Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's online game company 38 Studios will leave Maynard, Massachusetts and head to Rhode Island, which agreed to sign a controversial $75 million loan guarantee.
The luring of Schilling's company, which has yet to release a game, is an initial step in Rhode Island's bid to make the state more inviting for video game development, according to a report in The Boston Globe
. The Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. voted 8 to 1 in favor of the loan guarantee.
But the loan guarantee has already drawn criticism
from gubernatorial candidates in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, who expressed concern that taxpayers would be left with the burden of the $75 million loan default if 38 Studios failed.
Massachusetts independent candidate Tim Cahill said the loan was "an extraordinary amount of money," adding, "I don't think as a matter of policy it's a good idea to give tax credits to individual companies betting on their success."
Former Republican U.S. senator and Rhode Island independent gubernatorial candidate Lincoln Chaffee called the unsecured loan an "unacceptable gamble to ask the taxpayers of Rhode Island to take."
If successful, the company could attract 450 jobs to Rhode Island by the end of 2012, the studio said. 38 Studios also said it would pay a penalty if it comes up short. According to The Boston Globe, the state will not directly loan the money, but act essentially as a cosigner on the loan.
Rhode Island governor Don Carcieri said that the loan agreement was a "risk," but one "worth taking."
The company's first game will be the recently-revealed
single-player console and PC RPG Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
, due in fall 2011. The game was already in development when 38 Studios acquired Maryland-based developer Big Huge Games in May 2009.
38 Studios is also working on the MMOG codenamed Copernicus
, a fantasy online game built from the ground up at the studio.
The video game market is littered with failed MMO attempts. 38 Studios has tried to mitigate the risk of introducing a new fantasy MMORPG into a World of Warcraft
-dominated market by hiring experienced executive and creative talent that have established careers in the games industry.
"I’ve invested a significant amount of my life’s earnings in 38 Studios, and I will protect the loan guarantee that’s been given by the state with the same passion and interest that I’m protecting my own investment in this company," said Schilling, who recently claimed to have invested
the "majority" of his life earnings into the venture. "Our paths are very much aligned."
At least one Massachusetts-based developer is against 38 Studios' move. William D. Reed, CEO with independent Cambridge developer Demiurge (Green Day Rock Band
) wrote a last-ditch effort open letter to Schilling.
"Curt, we love our home state of Massachusetts," Reed wrote. "In the end, if you really move your company down to Pawtucket, it will be a loss for the Boston game community." Other Massachusetts game developers include Harmonix Music Systems and Irrational Games.