Although Major League Baseball all-star pitcher Curt Schilling retired from the Red Sox last year, he is apparently unable to leave his competitive mentality on the mound. The former pro athlete has invested millions of dollars and sacrificed time with his family to establish the Maynard, Massachusetts-based MMORPG company, 38 Studios.
"I have put the majority of the money I've earned in my life on the table," he said in the Harvard Business School case study
, Curt Schilling's Next Pitch. "If I make another financial investment, I will have crossed the point of no return from a personal investment and company standpoint."
Baseball Reference, which is cited in the case study, estimates that Schilling earned over $114.16 million during his career in baseball.
Schilling is a known MMORPG fanatic and an avid player of games including Blizzard's World of Warcraft
and Sony Online Entertainment's EverQuest
. Originally announced in 2006 as Green Monster Games, named after towering left field wall at Boston's Fenway Park, 38 Studios stems from Schilling's passion for gaming, which is second only to baseball.
Fast Lessons In Business
But starting a company and creating a game is a lot different than playing WoW
, or baseball for that matter, he quickly found out. "It was a very boring work environment in which you are asking people to be inspired," he said after visits to SOE. His research into the development of MMORPGs initially involved going to development studios, observing the process and taking notes.
After injecting an initial $5 million into the company (without informing his wife, Shonda), Schilling announced Green Monster Games and revealed the hiring of sci-fi/fantasy writer R.A. Salvatore and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane. Other key hires included industry vet Brett Close as CEO (who left the company last year) and former Comcast gaming exec Jen MacLean.
38 Studios' total compensation was $6.9 million for its fiscal year 2008, distributed amongst about 65 employees, according to the study. Capital that year stood at $2.4 million.
The time constraints of starting a new company have been taxing on the family life of Schilling, who has a wife and four children. After a final recruiting dinner with Close, he noticed his wife was upset. "I asked her what was wrong and she said, 'You never pursued me this hard,'" Schilling said. "And my first thought was, there was not this much money on the line."
Finding investors, getting the right team and researching the business of video games and corporate culture in general (the latter of which Schilling had no clue whatsoever) all began while Schilling was still a pro baseball player. He'd come to the game studio first thing in the morning, then head to Fenway in the afternoon, get home at 2 a.m. and start over.
Close explained how Schilling didn't even know the basics of working at a company. "He really needed Company 101," said Close. "For example, the whole concept of vacation was foreign to Curt. He actually said, 'People get weekends off, right?'"
"I feel as though I have gotten a Harvard Business School education during these last two years. It hasn't been easy," said Schilling.
"Quitting Is Not An Option"
In May 2009, 38 Studios acquired former THQ studio Big Huge Games, creators of Rise of Nations
. The studio was in trouble, so it cost little to acquire, but Schilling and his team recognized good synergies in Big Huge's expertise and the fact the studio was working on a new role-playing game. In March, Electronic Arts' third-party distribution arm, EA Partners, said it would publish that RPG, codenamed Project Mercury
Even though Schilling is in retirement from baseball, he's as busy as ever, and heavily involved with the daily operations at 38 Studios. But he admitted that he might have taken on too much at this period in his life, not to mention he launched the company in the midst of a recession.
"There was no way I should have started the company when I did," he said he thought to himself one day. "It wasn't fair to the Red Sox, it wasn't fair to these people, and beyond all of that it wasn't fair to my wife."
He acknowledged the difficulties, but his confidence in his company's success matches the confidence he had in his Little League days, when he knew one day he'd play in the pros.
"I have no doubt I am on the cusp of creating a multi-million dollar company and the only failure scenario is a quit. Quitting is not an option," he said.