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Curt Schilling Fires Entire Staff At 38 Studios 137

redletterdave writes "On Thursday, former Boston Red Sox pitcher and tech entrepreneur Curt Schilling fired his entire staff at 38 Studios, his Rhode Island-based video game company, leaving more than 300 employees without jobs because the company couldn't repay its debt to the state. 38 Studios failed to pay Rhode Island's economic development agency $1.1 million, which was due last week, and also failed to meet payroll for its staff in both its Providence office and its Maryland subsidiary, Big Huge Games." The company's recent action RPG, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, sold 1.2 million copies — which would have been great if they hadn't needed to sell 3 million to break even. An article at Massively goes through some of the lessons the video game industry needs to learn from this situation.
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Curt Schilling Fires Entire Staff At 38 Studios

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  • Aww poop (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Y2K is bogus ( 7647 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @04:59PM (#40113687)

    I was hoping this would turn around, I'm tired of hearing stories of companies that take gov't money and fold right quick afterwards. That ugly monument to screwing the taxpayers, SolyndraBuilding, irks me every time I drive by it.

    • Re:Aww poop (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DaveInAustin ( 549058 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @05:20PM (#40113987) Homepage
      Only slightly different from Curt Shillings first industry, professional sports, where they take [] taxpayer [] money, stay in business, then demand more []. Had the state just given him the money, he could have stuck around for a while, then went back for more a few years later by threatening to take jobs elsewhere.
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by Hatta ( 162192 )

      This is what's wrong with capitalism. The problem here wasn't bad programming, art, or game design. The problem here was bad management. The staff should be firing Curt Schilling, not the other way around.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Capitalism is about profit and loss. Not government subsidy and bailouts.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Grishnakh ( 216268 )

          You're thinking of a fictional, idealist form of capitalism that doesn't really exist in the real world. It's just like people complaining about communism in the Soviet Union, and others saying, "but that's not real Communism!", when nothing coming close to their definition of "true communism" has never existed anywhere.

          The kind of capitalism practiced in the USA, frequently called "crony capitalism", absolutely IS all about government subsidy and bailouts.

          • About that little neologism... it's very convenient, don't you think? Not that it necessarily had to be coined recently, but the term was not in frequent use until the last year, as evidenced by Google Trends. The term carries the connotation that how things are being practiced is incorrect, not that there are any sort of flaws inherent in the system. It's not like massive amounts of capital lead to a greater concentration of capital, it just happens when the government sticks its big ugly nose into things.

            • I'm pretty sure google trends is insufficient evidence to the contrary. The data there only goes back a couple of years, and is hardly enough to make the basic argument you presented here. You may very well be right, but your reasoning is not sound.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        This is what's wrong with capitalism. The problem here wasn't bad programming, art, or game design. The problem here was bad management. The staff should be firing Curt Schilling, not the other way around.

        let me guess... you believe a well paying job is an entitlement from birth.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          Absolutely it is! Why shouldn't it be?

          • by Anonymous Coward
            Since "well-paying" is a relative notion, and implicitly above average, what you want is impossible.
            • by sjames ( 1099 )

              I see nothing about well-paying that implies it must be above average.

            • Nonsense. I would say that "well paying" means earning a living wage- which in most countries is defined as considerably lower than the local average. In the UK, the "living wage" is defined as about £13,000 a year for a full time worker, while the average wage for a full time worker is usually cited as being around £30,000. The legal minimum wage for a full time worker is only £11,000.

              So to say that everyone should be entitled to a well paying job implies that a couple of grand a year abo

      • Who mods this stuff? "troll"? "flamebait"? Really? How about +10 insightful. Choke on a bagel, free-market trash.

      • by tomhath ( 637240 )
        What makes you think "the staff" would be any better at managing a game company? They're free to start one if they want, but don't hold your breath.
    • This instance isn't quite as bad, because it's only the people of Rhode Island who were screwed. Maybe next time they'll elect a better governor. They really don't have a good excuse here; unlike the USA, the people of Rhode Island probably all live a short drive away from their highest (state-level) leaders, and there aren't that many people in the state (only about 1M people).

