Interesting article here:
Curt Schilling’s demise: from sports savior to enemy of the taxpayers
In reality, this article's title should read:A month or so before the stunning financial collapse of Curt Schilling's 38 Studios, I plunked down $60 for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, the only game the studio ever made. I couldn’t get enough. I played day and night, happily shelling out another $20 on expansion packs to keep questing and battling well past 50 hours.
As a lifelong Red Sox fan and video game nut, I was happy that a man who helped the Sox win two World Series was the driving force behind a game I loved. But then, everything collapsed for Schilling, the sports hero who wanted success in the video game industry so badly he abandoned his political principles to achieve it.
Lincoln Chafee's demise: from inept senator to incompetent governor
I would expect athlete turned video game designer to screw up, but I don't expect my elected representatives to get on board and help them screw up. This is just the latest blunder in Chafee's political career that, at best, could be described as 'idiotic'. But the great thing about a republic is that the people get the government they deserve. You earned this, Rhode Island.
But turning back to Schilling:
I consider this a needless tragedy. Like the author of the above editorial, I was cheering for Schilling to succeed just because as a high profile gamer, he could have brought our favorite hobby to a whole new audience. This clearly was not to be the case. For reasons I don't understand, Schilling made a number of truly bizarre decisions:
- His first title was an fantasy RPG: I don't think Schilling could have picked a more crowded and competitive genre to enter outside of a shooter. Fantasy is packed with many AAA titles that are all vying for your attention, many of which already have an established franchise and dedicated fan-base. To jump into that field was silly to say the least.
- His second project was going to be an MMO: *facepalm* Again, another decision almost designed to fail. MMOs are nightmarish in complexity, not just to design, but also to get up and running by developing an active subscriber-base sufficient to provide enough revenue to maintain the steep overhead. Again, like with the fantasy genre, the MMO world is *packed* with AAA MMOs that are established franchises with dedicated fans. To try and muscle in on that market is...foolishly bold for a new studio.
With this in mind, it is not surprising to me that the whole endeavor failed. I suppose you could say that Schilling's eyes were bigger than his stomach; that he believed if he could build it, gamers would come...just because he was Curt Schilling.
Ultimately, he failed because he didn't follow Rule #1 of starting a business: do something you know & love, something you would pay other people for the privilege of doing. In other words, Schilling should have started his gaming career not by tangling with the big boys of AAA fantasy/MMO gaming, but by something more modest. In short: he should have launched 38 Studios with ASL: The PC Experience.
I am really stunned he didn't start there. I am sure that Hasbro would have been more than happy to license ASL to 38 Studios as they have no idea what to do with that IP anyway. And even if Hasbro didn't want to license it, Schilling could have easily made Expert Platoon Commander - I mean, WWII combat isn't exactly copyrighted. While the returns might have been less that those on a big name, general interest fantasy title, the built-in and loyal fan base would have guaranteed some sort of return on what would most likely become a legacy project (i.e., a steady revenue based on DLC, expansions, etc.). Truth be told, I believe that if Schilling made an ASL PC port with modern AAA production values, the game would probably find a bigger audience than most people would expect.
Even more importantly, such a modest project would have allowed 38 Studios to refine their skills. That is, working on a game like ASL would have allowed them to get their feet modestly wet with a small budget title - say, $10 million - while preparing to ramp up for a bigger project next. Heck, a title like ASL would provide a perfect opportunity to test out various matchmaking and netcode issues that would later prove useful on a MMO. 38 Studios could have even put their big toe in the water with a F2P model for an ASL Online variant. Point is, a low profile title like an ASL PC port could have allowed 38 Studios to experiment in all sorts of way without the inherent risk that comes with trying to learn on the fly with a big budget, AAA title.
It is a real tragedy that Schilling never went down this path by following one of his prime passions. I just hope the failure of 38 Studios doesn't drag MMP down with it. Worse, I hope that this fiasco doesn't blow up in the face of gaming in general. A high profile success for Schilling could now just as easily become a high profile black eye for gaming. Indeed, I am already reading some snarky editorials about how big government is now stooping so low as to involve itself in gaming, of all things (as if gaming is synonymous with pornography).... This whole mess is just going to be more fodder for the anti-gaming bigots.