Kingdoms of Amalur Studio Struggling to Survive

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Kingdoms of Amalur Studio Struggling to Survive

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Financial trouble at Curt Schilling's 38 Studios is bad news for Rhode Island.

Not everyone was thrilled with Rhode Island's decision to lure Kingdoms of Amalur developer 38 Studios to the state with a $75 million loan guarantee, but the plan went ahead, the studio set up shop, the game went out the door and all was well - until yesterday, when reports began to emerge that the studio was decidedly unwell.

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee met with executives from 38 Studios on Monday night to check "on all the financials" and discuss the state of the company, which is apparently very shaky. Chafee was dead-set against the loan guarantee prior to his election in January 2011 but now says that since the deal is done, the priority is to ensure the company succeeds.

As of March 15, 38 Studios has received $49.8 million from the state, but that money has apparently been sunk into the "Project Copernicus" MMO, which hasn't even been officially unveiled to the public. Doubts about the game's future grew recently when 38 Studios pulled out of E3, which happens in June. But questions about the studio have been floating around for almost a year, beginning with a PricewaterhouseCoopers audit conducted in June 2011 that expressed "substantial doubt" about its ability to stay afloat.

A 38 Studios collapse could result in the loss of 379 full-time development jobs and would be very expensive for Rhode Island taxpayers, who are on the hook for all the money given to the studio. Fortunately for founder Curt Schilling, however, he's already covered; the studio established a revolving line of credit with the former Red Sox ace in July 2010 to borrow up to $4 million from him, but part of the loan was used to pay him back.

Source: WPRI

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It's a shame. The game is a solid "first game," and I've enjoyed over 200 hours on it. I'd like to see more.

I'd like more details about what's going on besides the obvious. This sounds sorta like mismanagement.

Well I do notice that there was a promise of a 75 million dollar investment from the state and they only received 49.8 million. What's more the Governor who is investigating this and claims he wants to "keep the company afloat" apparently opposed this, and public face aside I can't help but wonder if he's strangling the company since they have only received 2/3rds of what they were promised, 25 million dollars being a lot.

Of course then again they did seem to make a run for the whole MMO goldmine, which seems to be what kills most companies, as opposed to sticking with making single player games, which they showed a talent for.

I do remember reading that they wanted to make a Kingdoms of Amalaur MMO, so that's probably what their project is. To be honest they probably shouldn't have sunk 50 million into developing a property like this until they knew if the game was going to be a success or not. Overall Amalaur WAS successful, but not a blockbuster, and truthfully I think more people found the lore annoying that something they really wanted to see built into a persistant world. I haven't seen much praising the lore or storyline to be entirely honest, and while I thought it was okay, I wouldn't give it more than an okay.

In short if it's not the state's fault, which it might be, it's probably another casualty caused by greed. Companies reaching for the biggest pie and the largest potential profits rather than remaining content to produce a good product for a fair profit. A relatively new company just starting shouldn't be drooling over launching an MMO right out of the gate, yet they all seem to be doing just that. Quite sad really, as I thought single player, open world RPGs were going to have a new champion given that Bethesda seems to be all hot and bothered to try and ruin Elder Scrolls with an MMO.

But hey, kudos to the governor for stepping up to fix his predecessor's mistakes. He's got quite a mess on his hands to fix before he can give the "I told you so" on this one.

You can't use public funds like Kickstarter. This was a large sum of money given to an unproven company, and it's not even really clear whether a video game company is in line with the intended purpose of this initiative (to draw high-tech jobs to the state, basically). In the current climate, it seems like game development is a lot more transient than it used to be -- team names may stay around, but team members get shuffled and downsized after every project, and that's for the big names, even.

Rhode Island's legislators may have just bought the state a dead mule. At the very least, a sick one.

Why the hell do these new devs keep jumping into the mmo market? Don't they realize its a shark pit with people always jumping over it and the sharks are made of gold.

Worgen:
Why the hell do these new devs keep jumping into the mmo market? Don't they realize its a shark pit with people always jumping over it and the sharks are made of gold.

