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End Game: Inside the Destruction of Curt Schilling's 38 Studios

Stashed in: VC, startups, Autism

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By 2006, Curt Schilling had earned more than $90 million playing baseball, not including endorsements. But what he really aspired to was being “Bill Gates rich.” He admired the global impact the Microsoft founder had made through his philanthropy, and wanted to do the same. Schilling, who has an autistic son, imagined providing $200 million to open the Shonda Schilling Center for Autism Research.

Creating a video game would be what catapulted him to that wealth. More specifically, he would build a massively multiplayer online game (or, blessedly abbreviated, an MMO) — the type that allows people from across the world to play with and against one another. As a kid, Schilling had been obsessed with computers (his first was an Apple II), and during his baseball career, rather than go out carousing, he spent his time playing MMOs. A favorite of his was the industry leader, World of Warcraft, a vast fantasy landscape filled with wizards, elves, and warriors that has more than 10 million paying subscribers.


Industry experts often compare making video games to filming movies, given their similarly long production cycles and hit-or-miss nature. In movie terms, then, Schilling was attempting to start a studio from scratch, but instead of beginning with a low-budget indie flick, he was going straight for the summer blockbuster. His first time behind the camera, he was going to make Avatar.


Schilling knew he’d been treated well during his baseball career, and wanted his staff at 38 Studios to feel the same. That meant gold-plated healthcare, for which employees had no paycheck deductions, and top-notch 401(k)s, with the company matching to the legal limit. As 38 Studios grew from 20 employees in 2006 to 42 in 2007 to 65 in 2008, there were plenty of other goodies along the way: free gym memberships, two homes the company rented to temporarily house new out-of-state hires (though that perk was short-lived), and, one year at Christmas, new laptop computers for every employee. Gifts like the computers came out of Schilling’s pocket — he says he spent as much as $2.5 million on that sort of largesse over the years.


Then there was the issue of equity. Dagres says that Spark Capital likes to get 20 percent of a company it invests in, but that Schilling’s offer was far too small. Schilling denies that he hoarded equity, but multiple sources say that, because he was funding the whole enterprise, he guarded it jealously.

“He was very forthcoming to tell you how much of his own money he put in,” Dagres recalls. Schilling tells me that he considered that kind of disclosure a selling point: “I assumed that they would look at it as, ‘If he’s this far in, it’s not going to fail. He’s not going to let this thing fail.’” Instead, Dagres was shocked that Schilling was plunging so much into such a risky venture. The VC left with his checkbook firmly closed.

Here's a first look at Amalur in Project Copernicus. Watch this space for more. http ://


But he says the game was not fun. They were working on it for 6 years.

I'd boil down problems to:

A. Raising money is much harder than it seems

B. Uneasonable and/or missed deadlines and expectations

C. Poorly-structured loan that left them at mercy of rhode island.

D. Poor communication among team

E. 6 years and only one game released.

Unfortunate for everybody. Nobody wins here.

The first game seemed to have fared well:

The few reviews published before the release of the game were positive: IGN gave it a 9 out of 10, praising its customizable gameplay, gorgeous environments, and engrossing story, while criticizing the game for some minor technical issues.[21] Official Xbox Magazine awarded the game 8.5 out of 10 and said "it's a great RPG nonetheless."[22] Gamespot gave it a 7.5, praising the gameplay and visuals, but felt it was too generic. Xplay's Adam Sessler gave the game a 2.5 out of five stating it had bugs and the landscape wasn't crafted well.[23]

After release, reviews were generally good but polarized, with a large difference between highest scores and lowest scores.[24] Gametrailers gave it an 8.3 out of 10.[25] Joystiq gave the game a perfect score of 5/5, praising everything the game had to offer.[26] Edge gave it 6 out of 10, and felt that the game did not reinvent anything, and had several issues,[27] writing that "Reckoning’s appeal soon wanes" and that it "never quite balances accessibility with the depth expected from an RPG either." Digital Trends gave it 8.5 out of 10 and felt that the game did not reinvent anything, but liked the combat system.[28]

Not sure why the YouTube video didn't display.

Thanks! Gorgeous video.