Let’s keep one thing in mind as we read this: a startup game studio failed to release a WoW-clone themepark MMO after spending 6+ years and north of $100m on it. Said startup also bought another studio that had a basically-complete game, and that game failed to sell enough to justify the price paid for the studio.
This article is embarrassing. To even remotely suggest that somehow someone other than 38 Studios screwed 38 Studios is atrocious. To believe that if only someone on the hook for $75m would have kept shut, and allowed another victim to toss money into the 38 black hole, everything would have worked out is crazy-talk.
Then we have this:
“I can say that the company didn’t spend money extravagantly at all,” he adds. “We didn’t have giant statues in the halls, or supercomputers with 30-inch monitors at every desk. We had what we needed to work on the game and that was it.”
Sound good right? Maybe one could even argue that had they had supercomputers, maybe it would not have taken 6 years to get (maybe) within one year of release, but whatever. Oh wait:
Schilling “went to lavish personal expense” for his teams, buying customized jerseys and other morale perks.
So no supercomputers or bigger monitors, but customized jerseys and other stuff. That makes sense. How many lines of code did those jerseys write? And before someone brings up that it was a ‘personal expense’ for Schilling, 38 Studios is also a ‘personal expense’ for him, so we are talking money from the same piggybank here.
“But in the end, his optimism turned out to be naivete, and it slowly killed us,” the source continues.
So Schilling is not the bad guy here, but at the same time he slowly killed 38 Studios. Neat.
On a higher level, what kind of business plan assumes you will just keep getting money anytime you ask, without first delivering anything, in an industry that has a track record a mile long of actually completed products failing horribly? What could possibly go wrong?
And why is Schilling, with $50m to invest in his gaming studio, setting out to create a game that is going to cost $150m+? Maybe, I don’t know, try to first design one for around $50m? Pretty sure it might be possible to clone WoW for that amount, just ask Trion.
It’s also crazy to hear that this could have happened to the studio before, but the previous time they were running on empty, someone gave them more money (how’s that working out for ya?).
and to a perceived opacity about the higher-ups, whose roles sources say were unclear and led to jokes about a profusion of unnecessary VPs at 38.
The above begs the question; how many VPs does it take to not release anything? Apparently many.
Chafee also publicly claimed 38’s first release, the single-player RPG Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, “failed,” artificially deflating its sales numbers and suggesting it was a commercial flop — which it wasn’t. It’s true that the game didn’t sell enough to fulfill a clause whereby publisher Electronic Arts would start paying a cut to the studio, but employees say potential profits for Reckoning were never part of the budgeting plans for 38.
What? So KoA:R did not fail, but 38 Studios never saw cash from it because it never crossed an amount that EA set? Call me crazy, but don’t we normally define a successful product by it generating profit? Is 38 Studios a charity venture? But no, 38 would have been just fine had someone who is on the hook for $75m not brought up the fact that the game from that studio they paid for did not earn them money. Total non-issue…
Because, you know, their “budget plans” looked something like this: spent money until we run out, ask for more, spend, ask, spend, ask, keep on keeping on, custom jersey, spend, ask. Oh and maybe finish a WoW-clone at some point. Maybe.
And again, it totally sucks that the ones ultimately screwed are the actual workers for 38 Studios and the taxpayers of RI. Schilling will be perfectly fine doing ESPN segments and calling local sports radio, and most of his VP staff will go on to do whatever it is they ‘do’. Or just do more of this:
Jen MacLean, former CEO of 38 Studios, informed Gamasutra after this report was published: “I left 38 Studios on an indefinite leave of absence on March 23, 2012, and resigned from my position as director, officer, and employee on May 17. I was not involved in any day to day company operations after March 23.”
Raise your hand if you have the option to take an indefinite leave of absence for almost two months and then bail? Anyone, anyone?
And the crazies part? I suspect this is only the first step down this epic failcascade.