That was my reaction. It's a cluttered market, it's ungodly expensive to create, and requires many resources to maintain. Why the fuck didn't they just make another offline RPG? They've shown they're pretty good at that.

ultrachicken:

Worgen:
Why the hell do these new devs keep jumping into the mmo market? Don't they realize its a shark pit with people always jumping over it and the sharks are made of gold.

That was my reaction. It's a cluttered market, it's ungodly expensive to create, and requires many resources to maintain. Why the fuck didn't they just make another offline RPG? They've shown they're pretty good at that.

Agreed. KoA was a decent first shot, but omfg what moron decided to break into the MMO market?

I've got a feeling that the taxpayers will never recover their $75M given to this studio, regardless of whether they stay afloat.

Agreed to the previous posters. This should be a lesson that just because you *can* make an MMO from your IP, doesn't mean you *should*

If you guys did not notice the AWFULLY TOO BIG world of Amalur, Amalur WAS gonna be the MMO. or did you not notice the fetch quests, the uninteresting world story, the scattered artificial NPCs and conversations, the huge(too huge) world map filled with pointless redundant space for an offline RPG(but rather useful for a mmo). but then sth happened that made them finish up Amalur as a SP. Maybe they were forced to show results. Dunno.

This makes me sad.

Tempted to buy Kingdoms of Amalur next time I have money, because it looks pretty cool and it'd be sad to see a studio go down.

Maybe RI should have brought that 75 million to Foxwoods. They probably could have gotten better odds at a roulette table.

Yeah it's been said. In the current market of "second-tier" MMOs how many of them are popular enough to recoup their enormous dev costs, maintain overhead fees/ongoing development and make a profit?

Perhaps they can turn it into a single-player game like THQ is doing with Warhammer 40k Online

Edit:

draythefingerless:
If you guys did not notice the AWFULLY TOO BIG world of Amalur, Amalur WAS gonna be the MMO. or did you not notice the fetch quests, the uninteresting world story, the scattered artificial NPCs and conversations, the huge(too huge) world map filled with pointless redundant space for an offline RPG(but rather useful for a mmo). but then sth happened that made them finish up Amalur as a SP. Maybe they were forced to show results. Dunno.

I remember hearing about this now. So perhaps this one will get the same treatment?

STOP. NO. GO BACK. DO NOT MAKE AN MMO.

From what I've seen, Kingdoms of Amalur is like Fable only BETTER IN EVERY WAY. Do more of this! For Haruhi's sake, you're a new development team, why would you jump into the MMO market without significant backing? I'm not saying never, but at least get a few more games and build up a bit more brand loyalty first.

Sad news, KoA was really good, fucking MMO bandwagon...

Therumancer:
Well I do notice that there was a promise of a 75 million dollar investment from the state and they only received 49.8 million.

Terms of the deal. 38 Studios is obligated to hit certain benchmarks over a three-year period in order to get all the money.

Amnestic:
From what I've seen, Kingdoms of Amalur is like Fable only BETTER IN EVERY WAY.

I strongly disagree. First and foremost, it lacked the sillyness of the first Fable; second, it was WAY too padded with useless space and mobs. I can definitely see the argument about it being a sort of single player MMO, and it certainly felt like one to me, in a way like SWToR is a MMO-WRPG.
In both cases I didn't like the result, and it certainly doesn't help to have gone against Skyrim (more or less).

Nooooooo! I like these guys. Amalur may not have been the most original game, but it was fun and I had a good time with it. I hope they can get out of this without losses...

:/
bummer, i like Amalur

Sucks to hear another game company is in hot water.
But hey, crisis... I'm suffering too and nobody ever loaned me millions of dollars.
Just one of the "working poor"... bought my house months before the crisis.
Now if I sell it (and I'll have too) I'm gonna be in debt € 12,000.

Yeah, I'm really sad. Except I got Diablo 3, so whatever, it all evens out today :P

Therumancer:
Well I do notice that there was a promise of a 75 million dollar investment from the state and they only received 49.8 million. What's more the Governor who is investigating this and claims he wants to "keep the company afloat" apparently opposed this, and public face aside I can't help but wonder if he's strangling the company since they have only received 2/3rds of what they were promised, 25 million dollars being a lot.

