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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.