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As a pro baseball player, Curt Schilling made his mark as a starting pitcher. Though there were a few transitional years early in his career spent as a reliever, over twenty years, the majority of time he entered a game, it was from the beginning. Schilling started 436 out of 569 games. In his second career as a gaming entrepreneur, he doesn’t appear to have any qualms about coming in off the bench.

With financial troubles (see sidebar below) pushing THQ (THQI) to cut more staff and studios, Schilling’s upstart game company 38 Studios was more than happy to acquire THQ’s online role playing studio, Big Huge Games.

Big Huge Games (BHG) was founded in 2000 by a veteran group of PC game developers. The Maryland-based studio’s early works were published by Microsoft (MSFT) Game Studios.

In January 2008, with an aim toward branching out, THQ acquired the company for a price estimated to be in the range of $25 to $35m in combined cash, stock and deferred incentives. That dream unrealized, and cost cutting a continued necessity, THQ decided in February that BHG had to go. It was slated to be shut down or sold.

38 Studios came in to salvage the assets.

Financial terms of the purchase weren’t disclosed but the payment was likely far less than THQ’s originally purchase price.

As part of the transaction, 38 Studios will acquire all of BHG’s IP, tools, technology and assets including works in progress and the BHG’s proprietary game engine.

Brett Close, the CEO of 38 Studios, said “BHG’s cross-platform RTS/RPG engine will accelerate the realization of [38 Studios] Online Entertainment Experience” and be used to advance the development of the company’s in-house IP.

38 Studios was founded in 2006 through a partnership between Schilling, comic book and toy creator Todd McFarlane (www.spawn.com) and fantasy author R. A. Salvatore (www.rasalvatore.com). The company’s first internal IP, a Massively Multiplayer Online Game codenamed Copernicus, is expected sometime in 2010. The company’s reportedly been using Big World Technologies middleware and a team of at least 45 people to develop it.

The majority of the BHG staff is expected to be retained and used to advance the Copernicus project. BHG will be integrated into 38 Studios (which is based in Massachusetts) without having to leave its Maryland base.

FINANCIAL SIDEBAR: The financial challenges at THQ that arguably led to the divestiture of BHG have been widely reported. The following chart (courtesy of THQ’s own SEC filings) shows how that’s reflected in the company’s stock price. As shown, a $100 investment in March 2004, would have shrunk to just $22.54 this year. The same investment would have peaked at $253.51 in March of 2007.

thq ROI

Source: THQ's Online Role-Playing Studio Sold Amid Pressing Financial Troubles