Unpaid wages, a $1 million tax bill from the government, a studio closure, and a fight over intellectual property are plaguing Perth, Australia-based game maker Interzone, reports said this week.
A local TV news report
said that the company, which had been working on the soccer MMO Interzone Futebol
for the past year-and-a-half owes the Australian Tax Office $1 million in taxes.
Workers for the company who showed up to the Perth office this week were greeted by locked doors and a sign with wording from U.S.-based majority shareholder and CEO Marty Brickey that said no person is allowed within the premises except for Interzone VP of business operations Mike Turner or anyone the VP authorizes, a report on Australia-based WABusiness.com
The same report said Interzone, founded in Australia with the help of a $500,000 grant, owes more than $1.5 million in unpaid wages, taxes, and pensions.
Prior to the Perth studio's troubles, Interzone had to liquidate two other studios, one in China, the other in Brazil, amid pressure from creditors asking for their money, according to a published letter on weblog Kotaku
from former Interzone world designer Tim Colwill.
Colwill explained how financial problems during the 2008 credit crunch marked the beginning of the downward spiral for Interzone. Even after the liquidation of two studios, the Perth office was still under financial pressure, and management reportedly fell significantly behind on payments.
"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," Colwill wrote.
The company finally landed a publishing deal with a European publisher, but with money to keep work on the game going full steam ahead, the future of that deal is in question.
However, Interzone's U.S. management reportedly has plans to finish the game without the Perth studio, by contracting key staff and an external company to work on Interzone Futebol
. Colwill claimed that VP Turner is in Australia this week to "back up, and pack up, the servers and files necessary to run the game at its current state, in the USA."
This creates another major point of contention, as Interzone employees fear that they will not be paid for the work they completed on the title, with contracted workers and management instead reaping any potential benefits.
WABusiness.com also said it obtained an earlier email from CEO Brickey that suggested the closure would be temporary: "This is not definitive as we will attempt to work through the legal channels to get super paid before wind up procedures commence or complete - we have no intention of abandoning anyone there," he wrote.
But the executive warned against possible "sabotage," telling former employees to carefully consider "how far [they] are willing to go" to get their unpaid wages. "Eight of our major investors are already independently retaining council (sic) in Perth and are reading (sic) to strike hard and fast at anyone committing tortuous (sic) interference, slander, or liable (sic) against the company," he wrote.