RI governor says 38 Studios' MMO Copernicus now just "a lot of junk," Schilling responds

Lincoln Chafee says he was not surprised that the game failed to sell at auction last week; Schilling says governor "has no clue what he's talking about."


After failing to sell at auction last week, 38 Studios' Amalur MMO Copernicus is now nothing more than "a lot of junk," Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee said Thursday on a public affairs show on WJAR-TV. As reported by The Associated Press, Chafee explained that he had hoped the game would sell at auction, but wasn't surprised by the fact that no acceptable offers for the property were made.

38 Studios was working on the game, helped in part from a controversial 2010 $75 million loan guarantee, when the company went bankrupt last year. Rhode Island taxpayers are now left with millions in debt, and the state hoped the auction would help recoup some of that debt.

However, only 38 Studios subsidiary Big Huge Games properties like Rise of Nations and Rise of Legends sold during the auction, bringing in just $320,000. The state will continue its efforts to sell Copernicus, but it is not clear how much interest there is for the property.

Governor Chafee has long been an outspoken critic of the loan, which was approved in 2010 when he was running for office. The loan was designed to entice 38 Studios to move from Massachusetts to Rhode Island, with the promise of job creation and various other economic stimulation benefits.

On Thursday, governor Chafee recalled this loan guarantee, calling it "insane" and a "historically bad" decision that may have been driven by panic.

"People just panicked and gave a retired baseball player a huge amount of taxpayer money with no experience in this industry or any other businesses," Chafee said. "There was this whole groupthink across the business communities."

In addition to the auction, Rhode Island is attempting to recover some of its debt by suing Schilling and other architects of the loan. This case is ongoing.

Schilling, a former Boston Red Sox pitcher who is now a commentator at ESPN, responded to Chafee's comments on Twitter.

"Any decision that loses is 'bad' in hindsight. Bet RI would like a 'redo' on Gov election too," he wrote, calling out Chafee's reported 11 percent approval rating. "He has no clue what he's talking about. Never did."

Schilling further explained that he informed state officials that it would be impossible for Rhode Island to recoup its investment if 38 Studios folded. He previously called Chafee a "dunce of epic proportions."


Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

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214 comments
BuBsay
BuBsay

What's this? A politician passing judgement on something he inherently doesn't understand? And what's more it's about video games?


Alert the press people! This is something we've never seen before!

brockelley
brockelley

politicians, why do we even waste our time talking about them...

ggregd
ggregd

Hey Lincoln, is that your nose on the floor?  I thought I saw it fall off when you were making political hay and ensuring your taxpayers were on the hook for the whole loan guarantee.


This guy is a fool who doesn't know when to shut up.

stev69
stev69

He seemingly got into office on the back of publicly opposing this investment in the first place by the read of it. Now he is gloating about how right he was, however its still an unintelligent move on his part. As his office now has a massive debt to recoup with little hope of doing so with such a turd of a game to flog.

crazeon
crazeon

Tax-funded video game = bad idea. Tax-funded MMO = horrible idea.

b0sse
b0sse

Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee is junk.

Sevenizz
Sevenizz

I remember listening to The Instanxe (WoW podcast) when this guy was making the game. He didn't sound that bright so it is no shock this happened.

diabolik_023
diabolik_023

moron.... you can't sell something if you call it junk... how the f\_/ck you got into politics... you dumb as shit horse..... that says a lot about the people that elected you

CalamityKait
CalamityKait

I'm not a business executive, but it does seem to me that publicly trashing an asset you are actively trying to sell for a large amount of money isn't sound financial planning.  Obviously you don't want to be actively deceptive, but "This is a worthless piece of junk, would you like to buy it from us for eight figures?" isn't the best way to recover some of your losses.

battlefront1943
battlefront1943

From Eurogamer:  Chafee originally expected AMALUR/COPERNICUS to be worth "in the tens of millions of dollars."  Chafee followed that with "We are going to do everything possible to maximize return on our investment... Taxpayers in Rhode Island can have full confidence that if there's a penny that we can get, or a nickle or a dime, we'll get it."

That "... tens of millions of dollars..." line leads me to think the reserve price asked was too high for interested parties.  I can guarantee there were interested parties.  Why?  Because AMALUR sold almost 300,000 more units better than DARKSIDERS II, and that series was sold to Nordic Games.  Here's a portion of that press release:

"$4.9 million from Nordic Games Licensing AB, a Swedish-based video games publisher, for Darksiders, Red Faction, MX vs ATV, Other Owned Software (includes Destroy all Humans!, Summoner and more), and Other Licensed Software (includes Marvel Super Hero Squad, Supreme Commander and more);"


From what I've read another sticking point may have been IP rights.  Where Crytek recently purchased all IP rights to HOMEFRONT for $500,000, the auction of AMALUR did not include any rights to the original AMALUR title -- only rights to sequels.  That means that not only does a party have to buy the entirety of COPERNICUS and an untested AMALUR sequel, but the party cannot gain rights or revenue from re-packaging or re-publishing the first AMALUR game.  Why buy sequel rights to an IP you don't own outright?  Crytek certainly wanted all of the HOMEFRONT IP rights.

