Look, I know that isn’t a headline that screams funtimes and rainbows and unicorns, but this could all have been avoided if you’d just bought the perfectly serviceable RPG Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning back in 2012. The long and short of it is this: the state of Rhode Island offered a $75 million state loan guarantee to 38 Studios as an incentive to relocate, then when the studio went under shortly after Amalur’s release, the taxpayer was served the bill for the failed deal.
Sadly Kingdoms of Amalur didn’t make the cut in our best PC RPGs.
In case 38 Studios’ game has slipped through the cracks of your mind in the years since release – it was the RPG made by former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s own 38 Studios, so named because he wore the 38 jersey as a pro.
TES: Morrowind and Oblivion lead designer Ken Rolston was enlisted to shape the gameplay of EA’s new RPG, and you really got a sense of that lineage in Amalur’s multitude of crafting and alchemy mechanics. It was a pretty decent RPG, as this humble writer remembers, but lacking a sense of personality and atmosphere. It felt a bit PG-13.
However, the game’s initial sales were strong – according to Schilling, at least:
Reckoning, 38 Studios first game, has outperformed EA's projections by selling 1.2mm copies in its first 90 days
— Curt Schilling (@gehrig38) May 24, 2012
But it wasn’t enough. According to a Joystiq report shortly after the studio’s closure in 2012, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning would have needed to make 3 million sales just to break even. It did not. It had spent a long time in development, initially conceived as an MMO before a studio closure and subsequent buyout of Big Huge Games from THQ put the game back on track as a single-player RPG set in the Amalur universe.
What happened next, in May 2012, is 38 Studios went backrupt and closed, and the state of Rhode Island who had previously loaned out that $75 million had to figure out a way to recoup its losses. The state’s economic development agency began litigation against Schilling and others. It didn’t stick.
Schilling has yet to publicly answer questions about the failed $75 million deal, and with expenses yet to be recovered on the state’s behalf, a senate commitee has assembled to investigate the whole sorry situation. That commitee has a lot of paperwork to get through: “Hundreds of documents and tens of thousands of pages related to the lawsuit were released in September, including court filings, emails and depositions of key players,” according to The State.
And it could have all been avoided if we’d all just taken a deep breath, taken one for the state of Rhode Island and bought Kingdoms of Amalur. It was alright.