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The once-promising series ran into some troubles. Can another company save it from obscurity?

When Philadelphia Phillies legend Curt Schilling announced the creation of 38 Studios – a videogame development studio using his number – the famed game-head had retired shortly before and seemed unstoppable. New studios never get that sort of recognition or financial backing, and Schilling seemed determined to turn Green Monster Games (named after Fenway Park’s left field wall) into a staple of the industry.

That plan changed when Schilling moved operations to Rhode Island – renaming the studio in the process – at the state government’s behest, which had offered him a sizable tax deduction and additional funding to employ Providence-based game designers. What appeared to be a dream come true spiraled into a messy timeline of financial fraud, suing, more suing, and a bitter court case. Schilling ultimately lost; after Kingdoms of Amalur released in February 2012, 38 Studios quickly dissolved. And the state owns the former studio’s assets, including all development done on Amalur DLC and the planned MMO.

Now those assets go to the highest bidder. On December 11, Rhode Island will hold an auction to “about two dozen parties”, according to an executive with the company managing the sale. He did not provide further detail on some interested buyers or what the state expects to raise. But, assuming development on the MMO was smooth, a publisher might see an opportunity to build on what 38 Studios had completed.

During THQ’s bankruptcy, Sega doled out the big bucks to purchase Relic Entertainment, which was on the verge of releasing Company of Heroes 2. Depending on how far along 38 was in development, Sega may add an MMO to its repertoire to capitalize on low labour costs. Sega’s newly established role as publisher, too, gives it room to experiment with which genres to invest in.

While most entities I could write would fill the gap beautifully, managing an MMO is a task. Thus, a studio or publisher with thorough MMO experience would be best. Blizzard might not express interest because it’s working hard on Titan and now yearly expansions for World of Warcraft. Electronic Arts would be hesitant considering the heavy investment into Star Wars: The Old Republic. Ideally, two companies come to mind: Nexon and Sony Online Entertainment.

Nexon has had an incredible response to MapleStory and Mabinogi. A non-Western feel is maybe what Amalur needs to succeed, because the current MMO market in North America is limited. Broadening the horizons, so to speak, and appealing to Eastern markets would revitalize the brand. Plus, Eastern MMO players might be unaware of the series’ volatile past.

Sony Online Entertainment is another logical choice. No stranger to developing multiple titles simultaneously, SOE could split resources and finish what’s left on Amalur while still perfecting EverQuest Next. This strategy would not cannibalize sales either; marketing Amalur as free-to-play and keeping EQN as paid separates the two in the consumer’s mind. Whereas EverQuest Next has hype already, Amalur wouldn’t. Embracing free-to-play encourages players to try, in the same way SOE did with PlanetSide 2.

These auctions, though, have a tendency to surprise. Some unexpected name with a wild intuition could sneak in and purchase the rights. I bet one publisher feels mildly daring.

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