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Telltale Games Shuts Down Suddenly, Won’t Pay Severance To Hundreds Of Laid Off Employees

A tough week in the North American video game industry just got tougher. Days after Capcom announced it would shut down its Vancouver studio, Telltale Games has announced that it too will shut down its San Rafael, California studio.

The company was best known for its episodic graphic adventure games like The Wolf Among Us, The Walking Dead, Batman: The Telltale Series, and Minecraft: Story Mode. It initiated a “majority studio closure” today after laying off around 250 employees, saying in an official statement:

Today Telltale Games made the difficult decision to begin a majority studio closure following a year marked by insurmountable challenges. A majority of the company’s employees were dismissed earlier this morning, with a small group of 25 employees staying on to fulfill the company’s obligations to its board and partners.

Various reports online have indicated that the laid off employees won’t receive any severance pay and will lose their health insurance within a couple weeks. (Capcom, by contrast, will be offering severance pay to its employees.) Affected employees have been sharing details on Twitter about their situation:

An exposé published on The Verge earlier this year looked at the company’s poor management, including such accusations as underpaying employees and a toxic “crunch culture” (including 14- to 18-hour work days, up to six days of the week).

Some comments online indicate that employees were given just 30 minutes to leave the studio after being told they were laid off. The company’s CEO Pete Hawley referred to these employees as “friends” in a statement:

It’s been an incredibly difficult year for Telltale as we worked to set the company on a new course. Unfortunately, we ran out of time trying to get there. We released some of our best content this year and received a tremendous amount of positive feedback, but ultimately, that did not translate to sales. With a heavy heart, we watch our friends leave today to spread our brand of storytelling across the games industry.

The game studio’s co-founder Kevin Bruner, who left a year-and-a-half ago after disagreements with the company’s board of directors, issued a statement on his personal blog:

We pursued projects that no one else would consider. The Walking Dead, Tales from the Borderlands, The Wolf Among Us, Batman, Minecraft, Puzzle Agent, Poker Night and Sam & Max are the kind of projects I personally loved and I poured my heart and soul into each one. Those are the kind of projects no other publisher or studio would touch.…Today, I’m mostly saddened for the people who are losing their jobs at a studio they love. And I’m also saddened at the loss of a studio that green-lit crazy ideas that no one else would consider. I’m comforted a bit knowing there are now so many new talented people and studios creating games in the evolving narrative genre.

Telltale is expected to issue further statements regarding its product portfolio in the coming weeks.

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