A little over a week ago, Telltale Games announced publicly that the majority of the studio was being shut down, with only a skeleton crew remaining in order to fulfill obligations to the company's board. This was definitely saddening news, but the true tragedy came shortly after: every single developer who worked at Telltale was laid off with zero severance pay. Put simply, they were shown the door without any financial help at all.
Yet, despite this, Telltale posted another update three days later that revealed it was "actively looking for a solution" to finish its current game, The Walking Dead: The Final Season, due to offers from potential business partners. Here's why figuring out how to finish the game should be the last thing on Telltale's mind.
It's morally wrong not to
The main reason why Telltale should be prioritizing assisting former employees financially instead of trying to finish its game is it's the right thing to do. Finding work after a lay off is not an easy thing to do for many people, and that's precisely why the concept of severance pay exists: to ensure that employees have some financial breathing room while they attempt to find a new career.
It's possible, though, that Telltale is unable to pay severance, as the company said that the issue that caused the collapse was a financial one. Yet if this was the case, how is it planning to get an outside business partner to finish The Walking Dead: The Final Season? It doesn't add up. My best guess is that one of those partners is buying Telltale's rights to make The Walking Dead games directly. If that's the case than Telltale needs to use that money to support its former employees.
Returning the favor
Based on several Tweets from ex-Telltale narrative designer Emily Grace Buck, Telltale's employees were some of the hardest workers in the industry. "It's true we usually worked 50+ hour weeks," she wrote on Twitter. "Sometimes 70-80. Weekends were often expected."
In the aftermath of Telltale's first steps towards closure, former developers like Buck have taken to Twitter to explain just how dire some of their situations are. Due to how expensive it is to live in San Francisco where Telltale was based, many of them were (and are) living hand-to-mouth. Without a severance pay, their only option has been to desperately look for new work fast or try and get donations from sympathizers.
Considering that Telltale was working its employees like dogs based on Buck's alarming accounts of how things went down at the company, I think a severance paycheck is the least that it can do for people who were this committed to creating the games that put Telltale on the map in the first place.