Where is Episode 2 of The Walking Dead Video Game?
By: Lawrence Napoli
The dog days of the summer months continue to roll on by with some fairly weak releases for video games (Doctor Who comes to mind! - EIC Matt), but there was one title that I thought was going to do a great job keeping me occupied: Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead videogame. I enjoyed Episode 1 immensely as I gave it quite a generous review. I’ve proceeded to play through Episode 1 at least 6 different times to see how many different ways I can have Lee Everett survive while pissing off/making friends with as many or as few people as possible. There are two reasons why I have done this: 1) Because it was quite enjoyable to have a few “screw up” runs to purposely run my character into the dirt and 2) BECAUSE EPISODE 2 STILL HASN’T BEEN RELEASED YET TO PROGRESS IN THE GAME!
(Take THAT Telltale Games!)
The three most hated letters that gamers ever want to see or hear are “TBA” or “To Be Announced” in regards to release date information. In many ways, it’s worse than a game that you’ve seen teaser trailers and maybe even game play for, but clearly no promises have been made for release info because that project is nowhere close to being finished. “TBA” after a stated date is the biggest and most unsatisfying tease when attached to games because what it really does is get consumers to cough up dollars when the developers don’t have to produce jack. Release date information used to be solid gold, and if things transpired that caused that time to be altered in any way, the fallout, embarrassment and consumer backlash had much harsher consequences to the violators of that trust. Today, blowing off release dates is the norm (for movies too, see G.I. Joe 2) and developers couldn’t care less for consumers that prepay in advance for reserved copies that we will eventually see in our hands sometime “TBA.”
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2010:]]Telltale Games released Episode 1 of The Walking Dead on April 24th of this year, and according to the season pass as designated on the Playstation Network ($19.99 for all 5 episodes), episodes will be released “monthly.” Today is June 13th and not only has Episode 2 NOT been released, but there has been ZIP from Telltale about not following through with their previously stated information let alone an actual date that we can count on. Type in “Where is Episode 2: Starved For Help” and “Walking Dead” into any search engine and all you get is a litany of websites with previews and promises for reviews once it gets released, and a whole lot of forums with irate people sounding off on Telltale for being dishonest and not having any consideration for their customers. Although I didn’t participate in the forums’ curb-stomping sessions, I am one of the suckers that forked over money in advance for a fraction of a game and so I too, am righteously ticked off.
Here are the facts: #1: PSN clearly states “monthly” in regards to episode release timing. The legalize of the term “monthly” is non-specific enough to avoid being liable for any lawsuits that may be hatching in some gamer’s head who also happens to be an attorney. But it also gives potential customers what would be considered a fair and simple expectation for content. Is this the perfect lure for consumers with zero risk for developers? Think about it. If the trend in the gaming industry is headed for the digital distribution of episodic content, how can the consumer trust developers to actually release the content when delays are inevitable (and in some cases indefinite; thank you Blizzard)? What if we take that scenario a step further and, for some reason or another, the developer goes out of business before even finishing the game? Can we rely on angel investors to swoop in and hire new programmers to finish the job? Accountability is the name of the game; so if Borderlands 2 gets pushed back to 2014, everyone can head back to GameStop and get their money back, but not so for digital transactions. The pre-order and pre-purchase business is just like insurance. Customers give you money and you hand back absolutely nothing other than a promise for some return, sometime in the future. What good is a transaction like this if the other party has a track record for breaking promises?
Fact #2: Despite the general sense of anger over Telltale’s shenanigans, they have made a lot of money off of just this first episode. As of May 17th, 1 million episodes have been sold, and at $5 a piece per episode, this seems like a decent score thus far. I’d like to know how many season passes Telltale has sold because it quadruples their profit for the same amount of content currently available.
Fact #3: A lack of information by Telltale led to speculative misinformation on various websites, further fueling the fire of disharmony. Throughout this whole process, the one website a reasonable person would think would get you definitive answers as to the progress of the game would be telltalegames.com. WRONG! The whole website is little more than a well presented commercial for how awesome every Telltale project is as well as plenty of support for making purchases. The last information update concerning The Walking Dead game was posted on the 22nd of May. This lack of support from the developer led to a few people taking to YouTube, so as to make some calculated guesses as to when the next episode would get released. Perhaps the worst speculation was from playstationlifestyle.net which clearly indicated Episode 2 would release on the PSN (dated May 29th, 2012). The only useful information I was able to track down was from Telltale’s Walking Dead: The Game Facebook page which states that the reps from the company recently got back from E3 and they are ready to submit to Sony and Microsoft — and “if everything goes well, episode 2 will be available before the end of the month.” THE[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2012:]] END OF THE MONTH?!? In the interest of keeping this article rated PG-13, I’ll refrain from the expletives that ought to accompany such gall.
I don’t like how Telltale Games is running their business. Normally I’d call for all interested parties to flood their website with complaints, but there is no link to reach them. If anyone out there knows a web based means of letting this company know first-hand at how disappointed its own customers are, let us know because this just isn’t right. All of this negativity could have been avoided if Telltale was simply honest from the beginning. I’m looking for statements like: “Episodes to be released periodically,” “Game is in progressive development,” “An incomplete game still undergoing refinement,” “We took a time-out so we could parade content that everybody and their mother already knows about at E3.” Of course, such honesty also would have avoided the most important thing: all of Telltale’s filthy profits!