The ghost of 38 Studios is haunting Rhode Island politicians who are trying to get reelected. Speaking to the Associated Press both incumbents trying to hold on to their respective public offices and challengers who want to take their places next year are saying that they are having to answer a lot of questions from voters about the $75 million loan guarantee given to Curt Schilling's 38 Studios by Rhode Island.
I wonder how the citizens of Rhode Island feel about free-to-play games... Ultimately their opinion is of paramount importance now that the state owns the rights to Curt Schilling's first MMO project, Copernicus. So what does free-to-play have to do with it? Well, apparently the plan for 38 Studios' first MMO was to launch it as a free-to-play game, according to Boston Magazine. At least that is what Schilling told the publication...
Epic Games has announced the official launch of Impossible Studios, a game development studio it claims is "comprised of highly skilled, senior-level game development talent." Based in Hunt Valley, Maryland, Impossible joins the likes of its corporate headquarters in Cary, North Carolina; ChAIR Entertainment in Salt Lake City, Utah; People Can Fly in Warsaw, Poland; Epic Games Korea in Seoul, Korea; and Epic Games Japan in Yokohama, Japan.
The Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. and Bank of New York Mellon Trust Co. are now the proud (?) owners of the game assets of 38 Studios. While we doubt the state of Rhode Island will be releasing Kingdoms of Amular 2 or Copernicus anytime soon, we can expect that they will offer the assets for both of those franchises up for sale at some point in the not-too-distant future.
A nine-page article in Boston Magazine takes an in-depth look at why former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's company 38 Studios failed and offers the first glimpse inside that company's studio structure, the dysfunction of management, Schilling's opinion on the Kingdoms of Amalur MMO Copernicus, and details on a publishing deal that Schilling claims was almost finalized.
The Economic Development Corporation of Rhode Island finds itself highly dysfunctional in the wake of 38 Studios going bankrupt and not being able to meet its obligations related to $75 million loan. The pseudo government-corporate entity has been without an executive director since May when Keith Stokes decided to resign over the loan to 38 Studios. Today we have learned from several published reports that another loan the EDC approved is not going to be paid back and that another executive has resigned.
The Providence Journal has several stories related to the ongoing saga of 38 Studios. The first story details the testimony of Richard Wester, chief financial officer for 38 Studios in bankruptcy court this week in Delaware.
Speaking to sports radio station WEEI, former Red Sox pitcher and founder of the now bankrupt 38 Studios Curt Schilling said that he is "tapped out" after his company filed for bankruptcy. Schilling said that he lost $50 million of his own money and is personally responsible for paying back a $2.4 million loan from Citizens Bank parent RBS Citizens.
Rhode Island state and Federal officials have begun to dig into the affairs of Curt Schilling's 38 Studios, who filed for bankruptcy earlier this month. According to Gamasutra, information related to the loans given by the state to 38 Studios is about to be picked apart. Earlier this month the Rhode Island State Police, the Rhode Island Attorney General's office, the FBI, and the U.S.
Gamasutra has published an open letter from the spouse of a former 38 Studios developer in an article called '38 Studios Spouse' speaks out. In her letter the wife of the former 38 Studios employee details her and her family's struggles during and after the period of time when the studio could no longer pay its employees or cover the cost of their health insurance.
The Providence Journal is reporting that 38 Studios has filed for bankruptcy today and that a series of investigations into the company by state and federal agencies are incoming.
Epic Games is putting together a brand new studio in Baltimore comprised completely of former Big Huge Games employees. The team was part of 38 Studios before its financial troubles put the entire company in limbo.
While Epic Games President Mike Capps says that "there's a million things to work out," the plan is to have these employees work as contractors. All of this work will be remotely because these employees will remain in Baltimore.
A number of stories have popped up over the holiday weekend relating to 38 Studios and its continuing struggle to stay alive. Among them is news that an update to Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning will not see the light of day, that a sequel to the game was already in pre-production and fresh comments from several high profile 38 Studios executives taking Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee (I) to task for throwing the company under the bus in the name of what they see as demagoguery.
According to this Joystiq report 38 Studios has laid off its entire staff across both its Providence, Rhode Island studio and its Bug Huge Games studio in Baltimore, Maryland. An internal memo obtained by news station WPRI reveals the details of the layoff and how employees received the news. The memo reads:
Five Rhode Island lawmakers have issued a public rebuke of a letter from Rhode Island Statewide Coalition chairperson Harriet Lloyd. Lloyd's letter said that lawmakers who expressed dismay over the current trouble concerning the state and Curt Schilling's 38 Studios were being disingenuous and that their support for the Job Creation Guaranty Program gave the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation carte blanche to spend the $75 million given to the untested game company.
38 Studios has lost its CEO Jen MacLean and senior vice president of product development John Blakely, whose exits from the company have been uncovered in their LinkedIn profiles. MacLean updated her LinkedIn profile to show she had left the company back in March, though she had been out for two months on maternity leave at the time.
Blakely's profile was also recently updated to show that he left the company sometime this month and now lists his time at the studio in the past tense.
If 38 Studios is forced to sell the IP related to Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and the MMO Project Copernicus (set in the same universe), one wonders how much both properties would be worth. Joystiq decided to ask Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter for a valuation and he came to the conclusion that 38 Studios' IP is worth about $20 million.
