Telltale games have been one of the most loved and loathed video-game developers to rise over the last decade. They have produced a real mixed bag of games that has led to some people believing they just got lucky with the games that were well loved. I don’t agree with this theory; I think Telltale has a lot of talent, they just aren’t focusing it on the right IP.
At its heart Telltale is a development studio. They are gamers, and I’m sure they all love a wide variety of games, yet they have had a strong focus on TV show and comic book based IPs for a lot of their series. We have The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, both based on brilliant comic series, and both getting brilliant original stories from Telltale, but then we have Game of Thrones, Jurassic Park and Back to the Future, proof that not every Telltale game can be a runaway success or a hit with fans.
The problem with these games is that there is a lot less for Telltale to do in terms of originality, they all have very firm canon making it difficult for Telltale to do anything significant. This was easier to avoid with The Walking Dead because there are very few characters from the actual comics in the game, and they weren’t around for very long. They got away with it in The Wolf Among Us because those comics weren’t the most popular comics on the shelf so a lot of people wouldn’t be able to guess what would happen based on what they knew from the comics.
This doesn’t work for Back to the Future because of the film series’s status in pop culture. The game had to be very similar to the movies for it to even garner the attention of its fans, and that left the developers very crippled in what they could do. Jurassic Park is an example of what happens when they do get brave and stray away from the original cast of the movie. People feel a lesser connection to the game than they do to the movies. It fails to compare favourably.
So why do I think Telltale need to base more games on video-game IP? It’s simple really: the whole point of video-games is that anything can happen. You are in control.
Games do not have as strict a canon as a movie where every step a character makes is seen and final. Let’s say for example they made a game based on The Witcher.It would be easy to just stretch out some of the games more memorable or detailed quests and call it a game, but that isn’t necessary. Who’s to say exactly what Geralt did while in Novigrad? Who’s to say he didn’t go back at a later point? We don’t know. Games are not set in stone. Look at Tales from the Borderlands. We don’t have canon proof that anything in that game is part of Borderlands official lore, but we don’t need it because it’s a game. It’s extra story for a game which prefers to spend more time having you shoot than putting in a fully fleshed-out detailed story. Over the course of Borderlands 1 and 2, we get a great story but it doesn’t tell us everything there is to know about Pandora, and it can all be summarized very quickly when you take out the time spent shooting. That’s where Telltale excelled in their take on the universe. They filled in gaps and gave the story a real chance to shine.
Can you think of a game that has been shafted more than Overwatch when it comes to story? We have very little except for some comics and some very beautiful shorts that Blizzard produced for our hungry eyes. Everyone knows the Overwatch fan base has been clamoring for a story since the games announcement. While Telltale can’t give us the beautiful visuals of a Blizzard cinematic, they can fill in the blanks left behind by them. Like Minecraft, Overwatch doesn’t really have a story in game. That is unlimited creativity for Telltale to do as they wish. They can expand the shorts or completely ignore them and it would not matter because the game isn’t going to tell you that it’s wrong. They could even team up with Blizzard to have special voice clips relating to their stories be placed in game as the episodes release.
We’ve seen what happens when Telltale get access to limitless creativity: they release vast amounts of content. Their Sam and Max series had so many series, and Minecraft not only got a second season, but each season had more episodes than a regular Telltale series. Imagine having that many hours of Overwatch story content after waiting and hoping for it since that very first announcement cinematic in 2014. I think it stands the chance of being Telltale’s biggest success and a huge moneymaker for Telltale and Blizzard alike. Let me know what IP you would like to see Telltale take on in the comments below. Other IPs I would love to see include Pokémon and of course, The Witcher.