Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios, creators of Kingdoms of Amalur, in danger as Rhode Island gov. steps in

Kingdoms of Amalura: The Reckoning has been a moderate success, selling 330,000 copies its first month, but it looks like the protracted development of the game has taken its toll on creators 38 Studios and Rhode Island’s government may have to step in to keep the company afloat.

The world wondered just what former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling was up to when he opened a game development studio in 2006, but the scoffing denizens of the Internet were quickly put in their place. Schilling, after years obsessing over Everquest, knew his games and his all-star staff of nerd creatives, from author R.A. Salvatore to artist Todd McFarlane, working with 38 Studios showed that he meant business about developing an MMORPG. That MMO changed into something altogether different from when it started development in 2008 to when it was released as Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning this past February.

During that period of time, Schilling and the Rhode Island-based 38 Studios received $75 million from the state funded Rhode Island Development Corporation in 2010. The money was used to fund both Amalur and the unreleased MMO Copernicus that shares the same universe as that game.

The Providence Journal (via Gamasutra) reported on Monday that Governeror Lincoln Chaffee , Development Corporation officals, and 38 Studios executives met to discuss the future of the company. Chaffee said he is reviewing “all the financials” regarding the studio, due diligence in what he said is “protecting the taxpayer dollars” spent on the company.

What’s the issue? Part of the loan agreement was that 38 Studios had to maintain a staff of 450 full-time employees to receive the money. As of March though, 38 Studios only had 379 full-time employees, only 288 of which were based at the Providence studio while the rest were at Maryland-based Big Huge Games, which 38 acquired in 2009.

With no release date for Copernicus and no planned presence at E3 in June, 38 Studios’ future seems to be in doubt. Gov. Chaffee said in an interview on television station WPRI that the government is doing “everything possible to ensure that 38 Studios stays part of the Rhode Island community.” Indeed, a loss of hundreds of jobs in the state halfway through an election year, jobs that a substantial sum of taxpayer money was put toward establishing, would be very damaging for the administration.

Fans of Amalur would be disappointed too no doubt. The question on their minds should be whether Amalur-publisher EA plans to help 38 Studios out in this situation. With less than 1 million in sales though and weak marketing support ahead of the game’s release, it seems that EA may want to wash its hands of 38 Studios.

Good luck to you, Mr. Schilling and 38 Studios.

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