      • by sarysa ( 1089739 )
        It's still pretty hard on them, especially since they're still picking up the pieces from that big fight a few days ago. [] I'm sure the feds will be bailing them out in no time...
      • Re:Aww poop (Score:4, Informative)

        by _xeno_ ( 155264 ) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @12:45AM (#40118081) Homepage Journal

        This instance isn't quite as bad, because it's only the people of Rhode Island who were screwed. Maybe next time they'll elect a better governor.

        They already did - the current governor was against the 38 Studios deal from the get-go. It's one of the reasons he's going to let the studio just die instead of pursue the fallacy of sunk costs.

        Unfortunately he's still stuck with the fallout from the idiots who did give $75 million to a company trying to enter a saturated market with no actual shipping products. (The deal predated Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.)

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      The best part is Curt Schilling is a republican douche who believes in small government, low taxes and personal responsibility...

      But when he needed money, he ran to the government, and abused government's willingness to invest tax dollars into a fucking bleeding sock hypocrite that should have NEVER been involved with game development at all. FUCK CURT SCHILLING

    • You might be getting angry about the wrong problem. Solyndra didn't fail because they were greedy selfish twats, they failed because a Chinese company invented a superior product at a lower price point just befroe Solyndra was slated to go to market.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Lessons learned, like teaming up with EA and day 1 DLC? I doubt developers/companies will learn...

    • by sarysa ( 1089739 )
      Or expecting near CoD sales and having giant statues of monsters all over the place when you're a startup -- and this is regardless of whether you're funded by the government or venture capitalists...

      Fiscal responsibility is so dead that its tombstone is 6 feet under...
  • NOOOO!!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chaim79 ( 898507 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @05:03PM (#40113761) Homepage

    Having played both Skyrim and Kingdoms, I loved the way Kingdoms worked and preferred it over Skyrim and Oblivion. The gameplay was great and the action seamless and fast, being able to switch from ranged to melee to magic and back and forth with the speed that Kingdoms had was amazing. I enjoyed the world, the story, the design, everything.

    Hopefully a decent studio will take up the title for future installments, cuz it was a great game.

    • I agree completely. Though I do have a couple of nits with Amalur. First, the stealth mechanism was almost non-existent. Even once the stealth skill was maxed out, managing to sneak behind a mob was an exercise in futility. Super fun if they were pointed away from you, but otherwise... Second, the lack of tooltips for the abilities on the hotbar was a bit of a pain. I went through most of the game using nothing but the default lightning blast because I couldn't tell what anything else was, and I was too l
    • changing weapons takes time, bow to sword to magic in short time wouldn't be to reallistic now.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      My biggest (and really, only) problem with KoA was that it was TOO EASY. Pathetically so. I recognize that some games are harder than others but when I feel the game is "ok difficulty" until I suddenly realize at level 25 that I'm still using level 1 gear on the "hard" difficulty... it needs to get stepped up just a little bit.

      There was no balance to several stats - worse than the elder scrolls series even. It was easily possible to regen health faster than mobs could damage you.

      • by Onuma ( 947856 )
        I wholeheartedly agree. I try to select a more difficult setting when I play games, from the start -- usually the hardest available since often the top-tier is unlockable nowadays.

        KoA was just ridiculously easy. My guy has 1800 armor, ~50% elemental resists, and enough regeneration to shrug off nearly every attack in the game. It's simply not a challenge! Very fun with smooth combat? Sure. But there is simply no replay value in the sense of "I wonder if I can beat this game on the highest difficulty
    • by dlp211 ( 1722746 )
      It should have been good. It was made by Big Huge Games Studio which was bought by 38 and then rebranded as Kingdom. 38 has never created an original IP.
  • Other estimates are as low as 400,000 [], with mixed reviews to boot.

    • I played the game and enjoyed it, but found the gameplay dragged badly once your weapons and powers outmatched your enemies.

      A tasty quote from that article seems to confirm what others are posting about the difficulty being....missing.

  • I fail to see how he confuses a single player game with an MMO. WTF. His eventual goal may have been an MMO but THIS GAME was a single player action CRPG.
    • by phorm ( 591458 )

      I was confused by this at first as well.

