38 Studios Employees: Thank You & Good Luck

To the former employees of 38 Studios,

I am distraught over the news that 38 Studios is no more.  I’m crushed over the thought that the screenshots I spoke so highly of this morning are most likely the last glimpse we will ever have of what could have been, what should have been, a great game from a passionate team of developers. We are both fans of Reckoning. Thank you BHG team for giving us over 150 hours of enjoyment in Amalur. Copernicus team, you had us excited by only an idea and a glimpse at what could have been. Your work will not be forgotten, and we remain fans of Amalur and your hard work.

To everyone formerly at 38 Studios, Graev and I wish you all the best of luck with whatever future adventures you embark upon.  We look forward to the excitement you’ll bring us when we have the pleasure of writing about your future work.

– Keen and Graev

For our readers, after the jump you’ll find the Copernicus screenshots released today as well as the fly-through of the world. Following games closely and being so excited for something, just to have it shut down at a moment’s notice, is the hardest part of being such eager gaming enthusiasts.  Such potential for something fresh or new is destroyed, but we’ll continue to see a new Call of Duty game released every year and a horrible MMO will see the light of day simply because it has a huge publisher.  So frustrating.

  • keen i hate to say it but wow did i foresee this one coming.. check my post on your forums dated sept 2010


    for the lazy this is what i wrote

    “My Spidey senses are tingling on 38 studios. For some reason I am leery of this company but cant give you specifics. I feel like this could be the next APB type disaster. Hopefully i am wrong but there could be a news story in a few years like “RI taxpayers lost 75 million due to a failed game, over hyped expectations, and no substance to 38 studios.”

  • I couldn’t elaborate in my post earlier, got pulled into a meeting at work.

    At any rate, most of it is out now (medical insurance expiring tonight, no payment since may 1) and about how there’s going to be a few bombs going off pretty soon, if not later tonight. There’s quite a bit to this story, I was getting texts like crazy around lunch from a friend in the industry as we are / were both diehard EQ1 players and knew what 38/Cop was supposed to be all about. She said it was spreading like wildfire around the studios this morning and afternoon, people were really shocked (and that takes a lot in the land of EA and Activision).

    Stay tuned..

  • I feel bad for the employees working hard on the game itself, and I wonder how the business side got so messed up.

  • I truly hope the businesses which were courting the employees come through for them.

  • This makes me feel like I did back when the True Fantasy Live Online cancellation came. Was so looking forward to a game that was trying to do something different, only to get my hopes up. Amalur was fantastic, and I thought it was one of the best games of the year. It sucks to see these guys going down. =/

  • As much as I feel for the guys in the trenches at 38 (more than I’d like to, as my old studio is getting broken up right now, and I’ve got old colleagues looking for new options because they’re worried the positions won’t be there soon), this isn’t a case of a struggling small studio not having the safety net of a large publisher.

    Reckoning got non-trivial support from EA, who for all their faults have cash and aren’t afraid to put down fairly heavy bets on projects they think will work out, and with one title already out there, they’d have a decent incentive to work with 38 if Copernicus looked promising. But everything about this smells of upper management fuckup. Heck, the very existence of Reckoning owes itself to the fact that 38 couldn’t get their MMO anywhere near as complete as they’d originally claimed. The financial clusterfuck of the last few days (lets be honest, no one suddenly runs out of money, the fact that this was breaking news means someone was hiding stuff), the dearth of Copernicus news in the last year or two, and the few tiny squirts of video/screenshots as the shit hit the fan smack of total managerial failure. Not the least of which is, I don’t see anything like $75m in development in what little we’ve seen.

    On the bright side, there’s already a twitter hashtag (#38jobs) and a facebook page for the refugees/people trying to snap up the refugees. So hopefully they’ll all find homes.

  • You can see some F2P company coming in and picking 38 Studios when Rhode Island sells them for the whatever piddly price they can get.

  • Hold on a second, let’s be realistic here. We’re all sad that they lost their jobs etc, I get it, but let’s be realistic here. This was shaping up to be yet another tired entry in the wow-clone industry of MMO’s, and really I might call it the epitome of such titles. Generic fantasy setting check, MMO not willing to take any risks, check. I’m personally kind of glad this thing is no more.

  • Heh, yeah I can totally see what you’re saying about those Call of Duty games. And in some cases it’s every six months for those. I’ve actually started mocking those titles by calling them “Shooting Game +1” and for Madden of course it’s “Madden +1”.

    Oh, you’re buying Madden +1 for $60? cool cool

  • They got 50 mil of the loan from RI (which itself is nuts to begin with imo) so where did all the money go ? Allods online cost like 7 million and its a pretty decent looking fully developed and functional wow clone. The whole thing sounds like the plot of some con job movie doesnt it ? . Best of luck to those now unemployed and i hope turbine, anet, trion, and other more competent companies have need for your skills.

  • No Cinderella story here. Still really respect Curt, but there is a reason why asshole managers like Bobby Kotick have success in the industry – either pure talent and drive, or no moral compass (Kotick). Look at Vanguard – in retrospect that game has a lot of awesome features, but trying to manage it to the finish brought Brad Mcquaid to drug abuse. Super teams full of talent don’t = success (hello Miami Heat). But really appreciate where Curt’s heart was in the project, and can only think it was a combination of inexperience in the industry and his generousness being taken advantage of by the big names he brought in.

