It’s a day for big acquisitions, apparently — if you can call the acquisition of an intellectual property that never really got off the ground “big.” Today, THQ Nordic announced that it has acquired the IP for Kingdoms of Amalur from 38 Studios, including both the one game that was released and the unreleased would-have-been-free-to-play MMO codenamed Copernicus.
A little backstory: 38 Studios was founded in 2006 by Major League Baseball player Curt Schilling, who was also a rabid gamer, and EverQuest player in particular. His company’s crowning jewel was to be an MMO that was codenamed “Copernicus” and set in Amalur, a world created by noted fantasy author R.A. Salvator and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane. The company did launch a single-player RPG, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning that met with middling success, in February 2012. In May of that year, however, 38 Studios declared bankruptcy and the company ceased operations.
The messier part of it all is that Schilling relocated the company from Massachusetts to Rhode Island, mostly due to a $75 million loan from the state of Rhode Island. It proved unable to repay that money, due in part to Reckoning’s tepid sales. Many years of legal action followed, and the IPs for Reckoning and Copernicus languished, not even drawing a buyer when they were auctioned off in December 2013. Today, that changed
The press release from THQ Nordic doesn’t state any specific plans for the IP, though it does mention that “evaluation of sequels & new content” will be handled by its office in Austria. You can still buy Reckoning on Steam, and it’s got an 87% positive rating, so presumably Valve will be sending checks to THQ for any future purchases. (Which makes one wonder: Where were they sending money for its sales before? Direct to the state of Rhode Island?)
As for the future of the Amalur IP: who knows? While it was news mostly for the big names attached to it, Project Copernicus did have some neat ideas, but those were six years ago, when big AAA MMORPGs were still considering “the thing to do.” Nowadays, with MMORPGs trending downward and other game types ascendant, there may not be room for a “triple-A, hundred-million-dollar-plus, free-to-play, micro-transaction-based MMO,” as Schilling once described Copernicus.