#1 Posted by Rayfield (2097 posts) -

 
 

What follows is a statement from Tim Colwill, former designer for the Australian studio branch of Interzone Games. He sent this to Kotaku Australia last night in a desperate plea to make it known that Interzone Games are being liquidated and are currently in a world of disaster. If you thought Rockstar Games treated their people badly, Jesus Creeping Shit just read the following:



There are two legal entities in this saga: the Perth Studio in Western Australia, and the Interzone US corporate arm (Interzone Entertainment), incorporated in Missouri, USA. 
 

Three key players have been spearheading all the actions of the US corporate arm, and consistently failing to meet all promises of compensation and entitlements to the Interzone employees across the globe. These people are Mike Turner, Greg Chadwell, and the Interzone CEO Marty Brickey. 

Here’s a short history of how Interzone got to this point. 

  • The financial troubles of Interzone as a global company began during the infamous credit crunch in late 2008. The US corporate arm continually missed payments to all the international studios (Perth, China, and Brazil) and staff fell weeks behind on pay.
  • The Perth studio, as the lead development studio, was deemed the most important studio to keep alive on the limited funds available, and so the China and Brazil studios received less and less money until eventually their creditors forced them into liquidation, putting around 50 people out of work. These people are still owed substantial amounts of unpaid entitlements, and Mike, Greg and Marty have refused to communicate with them.
  •  
  • Despite this drastic action, the US corporate arm could still not find the funds to pay the Perth studio consistently. Much unpaid work was requested of the Perth studio in order to demonstrate the game to potential publishers and continue development. Many key staff left to pursue other (paying) work. From what was once a studio of over 40 full time employees, only 15 remain.
  • Thanks largely to the months of unpaid work by dedicated Perth Studio employees, Interzone managed to finally signed a deal in late August 2009 with a European publisher to deliver the Interzone Futebol game.
  •  
  • Interzone are critically behind on the deliverables for this publishing deal, which is perhaps unsurprising as the development studio in Perth aren’t working on it, because they aren’t getting paid.
  • Since January 2008, Interzone has not paid any superannuation to its staff, which is illegal under Australian law.
  • Since August 2008, Interzone has been trading without a resident director, which is illegal under Australian law (the director stepped down because he wasn’t getting paid, either).
  • Last week Greg Chadwell and Mike Turner, who were holding Director positions at the Perth studio, resigned from their positions quietly. In their place Marty Brickey has been installed as resident director – a complete farce as he hasn’t set foot on Australian soil in almost two years and has no intentions of doing so, given the company is facing liquidation. ASIC, the government body responsible for this sort of thing, clearly aren’t checking their facts.

Interzone’s Perth Studio has debts to the Australian Taxation Office totaling over $1 million AUD. Marty Brickey has confirmed that he has no intention of paying those debts with any of the current funding that has been secured. As a result of this, the Perth studio can be issued with a closure notice from the ATO as soon as this coming Monday February 15. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Interzone has debts to its employees, ex- and present, in salary, entitlements and superannuation, totaling over $500,000 AUD.

And all that aside, here’s where it gets interesting.

Marty, Greg and Mike have used the Interzone Futebol product, as developed by the Perth Studio through unpaid labour, to secure additional funding that is believed to be in the millions. They have used this money to set up a studio in Ireland called Big Collision Games (http://www.bigcollisiongames.com/). Their website purports to be publishing the “Futebol” game through this European publisher. 

During dealings with the publisher and other partners, Marty, Greg and Mike continually blamed the Perth studio for these missed deliverables, even though the Perth studio had been working without pay for weeks!

