How Curt Schilling Ran 38 Studios into the Ground

When one of my favorite baseball players, Curt Schilling, created a game development studio, 38 Studios, I was definitely excited at the prospects. While Schilling himself may not have known too much about game development, I trusted that the combination of his significant fortune and such creative minds as Todd McFarlane and my then-favorite author, R.A. Salvatore would lead to great games. I was wrong.

While Schilling talked a big talk about his company and their games, he was ultimately way too ambitious, and proved to be even worse with money than he was with developing games. Instead of starting out with small, low-risk projects, he immediately tried to create his dream MMO, codenamed Project Copernicus. Massively multiplayer games are inherently the most risky products put out by a developer, as they require a significant investment of time and money, as there is usually much more content to create and some people have to be constantly maintaining the game.

At some point, Schilling’s vision began to impede on the quality of the game. While some incredibly impressive footage and screenshots were released, the game was reportedly no fun to play. While Schilling had probably created the most impressive MMO yet in terms of scale and graphics, he had done so at the expense of any fun factor, the thing that keeps players playing, and keeps players paying.

Eventually, Schilling made more administrative mistakes that led to the demise of the company, borrowing $75 million from the state of Rhode Island, and then defaulting on his loans. This led to the closure of 38 Studios, and the end of Schilling’s dream.
Ultimately, Curt Schilling’s mouth was larger than his proverbial stomach, and his extravagant spending proved to drive his company into the ground. Whether it was developing an expensive and risky MMO or even buying another development studio, Big Huge Games, Schilling was soon in over his head and had no way out. The lesson to learn here is that if you want to start a game development studio and have a limited knowledge of how the process works, be conservative and try not to exercise your creative influence to such an extent that a game will only be fun to you, and not to anyone else. Or just don’t do it and go back to winning baseball games.

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  1. JP

    In truth, given that Amalur was so well received and it’s DLC content
    was nothing short of fantastic, Schilling should have let 38 Studios
    work on a sequel or two to become rooted. In the mean time, on the heels of an
    established franchise (Amalur of course) they should have begun
    establishing a second series/franchise to their name. Then when their
    name is well known and the gaming community knows who they are and what
    projects they are tied to….that’s when you test the waters with MMOs,
    if at all. Those projects are so incredibly costly, it’s not the first
    time they’ve sunk a company.

    The same thing essentially happened with
    Dave Jones (creator of the original GTA Series) and his company Real Time Worlds. He had
    a hit in Crackdown then instantly farmed out Crackdown 2 to Ruffian
    Games so he could begin work on????…an MMO by the title of “All Points
    Bulletin”. The ultra-high cost killed his very promising upstart
    company. Too much, too fast in one of the riskiest genres you can place a
    company’s money in. Schilling’s biggest flub is taking taxpayer dollars
    into the venture. For being a Republican so outspoken against ‘people
    takin’ handouts’ Curt sure seems hypocritical in actively seeking/accepting a government loan. One important note about
    this story however is that 38 Studios lives on in spirit. I saw a
    headline noting that Epic Games (Gears of War) hired nearly 100% of the
    staff to function as Epic Baltimore (I believe it was). Justice….and
    hopefully a ‘sequel’ in spirit to Amalur.

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