Curt Shillings’ 38 Studios and the associated dev team at Big Huge Games suffered a very public meltdown this past week, as the company unceremoniously fired all of its employees after it initially failed to make a $1 million dollar loan repayment to the state of Rhode Island. Former employees of both companies have spoken to Joystiq about the situation, and they revealed that a sequel to Kingdoms of Amalur was already in pre-production before the company folded.
“We had a good base to work from, and it was going to be all about improving everything,” said an anonymous employee regarding KoA2. The sequel to the well-received action RPG was set to feature a seamless word, expanded combat, and a greater range of player choices that affected the game world.
Now that 38 Studios has apparently defaulted on the $75 million dollar loan it was given by the state of Rhode Island, all of Amalur’s assets are now the property of the state, who plans to auction the IP off to the highest bidder. Kingdoms of Amalur was released this past February to mostly positive reviews, and managed to sell 1.2 million copies. The anonymous employee told Joystiq that the original KoA: Reckoning was funded by EA, and that all of the money that the company borrowed from the state was used solely in the development of 38 Studios’ unreleased MMO. Former 38 Studios and Big Huge Games employees are hoping to form a new dev team and create a new game that builds on the foundation laid by KoA.
Personally, I really liked Kingdoms of Amalur and I hope that the talented developers behind the game land on their feet and get back to the business of making games soon. It’s always sad to see a talented development team get dismantled because of corporate mismanagement and incompetency.
Meanwhile, the drama surrounding the company continues to grow: in addition to saddling their former employees with expensive second mortgages, it was revealed that the company hasn’t paid it’s employees for nearly a month. Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee told reporters that he was always against granting 38 Studios the loan, and that the decision to support the company was made by his predecessor. According to statements made by Chafee, Kingdoms of Amalur needed to sell 3 million copies in order to be profitable (an unrealistic expectation given that it’s a new IP and an RPG,) and though Chafee has stopped short of saying that Shilling and the other heads of 38 Studios did anything illegal with their government loan, he did say that he expects “a lot of lawsuits” will be headed their way in the future.