Yesterday Monday the 8th, at a meeting, the Perth staff learned the following:

  • Marty Brickey, CEO and company director, issued an order that all Perth staff are to be immediately suspended without pay.
  • Certain “key staff” have been approached to sign individual contracts to undertake work that will facilitate Mike Turner (who is, at this time, not employed by Interzone in any legal capacity) moving the servers and all IP away from Perth to the USA, and to continue development on the title.
  • If these key staff agree to these individual contracts, Marty has promised that they will pay out the outstanding pay owed to all current Perth employees. Yes, you read the right: if certain staff agree to do extra work, they will pay out the money they already owe.
  • Mike Turner is flying out from the US to Perth mid this week – if he’s not already here – and he will immediately begin to back up, and pack up, the servers and files necessary to run the game at its current state, in the USA. Mike Turner is no longer a director of the Perth studio or one of its employees. It is almost certain he will not be in Australia on a business visa. It is almost certain that he has no legal right to perform this action, or to even be on the premises, under Australian law.
  • A company is being contracted to “finish” the IP and bring it to closed beta for the publisher.
  • Marty then promised that if they are able to do all these things, once they have successfully delivered the game to the publisher and it has been published, then, and only then will they consider paying out all the outstanding entitlements to all Interzone employees, past and present.

WHAT FOLLOWS IS SUBJECTIVE OPINION AND NOT FACT

Needless to say, this announcement caused complete and total outrage in the Perth studio. These are people who have been consistently lied to, deceived, and let down by Marty, Greg and Mike. These are people who have stayed true to the company through over a year of inconsistent funding, non-existent technical support, and long unpaid working hours. Many of these are people for whom this was their first job in the games industry, the job that would make or break their career! The dedication, talent, and loyalty of these people have been criminally abused.

And now, after all this, they are being told that they are not good enough, that the game they have put their sweat and blood and tears into over the last three years is going to be taken away from them, and is going to be “finished” by an American company that they have never heard of.

And even worse, this new company is being paid with money that could be used to pay them. If you’ll forgive the all-caps, THIS IS INSANE!

Ex-employees like myself have received personal assurances that our debts would be taken care of. I received a personal phone call from Mike Turner on Thanksgiving Day telling me everything would be okay. Now the company is going to be shut down and liquidated by the Australian Taxation Office, and he doesn’t care, and I will never see the money that I am owed – nor will anyone else. I was flat-out lied to, messed around, and never received any sort of apology. 

And I’m nowhere near the worst-off – one friend of mine is owed nearly $20,000 AUD by Interzone and is currently suing for unfair dismissal after he was sacked for encouraging other employees to speak out about the situation and to pursue official avenues for compensation. How much do you think he will receive from Interzone? I’ll give you a hint: it starts with “z” and ends with “ero”.

As an unfortunate side effect of this, it is almost certain that the games industry in Perth will be irreparably damaged. The Western Australian government sunk $500,000 into Interzone to get it started, and with the studio now being liquidated, it is a huge disincentive for them to provide any further support to any other companies that might wish to base their operations here.

 
There are many serious questions that need to be asked of these three mismanaging charlatans, these three amigos of deception, Marty, Greg, and Mike.

  • How did they let this go on for so long?
  • Why have they continued to operate illegally, and trade insolvently?
  • Why aren’t they using the money that they do have to pay out the debts they have accumulated?
  • When will the ex-employees in Perth, China and Brazil ever see the money they are owed?
  • Why should anybody trust them, after so many promises of payment and reparation have been broken?

I hope that this information has been helpful to you and that you can take steps to bring it to the public attention.  
 
Marty Brickey, Mike Turner, and Greg Chadwell cannot be trusted or counted on. Anybody applying for work at Big Collision Games in Ireland needs to know this. Anybody that is contracted by them needs to know this. Anybody entering into any future publishing deals with them needs to know this!
    
 
 

http://www.kotaku.com.au/2010/02/wa-dev-interzone-games-close-to-liquidation/#comments     
 
 

#2 Posted by ryanwho (12082 posts) -

Holding people's money hostage, not cool. Maybe I don't understand Aussi law, why is it these people can't be subpoenaed? Even if they can't pay they should at least be cleaned out under any fair judicial system. If this happened in the states the IRS would hunt them down like dogs.

#3 Posted by MrKlorox (11209 posts) -

It falls in line with the rest of the Australian gaming plight. Highly overpriced games, lack of parliamentary recognition, and now developer abuse. 
 
Your choices are either sink, patch the holes from the inside, or abandon ship.

#4 Posted by Meteora (5787 posts) -

Wow.
 
That was crazy.