  

What I don't get now is...  Chafee/RI certainly still want to sell the property, but calling it "junk" just sinks the price even more.  Why would Chafee undermine something he wants to sell?  He must see more political capital in blaming Schilling for RI's issues than recouping any return on this failed investment.  What a cluster_____!    


WolfgarTheQuiet
WolfgarTheQuiet

More Tax money goes to wars and government drug business so why the fuck is he making a big deal

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

Ok this is why you never make a game if you are not a gamer or a programmer or a true visionary. Same with never open a restaurant if your not a F(*##NG Chef!!!

vader501st
vader501st

Someone put a bullet in Chafee's head, PLEASE. That guy is a walking cancer.

Infinity_Gauntl
Infinity_Gauntl

Sad...I really hate to see this kind of stuff....Wish him the best and wish that this had suceeded

blackace
blackace

That Chafee guy is cluess. They probably were expecting to get $10-20 for The Copernicus and Kingdom of Amular franchises and I'm sure they were offered only $5 million of less. No one is going to pay large amounts of money on an unproven franchise. Kingdom of Amular was an excellent game however. The gameplay was just about perfect. The story and a few other things was the only thing that was a letdown. Copernicus might have turned out really good. R.I. is just better of selling it to the highest bidder and call it a day. They are never going to recoup all their $75 million back. That's just not going to happen.

jedicommand7
jedicommand7

What is an "acceptable offer'? Calling something "junk" but still having a required minimum bid seems to be a self-contradiction.

Fursnake
Fursnake

Well, if Copernicus was just an MMO version of KoA then it was most likely doomed to failure or at least incredible mediocrity in a genre already extremely over-saturated with mediocre or just piss poor games.

nparks
nparks

No private buyer wanted it.  Then they put it up for auction, and nobody bid for it.  I don't think you can fault the governor for being honest with the people.  If Amalur or Copernicus had any value for the industry, they'd have been sold by now.  Nobody wants to buy them, which makes them, effectively, junk.

the_real_VIP
the_real_VIP

"Chafee explained that he had hoped the game would sell at auction, but wasn't surprised by the fact that no acceptable offers for the property were made."

More like Rhode Island's government doesn't know anything about video games.

eamo-k
eamo-k

The chronic mismanagement of this game from beginning to end has truly been something to behold. It's like everyone involved actively tried to sabotage any chance of Copernicus (and by extension Alamur) ever being successful.


The investors gave too much money and expected far too much in return, far too soon. Then for their part 38 Studios burned through money like it had a sell-by date and mishandled virtually every aspect of development.

By the time Amalur was made it wasn't to be a springboard for an MMO as it should have been from an outset, it was a desperate attempt to inject cash into the doomed Copernicus. To top it all off you've got an idiot in office publicly badmouthing something he desperately needs to sell. 

mos2000
mos2000

Schilling attempted to pursue a passion that many cannot appreciate, gaming.  I applaud him for that.  Unfortunately it was under a flawed business model. This loan being the most flawed part of it.  Let this be a lesson to all.  Do not look to a state for funding if your a developer.  Do not expect a fast return on investment if your putting money on a new IP from a brand new company - especially in this economy.  Not worth putting your state through the financial strain if you can't afford the risks.

sortajan
sortajan

The entire state of RI should crucify Chafee (literally) and Schilling should be banned from ever touching money again.

Strategizer
Strategizer

As much as I agree that sometimes Schilling needs to just shut up I believe he is right here. Despite what happened with the loan the Gov. is an idiot and doesn't even understand the property you put something up for auction to get the highest price someone is will to pay but this stupid gov. wants a specific amount so he can get money in his pocket. I believe there is lots of potential in the Kingdom of Amalur IP but nothing can be done with it till this stupid gov. gets off his high horse and lets someone buy it for a reasonable price and I don't mean a price that HE thinks is reasonable. Just put it up for auction and sell it to the highest bidder. Right now it is junk cause the stupid Gov. can't even comprehend what he is supposed to do with it.

noandno
noandno

What a nice thing to say from a governor. Well done

timoteo2k1
timoteo2k1

This entire episode is indicative of the modern, selfish american perspective. RI made an investment, there are no guarantees that it will mature. Yet here they are trying to sue and demolish to recoup money they knowingly risked.


They bet, they lost and now they want their money back? gonna have to try that next time i'm at the craps table.

wristbreaker
wristbreaker

pretty much sums it up... don't make games if you're a jock... 


northArrow
northArrow

@diabolik_023They already tried to sell it and it didn't sell, then they tried to auction it and nobody bid. He's absolutely right, Amalur is junk, what else would you call something that nobody wants?

