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]