Oh, no no no, you don't understand--can you imagine what a political boon it would be for the governor to be able to claim he saved this company? The only way he's purposely trying to kill it is if he's a nitwit the size of Texas.

Of course then again they did seem to make a run for the whole MMO goldmine, which seems to be what kills most companies, as opposed to sticking with making single player games, which they showed a talent for.

Yup. The MMO attempt is what's killing them IMO. They need to ditch it, pronto, and start on something less likely to bankrupt them. A full-blown Kingdoms of Amalur expansion pack might be a good idea: KoA had sold over 400k and that's only counting retail copies. An expansion pack would be a relatively quick and cheap way to inject a few million into the company. It won't pay back the loan by any means but it's better than throwing money at an MMO that probably won't work anyway.

Yeah, I really hope they can work this out and come through it. Havent got to play the game yet, but I have been looking towards it (backlog is too extensive right now)

The studios foundation and concepts really excited me, and I have really wanted them to do something great, which I think they can. I think really that the problem is these rough terms coupled with the fact the economy is finally catching up to the game industry and is starting to drag its progress down to flagging like a lot of other industries.

Heres hoping that they can pull through, and go on to do something great, instead of being just another victim.

next game an mmo.... *face palm*

I thought Big Huge Games did most of KoA's developement?

*the googles*

Ah, BHG was bought by 38 Studios to do lead up to their MMO. Damn, when I heard that BHG had enticed Ken Rolston out of retirement to work on a dream game I hadn't realized someone later converted it into an MMO prequel. :(

I still haven't gotten around to the demo, perhaps I should take a stab at it this week.

Sweet, I smell a discount on the horizon. :)

Hey sometimes your only purpose is to serve as a warning to others. They had to know the risks going in. Looks like they gave it the old college try, released the game in SP mode to stay afloat and fell flat.

This is why everyone is turning to beganomics with games like farmville and that other game that tried to scam your kids by selling them smurf berries for $99 dollars! Seriously, a box of fucking smurf berries costs more than THE ENTIRE RETAIL COST OF SKYRIM?? If we paid money like that for all of our games, Skyrim would cost us, what, hundreds of thousands of dollars each?

MMOs are expensive and Blizzard is the exception, not the rule. They're dead unless James Cameron bails them out. I hear he has previous experience with expensive projects that nearly fail.

If I recall correctly they mentioned before KoA even came out that it was a prequel to an MMO. Not surprised they aren't doing well when they already had their hearts set on making an MMO out of an unproven IP that turned out to be mediocre.

Skratt:
Sweet, I smell a discount on the horizon. :)

This! That sweet Steam Summer Sale is just on the horizon, after all.

Really this just sounds like a team that over extended their reach. Should´ve known better before gambling millions on another generic fantasy setting.

Worgen:
Why the hell do these new devs keep jumping into the mmo market? Don't they realize its a shark pit with people always jumping over it and the sharks are made of gold.

And there's one made out of diamond with a giant frickin' lazer on it's head and every time he barks (yes, the shark barks) it shoots BEES at you! This is a shark that makes Jaws look like a guppy, and it's name is WoW. :P

As has been pointed out, 38 Studios is in this mess because they wanted an MMO first, then retooled it to be a single-player RPG, then decided to build the MMO off that.

That said, they'd already announced their intent of "Project Copernicus" before they came to the state and we gave them the loan. So that's kind of our bad for making a risky investment. But it's their bad for failing to follow through. If they do go into receivership, I hope RI gets their IP and all the work they've done for our trouble.

I just didn't see Amalur a a mountain moving game, not when I've yet to start properly playing The Witcher 2 and Skyrim along with my current playthough of Dragon Age 2 (say what you will). It just didn't stick out as a decent game.

Andy Chalk:

Therumancer:
Well I do notice that there was a promise of a 75 million dollar investment from the state and they only received 49.8 million.

Terms of the deal. 38 Studios is obligated to hit certain benchmarks over a three-year period in order to get all the money.

