An in-depth look at the demise of 38 Studios portrays founder Curt Schilling as a dedicated, driven and slightly delusional man who was grossly out of his depth.
To most observers who care to follow such things, the demise of Kingdoms of Amalur developer 38 Studios was unfortunate and regrettable in the vague, peripheral way of most bad things that happen to good people for no particular reason. But a new Boston Magazine interview with founder Curt Schilling and other principles puts a far finer point on it. From the employees who were left holding the bag to Schilling himself, who still sounds utterly overwhelmed by the whole thing, everything about the collapse is sad to the point of tragedy.
As he’s done previously, Schilling lays much of the blame at the feet of Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, who was against the deal that brought 38 Studios to the state before he took office and who, he said, was at the head of “a concerted effort to make this not succeed.” But others, including former employees and potential investors, paint a different picture, saying money was being spent at a calamitous rate, while outside financing never materialized. One such observer, Todd Dagres of Spark Capital, who ultimately declined to invest, said he was shocked that Schilling was getting so deep into such a risky venture. “Curt was not the CEO, but you could see he was quite involved and had a lot of control,” Dagres said. “I was a little nervous.”
Employees, meanwhile, were apparently unaware of the “dysfunction,” internal feuds and high rate of turnover among company executives, while the continuing flow of easy money camouflaged the looming financial trouble. And when the ugly end did finally arrive, they were blindsided, despite Schilling’s promise that they’d have 60 days warning if the company ever appeared to be in trouble. Schilling said he believed “with every ounce of his being” that things would work out, but he also allowed that ultimately, he dropped the ball.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t want to tell anyone, it’s I didn’t know what to say,” he said.
Schilling comes across as a generous employer but an oblivious leader, who honestly believed that sheer force of will would bring him the same degree of success in the game industry as he experienced in baseball. There was also no small amount of hubris at work; despite making a fortune playing baseball, Schilling wanted to be “Bill Gates rich” and decided that “if you want to build something that’s a billion-dollar company, the only game to do that with is an MMO.”
There’s no question that Schilling was a true believer in the studio and the game, but it’s hard not to come away feeling that he was seriously out of his league and out of touch with the realities unfolding around him. The full interview is lengthy and thorough, and not much fun by any measure. But as a multifaceted look inside one of the highest-profile game studio collapses in recent memory, it’s absolutely riveting.
Source: Boston Magazine