Comedic sci-fi adventure Tales From the Borderlands is arguably the finest thing Telltale has ever produced but that didn't help it in the sales department. In fact, it fell so short of expectations that its development was wrapped up by a “skeleton crew” who stayed extra hours as “a voluntary choice.”
Several of Telltale's developer discussed the troubled series' development in an enlightening oral history with the Campo Santo Quarterly Review.
While no exact figures are mentioned, one of the game's directors, Nick Herman, said that mid-development the series simply wasn't doing the business the way the studio had hoped.
"Sales for Tales from the Borderlands weren't great," Herman lamented. "They were decent, it's not like we were losing money, but compared to something like The Walking Dead, it wasn't on the same level."
This meant the developer had to wrap up development quickly so its staffers could move on to other, more lucrative projects.
"About halfway through, we made a deal with the studio that if they let us go on, we would give up like 95 per cent of our staff as long as they let us maintain a skeleton crew," Herman said. "We had at least one person from every department working on the game. But that's a very small team for an episode."
"Tales was my life for two years, and internally it was perceived as a failure," Herman bemoaned. "Critically it was a huge success, but from a sales and production standpoint, it wasn't awesome."
As a fan of the series, this shedding of staff wasn't noticeable at all, as the last two episodes were some of its best. That's because the few folks left behind on the project were really passionate about seeing their vision come to fruition - so much so that they put in a ton of extra hours.
"If there's a silver lining here, it's that everyone on it, it was a voluntary choice," Herman said of the project's final days. "They said, 'I'm really proud of this, I want to stick it out, I want to see it to its conclusion.' Everyone who was putting in the work wanted to."