Ahh, okay. Thanks for the clarification.

evilneko:

Therumancer:
Well I do notice that there was a promise of a 75 million dollar investment from the state and they only received 49.8 million. What's more the Governor who is investigating this and claims he wants to "keep the company afloat" apparently opposed this, and public face aside I can't help but wonder if he's strangling the company since they have only received 2/3rds of what they were promised, 25 million dollars being a lot.

Oh, no no no, you don't understand--can you imagine what a political boon it would be for the governor to be able to claim he saved this company? The only way he's purposely trying to kill it is if he's a nitwit the size of Texas.

Of course then again they did seem to make a run for the whole MMO goldmine, which seems to be what kills most companies, as opposed to sticking with making single player games, which they showed a talent for.

Yup. The MMO attempt is what's killing them IMO. They need to ditch it, pronto, and start on something less likely to bankrupt them. A full-blown Kingdoms of Amalur expansion pack might be a good idea: KoA had sold over 400k and that's only counting retail copies. An expansion pack would be a relatively quick and cheap way to inject a few million into the company. It won't pay back the loan by any means but it's better than throwing money at an MMO that probably won't work anyway.

Errr, well I guess from what Andy is saying (and perhaps I missed in the article) the guaranteed loan, was gated based on certain performance criteria. A lot of what I was saying was based on the amount of money they received, compared to the promised money. When I saw that and the bit about the governor not having liked the idea... well, I never denied being fairly paranoid. :)

If I was on the right track, which I apparently am, the term "Nitwit" would apply, however it wouldn't have been the first time a politician did something like this for favor. In theory if the Governor choked a project he didn't like, he could say it proves what he thought to begin with and spin that into support for himself, and people following his lead. If he had held back the funds, he could paint that as having "saved the money from the wasteful company" as opposed to strangling the company, leading to the loss of the rest. In the end many politicians care less about the state and it's money as their own political power and being the guy in charge.

It doesn't matter though, because my line of thinking apparently does not hold up.

endtherapture:
This makes me sad.

Tempted to buy Kingdoms of Amalur next time I have money, because it looks pretty cool and it'd be sad to see a studio go down.

It's pretty awful, as far as RPGs go. Think World of Warcraft if it was single player. Buy it when it's in a bargin bin for a couple of dollars.

OT: Really not sad to see these guys go. There was nothing new or interesting about Kingdoms of Amalur and the only good thing I could really say about it is it's gameplay was "okay". It's just a recycled lump of a lot of cocepts from other games and turned into a mediocore, uninspired RPG.

Cry Wolf:

endtherapture:
This makes me sad.

Tempted to buy Kingdoms of Amalur next time I have money, because it looks pretty cool and it'd be sad to see a studio go down.

It's pretty awful, as far as RPGs go. Think World of Warcraft if it was single player. Buy it when it's in a bargin bin for a couple of dollars.

OT: Really not sad to see these guys go. There was nothing new or interesting about Kingdoms of Amalur and the only good thing I could really say about it is it's gameplay was "okay". It's just a recycled lump of a lot of cocepts from other games and turned into a mediocore, uninspired RPG.

I saw Angry Joe going on about the combat aspects of the RPG - he seems to enjoy it and me and him have pretty similar taste in games.

endtherapture:

Cry Wolf:

endtherapture:
This makes me sad.

Tempted to buy Kingdoms of Amalur next time I have money, because it looks pretty cool and it'd be sad to see a studio go down.

It's pretty awful, as far as RPGs go. Think World of Warcraft if it was single player. Buy it when it's in a bargin bin for a couple of dollars.

OT: Really not sad to see these guys go. There was nothing new or interesting about Kingdoms of Amalur and the only good thing I could really say about it is it's gameplay was "okay". It's just a recycled lump of a lot of cocepts from other games and turned into a mediocore, uninspired RPG.

I saw Angry Joe going on about the combat aspects of the RPG - he seems to enjoy it and me and him have pretty similar taste in games.

You'll find it in just about any other RPG. It looks okay, but it's really not worth spending any significant amount of money on. I really wish I hadn't.

Cry Wolf:

You'll find it in just about any other RPG. It looks okay, but it's really not worth spending any significant amount of money on. I really wish I hadn't.

I'll just wait til it's in a sale or I can get it really cheap then.

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