#5 Edited by Rayfield (2097 posts) -
@ryanwho said:

"Holding people's money hostage, not cool. Maybe I don't understand Aussi law, why is it these people can't be subpoenaed? Even if they can't pay they should at least be cleaned out under any fair judicial system. If this happened in the states the IRS would hunt them down like dogs. "


It seems they've all pissed off overseas. Which pretty much renders the Australian judicial system useless. Seriously, you can manslaughter people but as long as you go to another country afterwards, you'll be right. A doctor brutally operated on and killed his patients in Australia in 2005 but he still awaiting trial in 2010 because he pissed off overseas for like four years.
#6 Posted by ryanwho (12082 posts) -

What about this Mike Turner cunt? Couldn't they grab him at the airport?

#7 Posted by Rayfield (2097 posts) -
@ryanwho said:
"What about this Mike Turner cunt? Couldn't they grab him at the airport? "

Sure, if anyone gave a shit. Cops and federal police in this country are too busy with alcohol-related street brawls and racism-based stabbings every weekend to care if a video game company didn't get their proper super payments. Maybe if the guy ripped off a cricketer or rugby league player then people might wake up and take notice.
#8 Posted by steenbokpixie (2 posts) -

So many of us have tried contacting ASIC for help, thinking that since it's their job and all they'd actually help us. They apparently launched an "investigation" in which they deemed that the company IS trading legally and took Marty at his word for some sort of payment plan he scraped together, much like the promises he's been giving us for the past year. I'm shocked that the government can be convinced to basically ditch off its own residents by three scam artists on the other side of the world. 

#9 Posted by DCFGS3 (1054 posts) -

Quietly mention something to the tax office, even if it's not true, those ATO bastards will tear Interzone apart.

#10 Posted by steenbokpixie (2 posts) -

Oh the ATO already knows and is expected to issue a closure notice soon as Tim mentioned in the original article. However the ATO won't really help us get our pay from my understanding, maybe superannuation. The overall process, even if we do get anything still owed to us, could take years. Personally I've given up most hope that I'll ever see my money.

#11 Edited by SeriouslyNow (8534 posts) -
@steenbokpixie: 
 
There is another option.  Your team of developers could elect a Director.  Then that Director could incorporate the Team under another name as long as the team sign an agreement that are willing to take on this directorship in lieu of lost wages.  There's a lot more to it, but at least this option should secure the IP and work done on Australian soil.  This will prevent the assets from being passed over into foreign hands.  IANAL but I've seen things like this done before.  You will need to consult a lawyer.
#12 Posted by flatfoot (4 posts) -
@SeriouslyNow: Anyone who signs on as a local director would inherit the IP, yes, but they would also inherit the outstanding debts, and once they looked at the books they'd be legally obliged to wind the (insolvent) company up, or face prosecution. Who's going to sign up for that job?
#13 Posted by flatfoot (4 posts) -
@DCFGS3: The ATO has known about this for a very long time, and continued to be strung along. I know everyone's taught to believe that the ATO will "tear apart" anyone who so much as farts incorrectly on their tax statement, but the reality is they are just as slow and bureaucratic as any other government agency. The only reason this whole story has exploded is because the ATO -finally- decided to take action, which has motivated the American management to get the hell outta dodge just in the nick of time.
#14 Edited by SeriouslyNow (8534 posts) -
@flatfoot: 
Read what I said about 'in lieu of lost wages'.  They gain control of the IP and the potential income from the game when released.  The newly incorporated business wouldn't be insolvent.  It would be a new business.
#15 Posted by Matfei90 (1288 posts) -

For the uninitiated: If it has anything to do with 'video games' in this country, it fucking-well gets ignored. Like Rayfield said - bring a sports star into it and then it becomes a noteworthy issue.