  • Can’t say I’m shocked. Sad for the employees, but not surprised a guy who was really good at throwing a baseball was mediocre at running an MMO studio. Blowing through $75M and only being at the point where you could release a short flythrough and a few screenshots is mismanagement at its finest. And their (lack of) marketing was just brutal… We only got our first glimpses of what this game would be about in the days leading up to its implosion? Pathetic. Way to drum up enthusiasm for players/investors.

  • Well I’m definitely shocked. I can’t imagine Curt being the only one responsible. He surrounded himself with experienced business people. 38 had a CEO, GM’s, COO, CFO (speaking of which… I’d like to hear from Rick Wester), and your typical business setup. Curt was the founder of the company and the chairman, if his titles are accurate.

    As far as marketing, they were still a ways out from a real release date. In my opinion it wasn’t a marketing from an advertising or official info release issue they had but a player relations issue. They needed dedicated staffers to be in contact with the community members, help fan sites take off, get opinion leaders talking about their game, and get the community involved.

    I’m more concerned by Steve Danuser’s tweet saying: “Follow the money. Watch who profits from this and you’ll find a trail of power, corruption, and lies.”

  • I guess my statement unfairly put all the blame on Curt, which I didn’t intend. I blame all of the 38 Studios upper management for this failure and the politicians for unwisely spending taxpayer money. The main knock you can make against Curt is that he probably had some say in the hiring of these upper managers, so blame should still fall on his shoulders for hiring people who didn’t properly do their jobs.

    For example: Needing to sell 3M copies of KOA just to break even and then really needing it to succeed so it could fund your MMO? How often does a new IP do that, especially when released so close to Skyrim and Dark Souls?

    I think we’ve finally hit the precipice where investors have realized what players have known for years: AAA MMOs are way too effing costly and risky. Thanks for this mostly go to SWTOR/EA/Bioware. Sadly, this will have a trickle down effect on indie studios in that even their modest fundraising efforts will come up fruitless.

    Maybe it’s time to let the dust settle a bit on this genre… After all, WoW’s last expansion previously held the record for first day PC sales (only recently broken by Diablo3). Clearly, the biggest MMO on the block ain’t ready to give up the ghost just yet.

  • Thanks for the article, guys.

    It’s pretty easy to predict doom and say “I told you so” when it happens. Hell, do that for all the crazy dreams you come across in the world, and you’ll be right far more often than you’re wrong.

    Over the course of the last five-and-a-half years, I got to be there as we founded a company that started with a dozen guys on laptops sitting around a big table; we employed hundreds of people; we saved a studio from extinction; we launched a new IP in a market of sequels and sold well; we relocated a whole team from one state to another; we built a gorgeous world and came close to finishing a triple-A MMO that would have made us all proud.

    We may have lost, but we didn’t fail–because we *never* gave up. Literally in our final hours, employees were fixing bugs and checking in new content. That’s how much we loved our project, our company, and each other.

  • Schilling is an irresponsible and hypocritical blowhard who’s incompetence has damaged the financial well being of of his employees, Rhode Island, and in a bigger sense our country; he is representative of the hand-out and then bail-out corporate culture that has driven the US economy into its current beleaguered state.

    From the Forbes article:

    “But then-Rhode Island Governor, Donald Carcieri — who was dazzled by Schilling at a May 2010 Republican fund raiser held at his Medfield, Mass. mansion — agreed to give 38 Studios $75 million in state loan guarantees — meaning that the state would pay off the loan if 38 Studios couldn’t.”

    “In 2010, Rhode Island sold $75 million worth of moral obligation bonds that – including interest and other payments — would put the state on the hook for a total of $121.6 million, according to WPRI.com.”

    “There can be no question our country is in the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. …[I]t falls on us, the individuals, to find a way out of our own personal crisis,” – quote from Schilling

    “Schilling asked for way more money — $48 million – than other gaming companies in exchange for too small an equity stake.”

    “Something is fishy here. After all, 38 Studios’ first game – early 2012′s Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning — sold about a million copies at $60 a piece according to market researcher, VGChartz. If 38 Studios got $60 million in revenue this year, why couldn’t it make a $1.1 million interest payment?”

    “Before launching the venture, Schilling was hardly poor. During his 18 year baseball career, he earned $114 million. Schilling told Chafee that he had invested $30 million of his own money in 38 Studios and was “tapped out” according to the Boston Globe.”

    “In addition to his failure to offer a compelling case for more Rhode Island taxpayer money, Schilling did not mention to Chafee that he would be firing 38 Studios’ 413 employees via a mass email.”

    “Now Schilling must be delighted to realize that he is getting the same “free market” treatment that Wall Street received in 2008 when its leveraged bets went bad.”

    I feel sorry for the employees who were adversely affected by Schillings’s reckless ineptitude, but he is not deserving of any sympathy.

  • I don’t feel sorry for Schilling. I don’t even feel sorry for the employees. Why do I seem so cold hearted? Because everyone was paid for the work they did. Businesses fail all the time and people move on to something else. Hardship always makes you stronger and wiser.

    When a company fails it’s not always the fault of the CEO. Everyone working for a company is responsible one way or another when a company fails.

    I do however feel sorry for the tax payers who once again take it on the chin. Government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers. If a business can’t make it on their own, they deserve to fail.

  • 413 employees, seems very high; that’s substantially larger than studios such as Valve or Arenanet. One wonders what they all did. And why didn’t they fire some of those employees earlier? Given their limited funding and income sources it doesn’t sound as if a forward cash flow projection would be rocket science.