When Robert Kirkman created the zombie apocalypse comic book series The Walking Dead, he couldn’t have imagined just how successful it would eventually become. After years of success and the development of a cult following, the comic book and novel series was translated into a critically acclaimed television show on AMC. Just days ago, Telltale Games has announced a project to create several iterations of the series on multiple game platforms over the next few years.
Telltale Games has just released the first episode of an on-going game series based on the wildly successful Back to the Future series, accurately recreating the characters so many have come to love. They will hope to build on the formula with not just The Walking Dead but another fan-favourite graphic novel series Fables. Telltale also announced they are working on a Jurrassic Park game and a reboot of Sierra Entertainment’s classic adventure series King’s Quest, which many gamers will remember from the 80s and 90s – ambitious plans and some big name titles for a lesser-known studio.
When development of LucasArt’s graphic adventure game Sam & Max: Freelance Police was cancelled in 2004, public outcry over the news was such that the members of the team working on the game decided to form their own studio – Telltale Games. The team was committed to creating games of a similar style, but with a larger focus on digital distribution and, perhaps more importantly, episodic content. According to this business model, Steve Allison, senior VP of marketing, recently said in an interview with The Wallstreet Journal that the company only needs to sell about 100,000 copies of any game they make in order for it to become profitable. With the recent popularity of the television show The Walking Dead, however, the game will likely sell far more copies than that.
In an interview with IGN Entertainment, Kirkman discussed his involvement with Telltale and his hopes for the game. Though it is still early in development, he clarified that the game would be broken up into separate chapters, sold separately, just like Back to the Future (King’s Quest will receive the same treatment). He also clarified that despite the mainstream popularity of the show, the game would instead be based primarily on the comic, which has some aesthetic and plot differences from AMC’s version.
Whether the game will be any good remains to be seen, but the news should interest gaming fans interested in the series as well as those interested in episodic gaming. An adequate comparison could be made between film and television to describe the difference; while one features a longer, more complete story, the other has a shorter play-time and has separate, but interlinking connections to the next part.
Episodic gaming has never had the chance to catch on the way television has, but with the emergence of the Wii’s Virtual Console, the Xbox Live Arcade, and the PlayStation Network, as well as Steam, the ability to easily and affordably offer downloadable gaming experiences has become a reality. It is still a risk for developers to change the traditional gaming formula, however, so Telltale’s success or failure could determine whether gaming goes the television route more often in the future.