#16 Posted by flatfoot (4 posts) -
@SeriouslyNow: They still have to deal with the debt though. "in lieu of lost wages" doesn't just wave a magic wand and make it go away.  Who in their right mind would take on the directorship of a company with 1.7 million $ of debt, and no income? Who in their right mind would work there?
#17 Posted by SeriouslyNow (8534 posts) -
@flatfoot said:
" @SeriouslyNow: They still have to deal with the debt though. "in lieu of lost wages" doesn't just wave a magic wand and make it go away.  Who in their right mind would take on the directorship of a company with 1.7 million $ of debt, and no income? Who in their right mind would work there? "
There is no other way to secure the IP.  By the way, what's your interest in this? 
#18 Edited by flatfoot (4 posts) -
@SeriouslyNow: I'm a former employee who is owed a decent amount of money, that's all I really care to divulge. Your statement is not strictly correct. If an Administrator were appointed tomorrow, they could/would seize the IP - that's the main reason why these guys are down in Australia trying to beat the ATO to the punch.  Individuals can also file for a legal injunction to place the IP in the hands of a court until resolved legally.  I guess the thing is I and all the other employees have heard and considered pretty much every legal and administrative option available to us (including your suggestion), and pretty much all of the ones involving siezing IP are a legal minefield, and involve individuals exposing themselves to an awesome amount of liability. This is more specifically the case because the American management have (whether deliberately or by accident) made the actual status of the IP ownership so muddy that only court action would probably resolve the issue - which since we haven't been PAID, we can't afford  (conservative estimates range around AU$50,000 for a basic injunction - and that's not including the fact that to file for an injunction, you have to insure the person you're bringing to court against the value of the IP - so if they say it's worth 50 million dollars, you have to pay that up front - just in case you lose). But believe it or not, that's not the end of the line. There will be more to this story in the days to come, I'm sure.
#19 Posted by Lydian_Sel (2490 posts) -
@Rayfield said:
" @ryanwho said:
"What about this Mike Turner cunt? Couldn't they grab him at the airport? "

Sure, if anyone gave a shit. Cops and federal police in this country are too busy with alcohol-related street brawls and racism-based stabbings every weekend to care if a video game company didn't get their proper super payments. Maybe if the guy ripped off a cricketer or rugby league player then people might wake up and take notice. "
 
Ain't that the sad fucking truth. Colwill was right when he said this will damage the already shaky state of the games industry, not just in Perth though. My heart goes out to those people.
#20 Posted by S2333 (86 posts) -

Ouch! I didn't know this was happening in my city. This will make game development suffer in Perth because of how studios in the US 'flick' development over to Australia so the studio is effectively working 24 hours of the day.
However my heart goes out to these people, their love for gaming must be shattered after this fiasco.

#21 Posted by Lind_L_Taylor (3966 posts) -

In sum, the guys funding the company ran out of cash somewhere along the way, & probably promised payment when the game was finally published & made a profit.  What's new here?  This kind of thing happens all the time.   Seems the guys working at the Studio were a bit gullible.
 
Generally if I work for a company & the very first time they don't send me a paycheck, that would make me seek new employment, plus I would start working "creative" business hours, like maybe only 3 hours a day & from home.  :)

#22 Edited by Lowbrow (840 posts) -
@flatfoot said:

" @SeriouslyNow: I'm a former employee who is owed a decent amount of money, that's all I really care to divulge. Your statement is not strictly correct. If an Administrator were appointed tomorrow, they could/would seize the IP - that's the main reason why these guys are down in Australia trying to beat the ATO to the punch.  Individuals can also file for a legal injunction to place the IP in the hands of a court until resolved legally.  I guess the thing is I and all the other employees have heard and considered pretty much every legal and administrative option available to us (including your suggestion), and pretty much all of the ones involving siezing IP are a legal minefield, and involve individuals exposing themselves to an awesome amount of liability. This is more specifically the case because the American management have (whether deliberately or by accident) made the actual status of the IP ownership so muddy that only court action would probably resolve the issue - which since we haven't been PAID, we can't afford  (conservative estimates range around AU$50,000 for a basic injunction - and that's not including the fact that to file for an injunction, you have to insure the person you're bringing to court against the value of the IP - so if they say it's worth 50 million dollars, you have to pay that up front - just in case you lose). But believe it or not, that's not the end of the line. There will be more to this story in the days to come, I'm sure. "

Ahh, justice only for the rich. 
 
Smells like dogshit frying in pig fat from all the way over here.