Telltale Games plans major expansion

SAN RAFAEL -- Video game developer and publisher Telltale Inc. has quite a tale of success to tell with its story-based episodic entertainment such as The Walking Dead fast-selling series, and now the 8-year-old company is planning to nearly double the size of its studio in an expansion this spring.

Telltale Games (415-258-1638, in October signed a five-plus-year lease for 22,000 square feet of offices formerly occupied by San Rafael-based design software developer Autodesk on the fourth floor of Marin Executive Center at 4000 Civic Center Dr. in north San Rafael. That nearly doubles the size of Telltale's studio, currently located on the east side of the city.

"We've maxed out where we're at," said Dan Connors, chief executive officer and co-founder. "Civic Center will give us room we need to grow our team and take on more projects on a yearly basis."

Telltale plans to move into its new home in March or April. The new studio will be able to accommodate 160 employees and satisfy company growth plans for the next few years, he said. The company plans to ramp up the staff in 2013.

Currently, the company employs 125 in its current location at 101 Glacier Point near the Richmond--San Rafael Bridge. 

The Telltale workforce has doubled in size in the past two years, thanks to capital infusions and securing licenses to hot-selling game franchises. Since Mr. Connors, Chief Technology Officer Kevin Bruner and Troy Molander left LucasArts to start the company in 2004, Telltale has received $15 million in two rounds led by IDG Ventures SF and Granite Ventures and angel investment arranged by Keiretsu Forum and San Rafael-based Avance Ventures.

Currently in production is the second season of the The Walking Dead game, based on the plot of and artwork in Robert Kirkman's graphic novel series of the same name. The series also has been made into a television show, now in its third season on the AMC cable channel. 

The fifth and final episode of season one of the game is set for download release this week on game console stores PlayStation Network and Xbox LIVE Marketplace, Apple iTunes Store for its smartphones and tablets and the Stream online store for desktop computers. Players have downloaded 6 million copies of the first four episodes, which sell for $5 each and $25 for the season, since the first installment was released in April.

A retail compilation of the first season is scheduled to reach store shelves early next month.

"With The Walking Dead, we've seen a fulfillment of our 2004 goals of digital distribution and episodic production to take advantage of licenses," Mr. Connors said. "It all has come together across all platforms, and it's the right content for those."

He also anticipates the story-driven, movie-like presentation of that game series and others in Telltale's history to position it well for the next generation of Internet-connected game consoles and televisions that further blend interactive entertainment.

Retail game sales used to be a $25 billion-a-year market, but sales have been losing ground to downloads. And games for smartphones and tablets has become a $2 billion to $3 billion annual business.

A core development team of 20 works on The Walking Dead, plus another 35 to 40 contract workers. The latter include 15 to 16 voice actors sourced mainly through San Francisco-based Stars Agency and recorded at Bay Area Sound Studios in San Rafael.

Another major project in production for 2013 is Poker Night at the Inventory, developed in partnership with Warner Bros.Telltale's expansion follows recent local studio growth by two major players in Marin's growing cluster of video game developers: Take-Two Interactive's 2K Games and Activision Blizzard's Toys for Bob. That cluster and the unique approach of such developers are pluses for recruiting young talent, but availability of inexpensive rental housing in Marin has forced many employees to the East Bay and San Francisco, Mr. Connors said.

Roger Smith of Cornish & Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank represented Telltale in the lease deal. Haden Ongaro, Brian Eisberg and Mark Carrington also of Cornish & Carey represented the building owner, BIT Holdings 45.

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