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Copernicus Looks to the Stars

Curt Schilling pitches his latest venture to investors on The Boston Globe is an article discussing Curt Schilling's new role as chairman of 38 Studios, the game developer founded by the former major-league baseball pitcher. They introduce the paper's audience to Project Copernicus, the working title for 38 Studios' upcoming MMORPG, and outline the financial realities of developing a game to compete with the 800 lb World of Warcraft gorilla. Word is Schilling has sunk over $5 million into the project out of his own pocket, and while he made cash by the boatload in baseball, his main role these days is to find investors to supply funding for the game, which will take at least $50 million to complete, and possibly more than $100 million. It probably doesn't help that this means he has to meet with fanboys that aren't even interested in his project: "At first, the only reason I was meeting with Curt is because I was a fan," says Boston venture capitalist Jeffrey Bussgang. "But when we met, you couldn’t shut him up about building a great game. He is a compelling entrepreneur, and he has recruited a great team" (none of which was enough to get him to invest). Complicating the financial picture is the company's acquisition of Big Huge Games, which doubled their headcount to about 140, and industry insiders guesstimate this puts their annual operating expenses in the $15-20 million range. The studio obviously believes there are potential rewards commensurate with the considerable risks involved in creating a game to compete with WoW: "You don’t see very many markets where there is a Coke and no Pepsi." says 38 Studios' Brett Close, using the ever-popular soft-drink analogy. "That’s what you have with WoW. Other products have been successful, but they’re not the massive competitor that I know will exist."

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