A NEW GAME: Jacob Brennan created his real-time, multiplayer cooperative role-playing game “Casual Quest” in two weeks with little more than a hobbyist’s knowledge of game design and self-taught programming skills. Brennan counts himself among the small group of independent video game developers in Rhode Island.
“It was heartbreaking,” said Johnson. “Anyone who met someone from 38 Studios realized they were meeting an incredibly smart, outgoing, creative professional and someone who loved games as much as they did or more even. It was a sudden vacuum to lose all that.”
Johnson says a lingering stigma from the national media attention and ongoing investigations into the state’s approval of the loan guarantee for the company makes it difficult for him to envision another large game developer relocating to Providence anytime soon.
“None of us believe that another company would [relocate to the city], nor do we believe the citizens of Rhode Island would be able to have the stomach for that,” he said. “The game industry really took a black eye, so every game company is [perceived as] some kind of flim-flam artist. … I’m reserved about mentioning that I’m in the game-development industry because it will lead to a conversation about 38 Studios.”
Despite the fallout, Johnson does expect to see a “serious game company” emerge from within the state in the next year.
Kevin Murphy, Eric Hall and Aaron James have set out to build that company in downtown Providence. Their joint business venture, Nexperience, bills itself as a cutting-edge, game-development company focused on designing virtual-reality experiences for the Oculus Rift headset.
Hall studied the evolution of the Oculus technology – and the market potential for a company in the virtual-reality arena – for two years before bringing his business idea to Murphy, a fellow Rhode Island attorney and one of the co-founders of Hatch Entrepreneurial Center in Providence. James, a serial entrepreneur who came together with Murphy and Hall to launch the venture a few months ago, said Nexperience plans to piggyback on the momentum that Facebook’s recent $2 billion acquisition of Oculus will drive for virtual-reality development.