      It appears that they released Amalur, and were working on Project copernicus [] (which is the MMO). As Amalur didn't break even and basically bankrupted them, Copernicus won't likely be completed (unless somebody else buys them out and finishes it).

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) []

      it's easy to get confused. they were developing the mmorpg for years. since 2006, if they were actually doing anything else than drawing pictures of guys with huge swords is not that anyone knows(or why you need 3000m^2 for that, especially when you're just buying the lore and art design). in 2008(4 years ago) they hired some everquest designer, presumably to twiddle his thumbs since it's unlikely he knew anything about quality mmorpg design or creation(but looked prob

  • Schilling news.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Lets say they assumed the time-adjusted price of $39 rather than the opening $60.. That comes to 117 million dollars to _break even_.

    Having played the game, which I must profess I did enjoy, I can't see where 117 million dollars went. Most of the dungeons were cut/paste copies with slight modifications, there's probably less than 100 monster models and no multi-user play.

    And it took 300 people to produce it?

    If you worked for me I'd have fired you too.

    • Most of the money goes to publishers. The studio makes a fraction on the sale of the game. It wasn't even getting $39 for each copy sold when the game was selling for $60.

      • Most of the money goes to publishers. The studio makes a fraction on the sale of the game. It wasn't even getting $39 for each copy sold when the game was selling for $60.

        I'm not sure that statement fits the meaning of "most."

        • Uh, yes it does. I said the developer wasn't even getting $39 when the retail price was $60.

          Studios generally make between $6-8 on a $60 game. The rest goes to the publisher.

          • by KDR_11k ( 778916 )

            I think they were on the EA Partners program which is meant to be a kind of hands-off thing where EA just handles distribution. They got 75M$ in investments and stated that 3M sales would be needed to break even so assuming they used up all that investment on the game that's about 25$ per copy sold.

            • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

              yes, if ea had been "publisher" in the more traditional sense rather than just as distributor, then ea would have been putting money into it before release(because why else sign such a deal..)

  • The game was headed by former SOE staff... the very people that worked on EQ2 disaster. There was only 1 way this was going to end.
  • by WankersRevenge ( 452399 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @05:39PM (#40114219)
    but on the positive side, it looks like they're hiring! [] ;)

    In light of recent events, I'd advise the site developer to update that page but I'm guessing he or she was just fired :/
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 25, 2012 @05:48PM (#40114333)

    And that was a damned good RPG. Needing 3 million sales to break even is insane ......

    • by KDR_11k ( 778916 )

      To be fair the games market has grown since then. The SNES didn't sell nearly as many units as the PS3 and XBox 360 and on top of that Chrono Trigger wasn't released in one of the three major territories (Europe).

  • by ragethehotey ( 1304253 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @06:48PM (#40115051)
    That gladly preaches on behalf of Republican Senator Scott Brown for supposedly smaller government, all the while sticking his greedy hands out for as much government subsidized $$$ as he could muster as a "world series hero"

    all government spending is evil in his hypocritical world, unless you're a clown that pissed away $75 million in taxpayer money so he could play video game developer
  • Getting $75 million in no strings attached loans rocks. Lesson 2: Corporate welfare rules.
  • An article at Massively goes through some of the lessons the video game industry needs to learn from this situation.

    Frankly, these lessons have been discovered 20 years ago in video games.
    They are still not learned, and the same problems appear again.
    I've been a game developer most of my life, and what I saw is that egos were ruining games.

    A single guy has an idea, and is able to attract people to invest in his idea.
    The problem is that having the idea and selling it is the easiest part of a project.
    After getting money, the boss wants to reduce the risk of his "baby", so he hires a lot of people (who never wrote a game),

  • by RMingin ( 985478 ) on Friday May 25, 2012 @08:44PM (#40116245) Homepage

    I saw Amalur advertised. It looked interesting. I checked Steam, it was 60$. I mentally filed it under "maybe someday if there's a sale". Sale didn't happen before developer tanked.

    Maybe now it'll go on sale?

  • "The television station also reported the company isn't incorporated in Rhode Island, but rather Delaware as a limited liability company, which would deem 38 Studios ineligible for tax credits in the state."

    This is fraud if anyone but a famous, rich athlete does it.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"