Some thoughts about 38 studios…

I can’t imagine how hard it is retiring from a job you dearly love. It must be even harder to have to shut down your second career’s company right after its first product launch. Over extending your finances. Over anticipating your sales forecast. It’s all a recipe for disaster.

Still, I can’t help but think Cut Schilling was successful. As an MLB pitcher, he won multiple World Series titles. He was an MVP. He almost won a Cy Young. Even with all of that, the one thing that runs through my mind whenever I hear his name is “Everquest”.

It must have been 12 years ago now. I was reading through an article on ESPN.com about Schilling giving up 2 HRs to the same guy one game. I can’t recall the batter’s name anymore, but he talked with the reporters about what motivated him to hit that well against one of the game’s best pitchers. He credited it to an incident in Everquest.

The two them of them use to play together. One night they were going to take on a pretty powerful creature together. They headed out, and then all went wrong. Schilling fled the scene, and the other guy ended up dead. The home runs were his way of retaliating. I think it’s a fitting payback personally.

It didn’t surprise me when Curt Schilling retired that he started assembling a game studio of his own. Naming it 38 Studios also didn’t surprises, given the name of his old blog, 38 Pitches. It also didn’t surprise me that the genre of his first game was RPG. What did surprise me is the massive amount of debt they took on from the start. The number of people they filled their studio with. The extremely high sales goal for a first title, especially selling it outside of the Christmas window.

Everyone I know that played Kingdom of Amular: Reckoning loved it. It was a well produced game that could have led to sequels. Selling 1.5 million copies wasn’t such a bad thing either. It just seems to me they made a simple mistake.

They started out bloated with too much debt.

When I read that they had taken a loan out with the state for several million dollars, the first thing that went through my head was “too much too soon”. The absolute wrong way to start a business of any kind is taking on a big debt bill, and hiring a boat load of people. There’s no foundation to support it. No guaranty you’ll ever pay the money back. Its simply bad business, and too much of a risk.

If I had the ear of Curt Schilling two years ago, I would tell him to hire a modest amount of people. Streamline the staff, get the most out of the production, and use your star power for some of the marketing bill. After that, plan for only 1 million copies sold for the first game. Finally, I’d tell him not to attempt an MMORPG.

I hope someone continues the KOA series. I hope some day Schilling has another chance to lead a game production. It’s tough to have the perspective as failed on something you hold close to your heart. I personally look at his first game as a success. His first run as a business man, maybe not so good, but you can always learn from an experience.

My final piece of advice to Curt would be this. Take the role as executive producer. Hire a CEO to run the business aspects of the company. Keep your budget lean and mean. Hire awesome talent in lesser numbers. Produce the same quality of with the right number of people, while letting someone structure your finances and sales in a way that you’ll succeed, not fail.

Good luck to everyone associated with 38 Studios in the future.

Written by Dan
I am a Magento Certified Developer Plus and Software Developer. In my spare time I like reading, doing things with my Church, and hanging out with my wife and daughter. I am a Christian and like sharing things I am studying and reading.