When I talked to Schilling for my story breaking down 38 Studios’ crash, he told me that the company’s plan was to make Copernicus free to play and to seek revenue from within the game, the same way EA is attempting with Old Republic.
“We were going to be the first triple-A, hundred-million-dollar-plus, free-to-play, micro-transaction-based MMO. That was one of our big secrets,” Schilling told me. “I think when we eventually showed off the game for the first time, the atom bomb was going to be free-to-play. When we announced that at the end, that was gonna be the thing that, I think, shocked the world.”
Though Schilling was initially against the idea, he said that he eventually came around. “You won’t find a more ardent opposition to free to play than me, and I went 180 degrees,” he said.
Shortly after our interview, I followed up with him over email on the subject. Schilling said that he believed free-to-play was one reason 38 Studios was closer than ever to a financing deal that could have kept it alive, if only Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee hadn’t been so public in his disapproval of the company. Schilling wrote, “NO ONE was expecting it, and it was another thing that changed the tenor of conversations with investors late in the game.” When I asked how exactly the tenor changed, he replied, “Most investors wanted NOTHING to do with subscription-based products, they were all on the social media, and free-to-play games as a means to revenue.”