Premium Mobile Games No Longer A Successful Business Model: Telltale CEO Jamie Ottilie


Reported By: Shaurya Sharma

Last Updated: September 07, 2023, 14:57 IST

Telltale is the developer behind games like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us.

Telltale is the developer behind games like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us.

We spoke to Jamie Ottilie, CEO of Telltale Games, about the anticipated release of The Wolf Among Us 2, the challenges and differences in game development between Unreal Engine 5 and Unreal Engine 4, and the burning question surrounding subscription models like Xbox GamePass and Sony’s PS Plus.

Over the years, narrative-driven episodic games, such as ‘The Walking Dead’ series, ‘The Wolf Among Us,’ and even titles like the ‘Life is Strange series,’ have surged in popularity. This rise can be attributed to their unique approach to storytelling and character development—offering a fresh style of gameplay tailored for players seeking an experience where their choices significantly impact the overarching narrative.

Recently, during the Next World Forum organized by the Saudi Esports Federation, Shaurya Sharma from News18 Tech spoke with Jamie Ottilie, the CEO of game developer Telltale Games, known for creating timeless classics like The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead series.

The discussion revolved around several topics—including the anticipated release of The Wolf Among Us 2, the challenges and differences in game development between Unreal Engine 5 and Unreal Engine 4, and the burning questions surrounding subscription models like Xbox GamePass and Sony’s PS Plus.

Q. How is the development for ‘The Wolf Among Us 2’ coming along?

Jamie: The development for The Wolf Among Us 2 is progressing really well. We’re very excited about what we have. We should probably be showing a little bit more of it early next year, but we’re not ready to give a launch date yet. Nonetheless, we’re very happy with the progress we are making.

Q: You switched to Unreal Engine 5 in the middle of development. How does developing with Unreal Engine 5 differ from Unreal Engine 4?

Jamie: Actually yes, that is one of the reasons why we have been a little slow. The benefits of UE5 outweighed the time cost. And so, you should expect to see the best looking Telltale  game that you’ve ever seen. As for the difference—the main thing for us was really about virtual humans and the animation production pipeline.

It was really important to us in terms of us being performance driven, so it really simplified those parts for my team. And then—looking forward—we knew that there will be new hardware and UE5 is designed to support that (current gen consoles like PS5, Xbox Series X/S). So, we wanted to make sure that we were ready for what’s coming.

Q. From a developers perspective, what do you feel about the subscription model (think GamePass, PS Plus) offered by companies?

Jamie: We are wary about subscription models to be honest because they have a tendency to limit upside for content creators. We are above all else content creators, but we are very supportive of growing the ecosystems. It really comes down to where consumers are going to spend their time and money. And if Sony and Microsoft are successful continuing to grow their audience that way, then it makes sense for us.

Q. Telltale has been one of the pioneers when it comes to porting games over to mobile platforms. How has that move been for the company?

Jamie: So, what was challenging to us as a platform was—we sell premium games, and as you know, on mobile, that’s not a very successful business model anymore. So, we have actually seen the share of our revenues decline in terms of what comes from mobile. With that said, we still want the audience to be able to access it. We recently purchased a company called Flavorworks in the UK—that has a technology that allows us to deliver games to mobile and maintain the graphic fidelity that we have on Playstation, Xbox, and PC.

So, we are always looking for new ways to support that audience. We’ll probably experiment a little bit with this model and see if we can change that revenue picture.

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