Curt Schilling and 38 Studios have been cleared of criminal wrongdoing following a lengthy investigation after the shuttering of the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning developer.
While the retired Red Sox pitcher and his former game development company still face an exhaustive civil investigation, the Rhode Island State Police statement concludes that “there were no provable criminal violations of the Rhode Island General laws in connection with the funding of 38 Studios, the disbursement of funds to 38 Studios, and by 38 Studios to vendors.”
Since May 2012, Schilling and 38 Studios have been subjected to relentless scrutiny after they were unable to pay back the loan granted them by the state of Rhode Island. The Securities and Exchange Commission filed fraud charges against the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation earlier this year, claiming that they knew the loans granted would not cover the cost of the game’s development but did not inform investors.
Schilling had invested 50 million dollars of his own money — and personally guaranteed loans of even more — to see Kingdoms of Amalur through to completion, costing him all but the last vestiges of the money he earned during his Major League Baseball career.
It’s a messy situation, and a truly unfortunate one. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning managed to sell 1.22 million copies in just 90 days, but fell short of the 3 million it would have needed to break even. That’s a tall order for any new studio, and nearly unheard of for a new IP. Furthermore, it was intended as a first course before the follow up MMORPG codenamed Copernicus that 38 Studios was developing, and was to be followed by a sequel — very nearly picked up by a “major games publisher.”
Despite admitting to a number of his own mistakes in the process, Schilling believes that efforts to save the company were sabotaged by the former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee when he revealed the developer was in financial trouble, scaring away investors. He also claimed that an investor had offered $15-20 million to keep the studio running if the state would grant $6 million in tax credits and redo the terms of 38 Studios’ loan, but Rhode Island would not agree to the terms.
What’s truly criminal is that we’ll probably never see the cult classic franchise continued. In 2013, the rights and assets failed to find a buyer. Schilling went so far as to auction off his famed bloody sock to try and find money to pay his debts. It would do him no good — 38 Studios had been struck a fatal blow, and no amount of Amalur‘s Fateweavers could correct the course. The saga of 38 Studios remains one of the most heartbreaking tales in an often brutal industry.
After all that they’ve been through, it’s still far from over. According to the Rhode Island State Police statement:
The goal of the Rhode Island State Police and Rhode Island Office of Attorney General’s investigation into the funding and failure of 38 Studios was not to create the definitive history of how the legislation to fund 38 Studios came to be, why that business failed, who made poor business or political decisions along the way, or who, if anyone, should be civilly liable for their action or inaction. Those questions are for the civil litigation.
Regardless of the results of any civil case, it’s an epic tale with a tragically ignoble end.
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