Defunct Big Huge Games goes on the auction block

Hundreds of computers, monitors, office furniture and digital design tools were auctioned Tuesday in Timonium to raise money for creditors of defunct Big Huge Games and its Rhode Island parent company, 38 Studios LLC.

Traces of a one-time creative environment remained on the fifth floor of a Timonium office building, as people bid on hundreds of video games, game consoles, pingpong and pool tables, and stereo and audio equipment.

"This was a great place to work," quipped Matt Greenberg, a Baltimore County resident who was looking to buy furniture. "Everybody's got couches in their offices."

The game studio, owned by former professional baseball player Curt Schilling, was part of 38 Studios LLC, which burned through tens of millions of dollars — including subsidies from Rhode Island taxpayers — before it went bust in May and filed for bankruptcy protection in June.

Schilling's company bought Big Huge Games three years ago and used it to help develop Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, a video game released this year to mixed success.

38 Studios and Big Huge Games owe creditors more than $150 million and have assets of about $22 million. The top creditor, the state of Rhode Island, is owed $115 million after it guaranteed a loan to 38 Studios that lured the company from neighboring Massachusetts in exchange for creating hundreds of jobs.

The companies are selling off their assets as part of their Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.

Within Maryland's tight-knit video game industry, the closing of Big Huge Games was a shock. Nearly 100 people were put out of work at Big Huge Games in May, and hundreds more were laid off at 38 Studios' headquarters in Providence, R.I.

More than 100 people, including former employees, showed up at the Timonium offices of Big Huge Games to pick over the remains, while 100 more participated remotely over the Internet. None of the former employees wanted to be interviewed.

Employees of other local game makers were milling about and looking for deals. Joel Bowers, 25, of Columbia works nearby at Zynga East, another video game maker, and came to look at the digital drawing tablets and other computer devices.

"I had been here when I was a student, so it was nice to come back and visit," Bowers said.

Ben Walsh, founder of Pure Bang Games of Highlandtown, said he came to the auction to shop for office furniture for his company.

"We're expanding," he said. "We're looking for the boring stuff, chairs and desks. We already have a couch."

The auction was run by Sal Corio of S.J. Corio Co. in Warwick, R.I. Corio said his company had never before auctioned off a video game company. He estimated he would auction 1,000 items or groups of items in Timonium, and nearly double that at an auction at 38 Studios' headquarters in Providence next week.

Many of the digital tools for sale "are pretty attractive for artists and animators," Corio said.

Only the physical assets of Big Huge Games were sold at the auction. The company also holds intellectual properties tied to its video game creations, and those assets will be sold in a separate process, said Richard Land, the court-appointed receiver in the company's bankruptcy case.

Land said he hoped the intellectual property assets would generate more money than the physical property sales.

An estimate of how much money the auction raised was not immediately available.