Today, Telltale Games has a new CEO.
After over a decade, co-founder and CEO Dan Connors is stepping down; in his place, co-founder, president and CTO Kevin Bruner (pictured, above) will be assuming the chief executive role, Gamasutra can confirm. Connors will remain on the company's board of directors and continue to contribute more directly under the title "executive advisor."
The high-level shuffle comes as Telltale continues its string of successes in the episodic adventure game genre. The studio, which has a knack for landing big-name licenses as of late, notably hit its stride with 2012's The Walking Dead series, and has since released commercially and critically successful games including The Wolf Among Us, Game of Thrones, and Tales from the Borderlands. Recently, the studio announced it would release adventure games in the massively popular Minecraft universe.
Connors told us that the transition is the "right direction for the company. ... We're looking at the next growth phase for Telltale -- we're 240 people now, and we continue to have an opportunity to do great things and grow the company."
On the back of that, Bruner admitted that the company had "a lot" of growing pains recently. Gamasutra first heard the news about Connors thanks to an email tip-off.
After talking to the pair of execs, follow-up conversations with our tipster and other former Telltale staffers have painted a picture of a studio that's recently given a number of developers a bumpy ride.
For his part, Bruner told us that he wants to create a Telltale that can freely pursue its goals for both creative output and growth: "We've doubled the size of the studio every 16 months since we've started. And that's really hard work in itself," Bruner said.
At the same time, he said, "Storytelling is very intimate kind of practice. We've been doing it for 10 years. As we grow, keeping that culture, and making sure that it's nurtured and that we're doing the right thing every step of the way is a huge part of the challenge going forward."
"It's the job of the senior staff to create that environment, to do the work to allow that, to keep all the elements about the product that make it great. That's really what we're trying to build," Connors said.
To that end, Connors and Bruner say they have built an expanded executive team to help take excess load off, and pave the way to smoother operations: "It's not just Dan and I, anymore," Bruner said. "It's Dan and I, and a really talented team of people that are driving, and that helps with the growing pains. We've got a lot more brain power at Telltale, today, than we've ever had at any time in the history of the company."
The company has hit a level of success that is "definitely on the high end of where our dreams were" 10 years ago, at the studio's founding, Bruner said. These changes in management are designed to set up the company for its next 10 years, the pair said.
"As we've grown and it becomes more real, and we realize what we're able to do with what we've created, we get a new layer of dreams on top of that," Bruner said. "We really see an opportunity to expand this weird thing that we do."
An outlier with big dreams
This "weird thing" is interactive, scripted-narrative games -- in an era where emergent player stories are held up as the be-all, end-all.
To that end, the company will continue to work closely with Hollywood talent, as it has on projects like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, but also move into game licenses (Minecraft, Tales from the Borderlands), while expending "a lot of energy" working on original IP.
Overall, the picture that emerged from the conversation with the incoming and outgoing CEOs is that the company has ambitious plans to expand -- and though Telltale may be leaving a turbulent wake, Bruner also has big ambitions for his studio. He sees what Telltale's becoming as a move beyond games into "interactive scripted entertainment."
"We can be experimental; we can try new things. We get to work with the best in the business," said Bruner. "I don't think you rest on your laurels when you've got that. Who knows what we might be able to do next, with it? What we don't want to do is rinse and repeat what got us here. We want to take advantage of the structure that we've built, and keep building interesting things with it."