The roller coaster ride that was 38 Studios

“It is said that there is but one thing certain in this world. All that lives, must die.”, but was it too soon for 38 Studios? We’ve all been reading the news about 38 Studios over the past year, none of which has been good, with the exception of the only game they were able to push out. Only 3 months after Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning came out everything started to fall apart for the studio and before we knew it, it was gone, all gone.

Back in 2005, Curt Schilling was still playing baseball for the Boston Red Sox and just won a World Series with the team the year before. During a holiday party in December, Schilling approached his wife’s uncle, Bill Thomas who was a retired business executive, with a plan to start a videogame company. Schilling was and probably still is a huge gamer who would play Everquest during the entire MLB season at home and on road trips. His plan was start a videogame company and to produce a MMORPG with the help of some good friends and to use the millions of dollars he earned playing baseball to back the company. He eventually hired his wife’s uncle, R.A. Salvatore and famous author Todd McFarlane and offically started Green Monster Games in 2006.

 

In 2007 Green Monster Games changed its name to 38 Studios (which is named after Curt Schilling’s jersey number, 38) and it and it’s 160 employees moved into its new home in Maynard, Massachusetts. During this time, the Lead Designer Travis McGeathy from Everquest was hired and 38 Studios acquired Big Huge Games from THQ. Even with all of the big additions early on the studio started off slowly and without much financial help from the State of Masscachusetts, 38 studios seemed like it would never get their MMORPG off the ground. In the summer of 2010, the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation offered the videogame company a $75 million load guarantee to try to move them away from Massachusetts and into Rhode Island. With that much money being waved in the face of a failing company, 38 Studios had no choice but to relocate and on April 2011, 38 Studios was set up in Providence.

During all of the relocations that had occured over the past several years, 38 Studios had been hard at work on both Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and Project Copernicus. In Febuary of 2012, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was released to mixed reviews, but eventually sold over 1 million copies. The revenue from the sales were good but it wasn’t enough under the publishing agreement with EA. Three months after the release of their first game the first signs of trouble emerged, 38 Studios had failed to pay a $1.125 million annual guarentee payment. A few days later they tried to send a check with the full payment but were told there were insuficient funds to cover the check. This of course was a lie, there was never a check sent to begin with. Eventually the the loan payment was paid with a $1,025,000 wired transfer and a $100,000 personal check. Rhode Island’s Economic Development Corporation executive director, Keith Stokes, resigned from his position, CEO Jennifer Maclean and Senior Vice President of Product Development John Blakely had quit the studio and every single employee was layed off all within one week of the missed loan payment.

 

What went so horribly wrong? Who’s fault is it? The answers to those questions lie with everyone who was involved with 38 Studios moving to Rhode Island. From the start there was no way that a $75 million loan was going to fund a MMORPG, which costs a lot more than that to make. Rhode Island didn’t do it’s homework with how much it costs to fund a videogame company and how much the company was going to actually need in the end. 38 Studios was way in over it’s head when it agreed to move to Rhode Island for the $75 million loan and most likely knew they would have to generate a large amount of revenue from Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning to help fund Project Copernicus. Of course that didn’t happen and their gamble failed. The only winners I see out of this whole mess are the tax-payers of the Massachusetts who never wanted to fund 38 Studios to begin with and were glad to ship their one-time baseball hero and his videogame crew off to Rhode Island. The real losers are, yup you guessed it, the tax-payers of Rhode Island who got stuck with the tab after 38 Studios declared bankruptcy.

The 38 Studios story is a sad one in the end. There was a lot of potential with Project Copernicus and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was a good game. We will never see what other great videogames they could have made and are stuck with a bitter taste in our mouths. Curt Schilling invested millions of his own dollars into that company and never collected any of the profits for himself. He lost his entire fortune when the company fell apart and for that I feel deeply sorry for him. A few days ago on July 19th, the State of Rhode Island announced they were looking to liquidate all of the equipment left in the office space 38 Studios had rented out. It is without a doubt the final nail in the coffin of the 38 Studios story. “This is the bargain into which all must enter: One birth. One death.”

 

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