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samedi 30 août 2008

Interview with Telltale Games

This is the English version of our interview with Telltale Games. The French version can be found here.

Zone Jeu : Telltale recently celebrated its 5 years anniversary, can you explain us what was the idea at the foundation of the studio and how did it go from there?

We started Telltale based on three premises. First the emergence of digital distribution provided a unique new channel for upstart independent games companies, such as Telltale, to self publish. Second, games based on stories and characters could reach more diverse demographics then the narrow demographics that the industry was supporting when we started. Finally that episodic content would create a relationship with gamers with the potential to grow overtime. Since that time we have seen digital channels grow and have found that episodic content works very well in this day and age. Currently Telltale has access to 30 million potential customers through its various channels.

Zone Jeu : One of the first very large successes of Telltale games was the first Season of Sam & Max, bringing back to life a loved license from Lucas Arts. Was it hard to get the agreement for the Sam & Max licence, and what did it bring to you?

It wasn’t hard because Steve Purcell has always been the license holder, so it was just a matter of working it out with him, and as a result it opened numerous opportunities for us. It widened our distribution, was our first retail product, and even helped us make the leap to the console networks like XBLA. It’s been a great flagship product for the company throughout the years, and will continue to be for years to come.

Zone Jeu : From Sam & Max, Telltale went on with series based on known licenses like Strong Bad from Homestar Runner, Wallace & Gromit, and recently Monkey Island. Did you totally give up on creating your own IP?

It’s not that we have given up; it’s that we haven’t started. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of work that goes into creating an IP from scratch, and then backing the IP with the marketing support it needs to ultimately succeed. By creating games based on established franchises we benefit from the efforts of all the people that created the franchise in the first place, and the IP is already established in the market. As the company grows and gets more infrastructure to support the creation of an IP and support it we will start doing more originals.

Zone Jeu : Episodic gaming was once seen as an Eldorado, but many of them didn’t succeed. We recall Sin Episodes who didn’t go farther than the first issue, or recently the quite bad episodic beat-them-all based on the Watchmen movies. In there, Telltale seems to fare pretty well, what, from your point of view, is the key of such a success?

We have been very deliberate in how we have rolled it out and have learned from our mistakes. I think for some of the companies that didn’t succeed, by the time they realized things weren’t exactly what they expected they were out of resources and couldn’t correct course.

Zone Jeu : As Microsoft announced the Games on Demand on Xbox 360, and Sony unveiled the digital-focused PSP Go!, more and more people are seeing retail sales of games in decline. Your games are mainly sold digitally, what is your position on this question ?

Our games are sold digitally because we anticipated that this was the way the industry would trend, and luckily our prediction appears to be on track.

Zone Jeu : One question from our French readers: Most of your games are released in English only, or subtitled. Do you have plans for more direct localization of your PC releases and sales of translated games directly on your website ?

We are working on it and building relationships with the right partners for this. Localizing in other regions is a tricky beast, as we give up a lot of control of how the final product will turn out. We want to ensure we are bringing the best product to market that we are capable of producing, and that starts with finding the right people to hand off our creations to.

Zone Jeu : Finally, do you have anything to add for all of your French fans who will read this interview ?

I know there are a lot of Sam and Max fans in France so thanks so much for supporting Telltale over the years, and the next “season” is shaping up to be the best one yet!!

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