walking Dead season 3". IGN. Retrieved 2014-07-27. 
  38. ^ "Straandlooper Speaks". The International House of Mojo. 2011-06-03. Retrieved 2013-06-06. 

External links[edit]