Skybound Entertainment, the creative company founded by Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, is stepping in to finish The Walking Dead: The Final Season after massive layoffs at Telltale left the project in a lurch.
In a new Variety interview with Skybound Interactive president Dan Murray new details have come out that are short on specifics, but clear about intent. Saving the Walking Dead's Final Season is about giving fans what they want, while also helping ex-Telltale employees if they can.
"Whenever something like this comes up, our intention is to try and do the right thing, not just by the brand, but by the fans," Murray says regarding the sudden layoffs at Telltale that left one of the biggest games based on Skybound's biggest properties in limbo. "This was our chance to do both. It's also our intention to make sure to do right by the people we were working with. This is a business that is made by people, and when things like this happen there is a human cost. We are trying to do what we can do work with the original staff and provide a soft landing."
Murray said that while the intent is to work with the original Telltale team, nothing has been finalized. Murray also declined to share any financial information regarding the deal between Skybound and Telltale, how many team members Skybound was looking to re-hire, and whether the contract for the work will be permanent or short-term.
"We are doing our best to take care of the people. Our intent is to work with the original team but there are a lot of moving parts. I don't want to get into the specifics around the deal itself, but I will say this: We are doing everything we can to do right by the people making the game."
Murray's statement, which explicitly mentions the laid-off staffers from Telltale, contrasts with Telltale's original statement when the company announced that it was looking for ways to save The Walking Dead Final Season even after the studio's apparent closure. Telltale's statement didn't acknowledge it laid off employees, who were given no notice or severance when they were laid off almost three weeks ago.
The layoffs even prompted one former employee to pursue legal action against Telltale for violating the WARN Act in California, which requires employers in the state to give full-time employees at least 60 days' notice before a massive closure.
When Variety asked Murray if Skybound was aware of the financial problems at Telltale he told the publication, "We are plugged in with our partners, but these are businesses being run and we try not to control their business. We knew some of the challenges Telltale was facing, but when the news hits so suddenly everyone was taken off guard.
Signs of Telltale's troubles first appeared in 2017 when the company laid off a quarter of its staff. Our report found a culture of crunch and poor management that some employees hoped would change after a new CEO. Unfortunately, later reports from The Verge found things to be business-as-usual. The most recent layoffs removed nearly the entire staff, with only a small crew of 25 left behind to work on Minecraft: Story Mode for Netflix. That team has also been laid off, while a source familiar with the company says administrative and business development members are still working at Telltale.