Schilling looks to become involved in philanthropy, combating brain drain

PROVIDENCE – Curt Schilling predicted Thursday that his video game company 38 Studios LLC will spur far-reaching changes in the Rhode Island business community, as well as for higher education and philanthropic groups, when the company relocates to Providence.

In his first public comments since the state’s controversial $75 million loan guarantee deal closed this month, Schilling told about 400 attendees at Providence Business News’ Business Excellence Awards dinner that 38 Studios intended to be closely involved with local businesses, charities and schools such as Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Rhode Island.

“My word on this: four to five to six years from now, we’re going to be looking back on this, and I know that 38 Studios will be one of the companies that will push and incentivize the Providence business community to become a national and global force,” the former Red Sox star pitcher said in a brief keynote speech.

The loan guarantee had become an issue in the gubernatorial race, with some candidates – including Gov.-Elect Lincoln D. Chafee – criticizing it as risky since taxpayers will be on the hook if 38 Studios defaults. The deal is contingent on the company bringing hundreds of jobs to Rhode Island, with penalties if specific targets are not met. In addition, 38 Studios is to pay the R.I. Economic Development Corporation nearly $5 million over the next three years for facilitating the deal.

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Right now, the company is in the midst of developing two video games, the first a single-player game called “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning,” – due out next September – the other a multi-player online game like the popular “World of Warcraft” that’s scheduled for release in 2012.

A date for the relocation to Maynard, Mass., to Providence hasn’t been announced, but the company has said it will move into office at One Empire Street.

Schilling and 38 Studios have been closely monitored by bloggers and other video-game commentators on the Internet.

At the PBN awards dinner Thursday, Schilling’s confidence in his company was on display.

“This business and this company is on a trajectory to be a multibillion-dollar business and company, and a multibillion-dollar industry in Providence,” he said. “And that’s world-changing.”

Schilling made a passing reference to Chafee, who also questioned in one campaign interview whether Schilling’s famous bloody sock in the 2004 American League Championship Series was faked.

The founder and chairman of 38 Studios pointed to a still image of “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” projected on large screens at the awards dinner, a shot of a battle between a lumbering obese giant and a smaller warrior, both welding swords.

“That’s actually Governor-Elect Chafee and I on Election Day,” Schilling joked, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Schilling – who said he’s been a video “gamer” for 30 years – made it clear that he wants the company to play a high-profile role in Providence.

“We believe in being tightly involved with the local business and the local philanthropic communities,” he said, adding later: “I will give you my word we will be intimately involved in the educational community and making sure the incredibly and insanely talented students that RISD and Brown and URI are turning out want to stay here, because the talent is going elsewhere and that’s a shame.”

Schilling said four or five employees have already purchased houses in the area and are commuting for now to in Maynard. He said 38 Studios and its subsidiary in Maryland, Big Huge Games, employs about 230 people.

“I’m excited to come and live amongst you and be a great company,” he said.