Crowdfunding Copernicus–and Lay Off Curt Schilling!

Taking Shots at a Legend

America loves to tear down a hero and we are seeing this play out yet again surrounding the liquidation of Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios. Schilling, one of the most dominant and clutch pitchers in the history of baseball, started 38 Studios in order to self-publish a massively multiplayer online game, or “MMOG.” I’ll confess that before Curt Schilling started talking about his MMOG, I did not know that the game category existed. In fact, I was fairly amazed that one of the greatest athletes of our generation was sort of a fancy Dungeons & Dragons geek.  As it turns out, MMOG’s are huge business but it apparently takes over a hundred million dollars to build one. After spending much of his personal money, other investment and a whole lot of state government-backed debt, 38 Studios fell short of its goal and filed bankruptcy. 38 Studios’ management believes that they were close when the music stopped.

Crowdfund the Balance

Crowdfunding has already been hugely successful in the gaming industry. Games that have no tangible start have raised millions. I suggest that bankruptcy trustee Jeffrey Burtch try to crowdfund the balance needed to get Copernicus started. If there are really the waiting users that 38 Studios suggests, why not start a crowdfunding campaign to prove that? Give backers a reward consisting of a few months of free fees.  This would be better for the company than the standard deal where the game is given away in perpetuity. Even backers receiving rewards will eventually be paying customers. If the users are really there, this effective pre-sale of the product will lure other financial backers to bid on the assets and help with the funding.  Do it as a huge “all or nothing” campaign–say, $40,000,000. If 38 Studios management is right, there are hundreds of millions of dollars in user fees for the taking. Some of those users will take a flyer and back the project. If you do not reach the goal, no harm/no foul. By the way Mr. Burtch, negotiate a reduced fee from Kickstarter when you enter the deal or use another site. This would make trustee Jeffrey Burtch a hero in staid bankruptcy circles and could return money to the State of Rhode Island.

By the Way, Lay Off Curt Schilling

As an aside, lay off of Curt Schilling. He took millions of dollars of his own money (reported as much as $50 million) and tried to build a company. Most well paid athletes blow their wealth on parties, fast cars and strippers only a few years after retirement. Curt Schilling hired employees and built a company that was attractive enough to Rhode Island to steal it away from Massachusetts. Many of those employees are high-end coders. Some of those high-end coders will stay in Rhode Island and will build other high-tech businesses. Rhode Island’s taxpayer money went chiefly to the salaries that drew the talent there–not to manufacturing equipment with no other purpose (see Solyndra’s use of proceeds in contrast). I think crowdfunding might be able to save this investment, but, in any event, Schilling’s company has and will pay dividends for Rhode Island.