Rhode Island has 38 problems and a game studio is (no longer) one
Everyone by now knows the situation with 38 studios, the Rhode Island housed game studio responsible for Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning.
The company is being shut down and all of the studios staff members have been let go, with RI helping them find other lines of work thankfully; the big question is, what went wrong?
I’m no financial expert or an industry expert but, even I can see where 38 studios had its missteps.
38 Sick Studio
For starters they had what we’re going to call the “Square-Enix syndrome”, that was one of three big missteps the company made.
Allow me to give out an explanation what this deadly and somewhat common disease is before I continue.
The Square-Enix syndrome, or “SES” for short, is a disease that affects both small and big companies; while it has been seen in all kinds of businesses “SES” is known in the video game side of business.
“SES” can be seen when a video game company announces multiple titles in a single franchise that has been in the works for years and/or is barely shown to the public, this can mainly be seen in unproven franchise hopefuls.
An example of this would be Majesco, a small publishing company that tried to create a franchise out of the highly underrated game “Advent Rising”, they tried to make a franchise but then tried making spin offs before the first game was even out on stores shelves.
This disease can ruin a company; Majesco canceled any future games of Advent Rising and scaled itself back to develop smaller games.
Silicon Knights was also affected by “SES”, in the form of Too Human, this game was being worked on way back in the Nintendo GameCube days and was planned to be a trilogy but was eventually pushed to the original Xbox; the game was soon pushed back once more to the Xbox 360 where it was still being designed as trilogy but met little success.
SK is now relaying on the money it’s receiving from its national home, Canada, to stay afloat while working on their next; this is in between their lawsuit against Epic Games over the Unreal Engine.
Now that we have a small idea on what the Square-Enix syndrome is and what it can do to video game publishers and developers alike we can take a look at how this ruined a promising game studio.
38 Studios was at first working on an MMO that reportedly has been in the works back before 2008, that’s when the developer started talking about the MMO codenamed Copernicus, soon after they acquired Big Huge Games whom worked on the Kingdom RPG.
38 Studios said back in 2009 that the MMO would cost “$50-$100 million to complete.” So why was the studios buying out companies when they didn’t even have a solid fund for their already high costing and high risking game?
They were jumping more than sharks, these guys and gals were jumping the damn moon!
As a new studio you want to prove that you can hang with the big kids on campus like Epic games and Insomniac games but, you may want to hold off on the huge risks like MMOs and acquiring other studios.
Their next misstep was focusing on that one IP, what 38 Studio should have done was focus on smaller projects, like doing some XBLA or PSN games.
Had they have done that gamers would have had a better idea of what to expect from the developers, getting your studio’s name stuck in gamers heads is the most important step and 38 Studios didn’t do that.
Gamers didn’t really start talking 38 Studios until they started having financial troubles; a lot of gamers even thought their game was decent at most.
While there’s no such thing as bad publicity 38 studios could have used that spotlight a few years ago, under better circumstances of course.
One confusing misstep from the developers is their waste of talents; the studio was working with comic book star/toy designer Todd McFarlane, this alone should have created some hype.
The last big mistake made was not working with Rhode Island enough to have them understand how the game industry works, from what I can tell they were just handed to money and set free.
The remedy that could have helped
With Todd’s help the studio had a massive advantage with advertisement; they could have made a small comic series of their game or even a franchise.
R. A. Salvatore was responsible for the lore that allowed the studios to create a RPG that tied into their MMO, what he wrote was enough to not only create an MMO surrounding it but also a single player RPG.
That means there are many stories untold from that universe, stories that any fantasy fan would have loved to read, so why weren’t there any books based off of this world?
The material is or rather was there so use it, this would have made the world of Amalur much more familiar as the players would have already been interested in the universe around the story and to see where the lore would lead to.
As for the issue with using Rhode Island’s finances, these guys were under EA, there’s no excuse for using tax payers’ money for this unproven franchise, if anything the studio should have put the MMO in a beta phase and allowed gamers to show some interest.
This could have lead EA to give the studio the money they needed or it may have caught the eyes of another publisher; instead they took an unnecessary risk and now has nothing to show for it.
I really do hope everyone involved in the making of this franchise finds a job in the industry they love and I hope to see Rhode Island recover from a mistake their last governor made.