Dynamite_SJ
Dynamite_SJ

@diabolik_023 totally agree... with the governor calling it junk ontop of whats already out there.. there is no hope to get any higher bids at all or even the bids that were given at the time back. The Governor just cost RI any $$$ flow from this game at all... what a winner

northArrow
northArrow

@battlefront1943Why do people compare Darksiders 2 to this? 


These are two different games in two different situations. Regardless of selling 300,000 more KoA was a huge financial disaster for 38 studios, why would anyone want that?

x_hunter00
x_hunter00

@nyran125tkYou do realize that many restaurants are opened by people who aren't chefs, right? Your logic is flawed.

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

but apart from that. This game was pretty damn good and deserved way more than it got. however a first game in a franchise probably shouldn thave the crazy expectations this game had. 1.2 million sales should of been awesome for a first game.

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

@blackace I thought its story and its lore was its high point and the gameplay was pretty fun to.

Speaking of this game, i wonder how much it is on STEAM right now.

blackace
blackace

@FursnakeYou must not have played Kingdom of Amular. It's a well made game. Better then a lot of the other games in this genre.

blackace
blackace

@nparks Companies bidded on it, but they didn't bid over the reserve price. R.I. is trying to recoup all of their $75 million and it will never happen with just these two games. They will need to lower their reserve price. Neither of these games are junk. PS All-Star Battle Royale is JUNK. M.A.G. is JUNK.

olddadgamer
olddadgamer

@eamo-kWhile Schilling had no business getting into an industry he knew nothing about, while RI had no business making this loan, while one must always wonder about RI's government being on the up and up (we're talking about a state who's largest city once reelected a mayor who was forced to leave the first time because of a felony conviction, then forced to leave again because of another felony conviction), let's always remember there were lots of developers, good people with families, who were just screwed by this.  I knew a couple of them when they were in MA.  Poor people had to sell their houses for cheap to be relocated just like that, only to have the company cave shortly after.  Yes, yes, happens in every industry all the time, but as we sit here watching the money guys and the governor have it out like a couple of babies, let's remember the real victims of all this idiocy are the poor people (and their spouses and kids) who's lives were uprooted twice, when all they were trying to do was make a good game for people like us. 

TriumphantToad
TriumphantToad

@timoteo2k1 And if what Schilling says is true, which it may or may not be, they were warned that they could never hope to get their losses back should the company fold.

adwerk
adwerk

@timoteo2k1Exactly. They can really only blame themselves for not having enough business sense to see things didnt add up.


And this guy is only trying to make himself "look good" by bashing everyone else... typical politician

northArrow
northArrow

@x_hunter00 You also realize that 90% of those restaurants close in the first 5 years right?

CalamityKait
CalamityKait

@nyran125tkIf you're talking about Kingdoms of Amalur, that wasn't where the money went, or at least it's more complicated than that.   38 Studios was working on Project Copernicus, set in Amalur, as an MMO designed to compete directly with World of Warcraft.  They acquired Big Huge Games, which was already developing a single-player RPG.  This game was revamped to fit into Amalur as a way of introducing the new IP to players, using Copernicus assets to fit it into the same universe as the unfinished MMO.  It also served as a method of getting some return on the Project Copernicus investment by using some of the assets in a project much closer to completion.


It was all the money that was poured into the MMO that was never finished that caused the company to go bankrupt.  Kingdoms of Amalur is the game most closely associated with the company because it was the one game it released, but it isn't where the money went, and had little to nothing to do with the company's failure.


Unfortunately for those of us who liked KoA, because the two games are part of the same IP, it's going to be difficult to sell KoA, because that would mean parting with the IP associated with it, and that IP is also a core part of the MMO.  I suspect this is why the only things that sold at the auction were the two older Big Huge Games properties that didn't have any ties to the Amalur IP.

Khasym
Khasym

@olddadgamer@eamo-kI have to be honest. With the volatility of the gaming industry right now, does it really make that much sense to uproot your entire family and chuck them across the country? Since 2009 easily, the gaming industry's been in a major shaky state. Unless my company was paying the costs of the relocation fees, I would be waiting for at LEAST a year after my employment started, and be REALLY sure this game is going to succeed, before I take losses on one house to buy another and move my family. What if Copernicus was bought out by EA or Activision, and the whole corp had to relocate AGAIN? Hell, what if someone like CCP or Realtime Worlds bought them out and wanted to bring the studio overseas?

DynamiteGA
DynamiteGA

@eamo-k If you have the money to own it, it sure does give you enough qualities.  Hire the people to help you run it and give them the direction of the type of movies you want to create.  Risk is there always in any business, can't really avoid it.

eamo-k
eamo-k

@olddadgamer @eamo-k  There's always the human cost of course. I think that Amalur was a good debut game from a talented bunch of developers. And those who own their company failed them. Selling over  a million copies should have been the start of a great company rather than the end of it.

@DynamiteGA I'm an avid film watcher myself, it doesn't grant me any of the qualities necessary to make a film or run a production company. Shilling was clearly out of his depth.