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Telltale's First Foray Into External Game Publishing

Telltale's First Foray Into External Game Publishing Exclusive

November 8, 2011 | By Caleb Bridge

Telltale set a standard for episodic releases in the games industry since it started putting out Sam & Max seasons back in 2006.

After initially focusing on PC, it's since expanded to other platforms such as PlayStation 3, Mac and Wii. Included in that growing list is iOS which, contrary to other Telltale releases, was the base platform for its latest series, Hector: Badge of Carnage.

The Telltale-published, Straandlooper-developed game has players controlling the titular character in a point-and-click adventure filled with borderline-offensive humor, mystery, and classic adventure-style problem solving.

Here, Telltale Games producer Dave Felton tells Gamasutra about how Hector came to be the first game released under the publisher's banner that wasn't internally developed, how Telltale's games on iOS are bucking the episodic sales trend, and hints at more Sam & Max coming to iOS in the near future.

Have you been happy with the response to the Hector series so far?

Dave Felton: Both reviews and fan feedback have been great. There's a huge appreciation for its style of consistently funny humor, great writing and the well executed adventure game design across all three Hector episodes.

What has the feedback been in terms of the humor used in Hector? It's very different to past Telltale games.

I think that Straandlooper did a great job riding the line of offensive humor and genuinely funny comedy while always landing on the side of great comedy. They made it work really well in the context of game play. We love humor here, so we really appreciated the great writing and execution in the Hector games.

How did Telltale come to collaborate with Straandlooper?

Telltale has always made its games in-house before we got involved in the Hector series. Straandlooper had released Hector Episode 1 on the iPhone on its own and was looking for a partner to help them get episodes 2 and 3 made.

A few people here had played the game and thought the collaboration would be a good fit, so we started discussions and came to a deal. The development was mostly done at Straandlooper, with a small support team also working on the project at Telltale.

How well do you think the episodic format works on iOS devices? Do you notice a drop-off in purchases as the series goes on?

In episodic games, usually the first episode ends up selling the most and it's one of the key reasons we have come to sell our game series primarily in the "Season Pass" format where you get all the episodes for one purchase price.

On iOS devices there's really no way yet to fulfill the "Season Pass" concept through the App Store, but the encouraging thing is the drop off from episode to episode is substantially less than we have seen on any other platform to date. We think the device form factor and App Store environment work together to drive that difference.

The really cool thing for Hector is that, as each release came out and received the great reviews and customer feedback, sales have gone up from episode-to-episode, which shows us that people are discovering the game and spreading the word about it.

Are you able to tell me, for the Hector series, which platform you've had most success on? Is that representative of other Telltale games?

We've done well on both PC/Mac and iOS. Hector started life as an iOS franchise, and as a result it does seem to over index as a percentage of sales on the iOS devices versus some of our other multiplatform releases.

Why does something like Hector work on smaller iOS devices but you've chosen not to bring the Sam & Max series, for example, over?

As I said, Hector Episode 1 was already built for iPhone specifically and is a 2D game, which means it is less intensive on the memory and graphics than 3D games. That said, you'll be seeing a lot more Telltale games on iOS devices and my educated guess is that more Sam & Max will be making its way to the App Store very soon.

Many of your games focus on humor, and I know you're expanding moving forward, but specifically pertaining to iOS devices, how well do you think that translates to portable platforms given players consume the game in a different way?

Funny is funny no matter where you are or what you're playing a game on. Is it more fun to laugh at a funny moment in front of your computer in a long gaming session, or to laugh at a funny moment while playing for a few minutes while waiting in line?

I would say that a funny game can be great on any devices, whereas a first-person shooter is probably better on a console than an iPhone.

How do you feel, given the large number of iOS devices out there, that platform has helped expand the audience for Telltale games? How important will it be moving forward?

iOS has been our fastest growing revenue driver in 2011, and it's a great testament to an audience that's enjoying our kind of games. After all, if you are enjoying a Telltale game on your mobile device, you won't just be telling your friends about it, you'll be able to show them.

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