38 Studios has let some of its staff go, according to Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee (I), though how many people we do not know at this point. Chaffee made his comments to the media after a lengthy meeting with the Rhode Island Economic Development Committee and 38 Studios founder Curt Schilling. After the meeting Schilling had no comment for the press, save that his company would not be looking to Rhode Island taxpayers for help.
Things are going from bad to worse for 38 Studios and its employees. On Thursday a company representative hand-delivered a check for the $1.1 million payment that was due on May 1 to the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, but the company then said that it didn't have the money in the bank to cover the check. If a private citizen wrote such a check they would be under arrest and enjoying the amenities of a Rhode Island jail without bail, but that's another story altogether.
Residents of Rhode Island can take solace in the fact that if 38 Studios were to fail today it would own the rights to the studios' current and future intellectual properties: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and its MMO "Project Copernicus." All future revenues from both titles would also go towards paying down the debt too - you know, the $75 million bond plus the interest through 2020.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning maker 38 Studios has added two game industry veterans: John Blakely and Mark Hansen. John Blakely joins the company as senior vice-president of development, while Mark Hansen takes the role of senior vice-president of operations & business.
Speaking to Joystiq, former Red Sox pitcher and current CEO of 38 Studios Curt Schilling talked a bit about his company's growth over the last year and his decision to move his studio from Massachusetts to Rhode Island. Schilling said that the company's 150 - 160 employees are already in the process of moving to the brand new facility in Rhode Island.
"The team is incredibly excited. It's our building! We have all six floors -- it's our studio and we're alone. It's our space," Schilling told Joystiq at an EA GDC event. "Gavin -- the studio GM -- and I, we really took a Disney approach. There's no detail too small for us in the new studio to make it a place where people walk in and say, 'I wanna work there.'"
EA's Visceral Games studio has to be happy right now. According to EA's internal numbers, Dead Space 2 is outselling the original game by a two-to-one margin. Speaking in a conference call to discuss third-quarter results, EA Chief operating officer John Schappert said that nearly two million units of Dead Space 2 have shipped to retail in its first week of release. Of course "shipped" doesn't mean "sold to consumers" but it does mean that retailers are keen to stock the game for consumers to snap up. The original game took around eight months to make it past the one million units sales mark.
Developed by Visceral Games, Dead Space 2 continues to chronicle the horrific journey of Isaac Clarke, an engineer that managed to survive the challenges of the first game. Clarke finds himself in a more open environment called the Sprawl this time - a massive space station attached to one of Saturn's moons.
Becker College administrators, elected officials and other interested parties want the video game industry to grow in Massachusetts. A recent series of pitches at the Southboro, Mass.-campus attempted to kick start the process at the college level. Through education and tax credits and other incentives at the state level, Massachusetts can be a more attractive location for game companies, echoed many of the speakers.
To that end, Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray announced at the conference held at Becker College this week that a campus-based policy and research institute will be established.
Over the next 90 days, state officials and administrators at the college will work to establish that institute. Murray said the state would also work toward implementing a broader plan to support the video game industry.
"We think there's a unique opportunity right now to begin work on this comprehensive statewide plan," Mr. Murray said.
Never one to shy away from an open microphone, 38 Studios head Curt Schilling recently outlined an extremely confident vision for his company in Rhode Island at a Providence Business News’ Business Excellence Awards event.
Schilling, recipient of a $75 million loan from the state as a lure to move his company from Massachusetts to the Ocean State, offered, “My word on this: four to five to six years from now, we’re going to be looking back on this, and I know that 38 Studios will be one of the companies that will push and incentivize the Providence business community to become a national and global force.”
Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios has received an initial payment of $13 million from the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (EDC) as part of a $75 million bond deal put together to lure the developer from Massachusetts to the Ocean State.
38 Studios is slated to receive approximately $51 million in all, with $20 million held in reserve in order to guarantee three years worth of repayments on the debt. Schilling’s firm will receive the rest of the money over the next 15 months as it meets certain milestones.
Even after losing Curt Schilling and his 38 Studios to neighboring Rhode Island, indications are that Massachusetts still has no plans to institute incentives or tax credits designed to lure, or keep in place, game development companies.
To be fair, Schilling’s deal with the Ocean State, in which his company initially received a guaranteed $75 million loan, before it was pared to approximately $51 million, was an incentive that was more-or-less created (or expanded anyway) to entice a single company.
A poll of 500 likely Rhode Island voters conducted by WPRI shows an overwhelming opposition to the $75 million loan deal that helped lure Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios from Massachusetts.
Overall, 54.4 percent of those polled chose “no” when asked if Rhode Island’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) should have approved the deal. 28.2 percent chose “yes,” while 17.4 percent selected “not sure.”
Male participants were more against the deal than their female counterparts (55.6 percent to 53.4 percent). As a poll participant's age increased, so did their opposition to the deal, with 58.1 percent of those over 60 years old against the Schilling deal, 54.6 percent of 40-59 year olds opposing and 48.7 percent of 18-39 year olds against it.
“What Government run/funded program in this country’s history has ever been run with an ounce of financial responsibility, prudence, or with the peoples (sic) best interest at the forefront? None, that’s which one.”
Those words were used by ex-Major League Baseball pitcher and current 38 Studios head Curt Schilling earlier this year, and are now being used against him in a searing indictment of the loan agreement between Schilling’s studio and the state of Rhode Island.