Curt Schilling’s Beautiful ‘Copernicus’ MMO Was Supposed To Be Free-To-Play

Curt Schilling’s Beautiful ‘Copernicus’ MMO Was Supposed To Be Free-To-Play

Although the studio’s founder himself said the game wasn’t even fun — no one internally was playing it — /”Project Copernicus” was one of the most lamented casualties of 38 Studios’ collapse, primarily because its screenshots looked so damn good. Not at all like a free-to-play game.

But that was the plan for “Copernicus” from the get-go, said Curt Schilling, according to the Boston magazine writer who interviewed him last month about the studio’s notorious collapse. Investors weren’t interested in a traditional MMO, Schilling said, intimating they’re all chasing the growth forecast for social and free-to-play markets.

If you’re a hardcore gamer groaning about the spread of free-to-play kudzu into traditional PC gaming spaces, well, Schilling groaned too. (He was a serious gamer during his Major League Baseball career, remember.) “You won’t find a more ardent opposition to free to play than me,” he said, “and I went 180 degrees.”

Because investors were so fervent to hitch their ride to the next free-to-play flavour-of-the-minute, Schilling believes 38 Studios could have gotten a lifesaving deal done — until Rhode Island Govenor Lincoln Chaffee started badmouthing 38, a venture that got a huge package of funding and incentives from the state. Rhode Island now owns everything 38 Studios owned, and will hold a firesale to try to get back whatever it can.

Schilling isn’t unreasonable in his appraisal of investor interest, but when he calls “Copernicus” the “first triple-A, hundred-million-dollar-plus, free-to-play, micro-transaction-based MMO”, I really have to wonder if that’s something really sustainable at this time. Remember, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, the console role-playing game the studio built for Electronic Arts, needed to sell three million copies just to break even, and it got about a third of the way there.

It’s good to set goals, but a good goal is both measurable and achievable. And if “Copernicus” wasn’t even fun, it doesn’t matter what investors think about free-to-play as the next big thing.

Curt Schilling’s Game Would Have Been Free To Play [Boston Magazine]


  • I don’t get all this free-to-play badmouthing. most western MMOs do it decently (see DDO & LOTRO)

    Subscription MMOs aren’t doing well either (excluding wow) so its probably a safer bet to go F2P or B2P. Had secret world been either I would have bought it.

  • I never understood this “no one internally was playing it” comment when it first came up a couple of weeks ago. As a developer myself, playing the game you spend most of your day working on is usually the last thing on your mind. That’s nothing unusual in the games industry.

    • That is why it is beneficial for you to play the game you are working on. Developers and other teams get caught up in the minutiae of what they are working on and can lose sight of the bigger picture and how it all fits together. You may have also heard the term “dog fooding” which means using your product internally, because if you hate using it or find bugs, then you can fix those issues before clients and players even see the problem. A truly fun game will also drive enthusiasm for the product and people will want to give over some of their time to play test it.

      Basically, if people don’t want to have anything to do with the game outside of what their job entails, it’s bad news. I was on the Fury team and this was one of the warning signs. Other successful game post mortems also stress how playing the game internally was something the team did regularly so I’m not sure where you got the idea that it’s not unusual.

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