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'People panicked and gave a retired baseball player a huge amount of taxpayer money'
'People panicked and gave a retired baseball player a huge amount of taxpayer money'
December 20, 2013 | By Mike Rose

December 20, 2013 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

"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."
- Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee says he isn't surprised that 38 Studios' Project Copernicus failed to sell at auction last week.

Following the demise of MMO company 38 Studios, an auction was held to raise funds for Rhode Island, since 38 Studios still owed money on a $75 million taxpayer-backed loan from the Rhode Island Economic Development Corp.

While a total gross of $320,000 was raised, both the Amalur franchise and the partially completed MMORPG codenamed Project Copernicus failed to sell. Talking to the Associated Press, Chafee said the latter was no surprise, since Copernicus was "a lot of junk."

He noted that the original "historically bad" decision to give 38 Studios $75 million worth of taxpayer money was "insane," adding, "There was this whole groupthink across the business communities."

Schilling responded to Chafee on Twitter, stating, "Any decision that loses is 'bad' in hindsight, bet Rhode Island would like a 'redo' on Gov election too" -- before citing Chafee's approval rating.

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Glenn Sturgeon
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It's not like it was even close to the worst ideal a goverment has had for spending money.

Michael Joseph
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This story reminds me of that BBC series "Hustle" about a crew of con-artists.

I'm not calling anyone a crook, this is just my imagination talking. From the outside looking in the whole 75M state loan deal seemed to share some elements in common with confidence scams. And it wouldn't surprise me if the main culprits (assuming there are any culprits) in this were foxes dressed in expensive suits/uniforms.

Most folks wanting to make the game of their dreams would never even think to seek a $75 million loan from the government. A skulk of foxes might. I'm sure most of the folks at 38Studios were just caught up in certain wheeling and dealings that were beyond their control.

Ben Sly
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My impression of the whole debacle was not that there was or needed to be any intentional conning going on. Most people wouldn't seek a $75 million dollar loan from the government to make their dream MMO, but that's because most people wouldn't have a chance in hell of getting it. Curt Schilling did and did get it, and used that money to live the dream of actually making his utterly awesome game until the money ran out. And then he found more investors, and the money ran out again. And the cycle repeated until he couldn't find any more investors. Most employees were unaware that anything was wrong until the checks started bouncing.

He was the principal criminal of the case, but he conned himself as much as if not more than anyone else. When things like this happen, it's a lot easier to think that someone out there is pulling the strings behind the scene, but all you need is persistence and charisma - and to become so infatuated with that persistence that you let it blind you.

Alan Boody
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I think Schilling was completely honest in his attempt at his dream MMO. But, I also think that he was surrounded by people that gamed him a bit, so to say. His first mistake (besides tackling an MMO with no experience) was hiring people like McFarlane who was 1) too expensive and 2) was already a part of a failed MMO before (Ultima Online: Origins/2).

In my opinion, he would have been better served hiring an industry vet at the fraction of the cost that McFarlane probably commanded. I don't really understand the thinking beyond the marketing aspect. And, even then, a MMO doesn't need an over hyped, over paid artist that is only really a rockstar inside the comic-book world. Game play sells MMO's, not names on the project.

Honestly, I don't think McFarlane and some of the other big names cared about the project. They were there just to get a big paycheck from a naive arm chair developer.

Christian Nutt
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Chafee has done nothing but breathed contempt at this project from the get-go (meaning his campaign onward.) While I don't doubt that the whole deal didn't make a lot of sense for the state and was fishy in some wise, his actions and attitude torpedoed any potential resolution that would have let the state exit with anything but a catastrophe.

Alan Boody
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Is Chafee even qualified to comment on 'game development' in any capacity? How would he know what is junk and what isn't if he doesn't have skills or background in game development?

Steve Danuser
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No. He is not.

If he was genuinely trying to recoup any money, he'd be promoting negotiations for the assets instead of insulting them and the people who made them.

If he was genuinely trying to recoup taxpayer money, he would have pushed to auction the IP and assets *immediately* after the company went bankrupt so that an interested party could hire on team members and actually get value from the purchase.

Instead, he sabotaged attempts to prevent the bankruptcy--attempts that would not have required any further investment on the part of the state. He allowed the auction to be put off until 18 months after the bankruptcy, by which point literally every employee had moved on (and anyone with even a basic understanding of game development would know that at least some subset of the team would be necessary to work with those assets).

The question I have not seen answered is what the minimum "acceptable offer" would have been for the IP assets at auction. Wouldn't *any* offer be better than zero? Isn't *any* buyer better than the state of Rhode Island sitting on assets it can never use?

Chafee claims he wants to recoup the money, but his actions tell a different story. They paint the picture of a man wanting so badly to prove that he was right that he took every possible opportunity to make sure there would be no buyer for the IP. Because if it had sold, then it would show that the work of the people at 38 Studios had value, and Chafee doesn't want to be wrong.

He's a politician acting like a politician--covering his own ass and jumping at the chance to say "I told you so" rather than acting in the best interests of his constituents.

Alan Boody
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That's the exact impression I get from all this. He's agenda driven to the point of sabotage.