Project Copernicus and the Week No One Was Paid
When 38 Studios revealed Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning to the world, the developer promised the mythos created by acclaimed fantasy novelist R.A. Salvatore would bleed into other titles going forward. Tentatively called Copernicus, 38 Studios looks to move their IP into another realm, away from the solo RPG adventure of Reckoning, and into the MMO scene.
Too bad doing so costs so goddamn much. Slightly overshadowing Copernicus’ environmental demo wheel (above), 38 has taken the spotlight themselves in the form of financial troubles; namely, the fact that the studio was unable to provide compensation in any manner for its employees this week. That’s…seriously a memo no one wanted read, let alone fucking write.
The payroll strain was a direct consequence of company founder Curt Shilling (yep, of the MLB) attempting to make good on a late loan payment of over a million bucks to the state of Rhode Island. The Ocean State’s starstruck governor, Donald Carcieri, extended a $75 million dollar incentive in 2010 for the former Red Sox pitcher to relocate his Massachusetts based company to Little Rhody in the hopes of bringing back some economical boom where the state’s once thriving jewelry industry imploded.
At least on a few levels the venture seemed well intentioned (more jobs and video games are two things keeping America afloat), but the deal was always a high-risk proposition, especially considering Shilling’s willingness to burn cash on new talent and acquisitions (Shilling purchased Big Huge Games from THQ back in 2009 – exactly zero games into 38’s gaming career).
Rhode Island’s Economic Development Corporation has confirmed it returned 38 Studios’ $1.125 million dollar check citing “insufficient funds." Critically and commercially, the company’s first game performed decently, giving us no clue as to what has pushed 38 into this financial sinkhole until the information is made public. MMO’s are certainly expensive, bringing us back full circle. If 38 Studios is unable to rectify their issues in the coming weeks, you can be sure this video is the last you ever see of Copernicus and whatever it may become. And as a mighty defender of video games and things of joy, I cannot abide.
UPDATE: 38 Studios’ payment has cleared with the RIEDC, after its initial check bounced like a basketball. 38 now has to pursue private funding from outside benefactors as the state of Rhode Island is adamant the development studio doesn’t see another red cent. Successor to office, Governor Lincoln Chafee, put his foot down when asked if he’d okay similar risky endeavors. "Never. Not on my watch.”
Copernicus is still on schedule for 2013. As are escalating payments 38 Studios must make to the Ocean State.