Interzone Games Perth closes, Staff locked out

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The West Australian and WA Business News reports that U.S based Interzone Games have locked down their lead development studio in Perth on Thursday. Ten of the remaining Interzone staff were picketing at the front of their former workplace in protest of unpaid wages and superannuation as far back as 18 months, after being locked out of the premises and left unable to retrieve personal belongings. Segments of a notice at the entry of the studio placed by Interzone Vice President of business operations, Mike Turner, reads:

We accept that we owe you wages and are currently determining the amount owed and are working diligently to raise funds in the USA that will be distributed according to the priority as set out by law.

Please note the only person allowed on or within the premises of Interzone is Vice President of Business Operations Mike Turner and anyone he so nominates or brings with himself onto the premises

NO ONE ELSE IS PERMITTED TO ENTER THE PREMISES.

ALL ACCESS IS HEREBY REVOKED AND ANY ENTRY WHATSOEVER WILL CONSITUTE TRESPASSING.

It's understood that Mike Turner flew to Perth this week with the intention of obtaining all the content and server hardware that the studio worked on and will be returning to the U.S today. Former staff have found this unacceptable, arguing that the work produced for the last 18 months has not been compensated or paid for yet. Police were called in to the studio on Wednesday night as locks were changed for the server room and offices.

News about the closure has spread to Perth print and TV media with a strong emphasis made on the local Government's $500,000 grant for the studio, and the $1 million dollars owing to the ATO. The following report (below) appeared on the ABC TV about the situation...

As mentioned in the ABC TV report, Interzone Games had studios in China and Brazil, and both studios have been closed down already. The manager from the IZ Guangzhou, China studio has posted in the comments area of the WA Business News news item to report that the recent complaints of unpaid wages were not isolated to the Perth studio. From WA Business News...

I was the manager of IZ Guangzhou, China, we had about 60 staff in the studio.
The studio was forced to dismiss suddently in Nov 2009, without any notification in advance.

IZ owed the GZ studio staff more than US$450,000 and never paid a penny till now.
A colleague's father was severely sick and died later cause not enough money to be treated.

As for myself, besides months of salary owed by IZ, I had also loaned more than US$8,000 from
my own pocket to IZ, in order that the studio runs normally, cause I was told that the wire from
IZ was coming, I would be certainly paid ......all is a lie!

In my more than 15 years of career time, I've never come across such situation, such boss - Marty.

All the studio staffs should unite together to protect our benefits.

The traditional Chinese New Year is coming in two days, the honest GZ staffs expected to have a great new year after getting back their owed payment. But their dream is broken again, no penny is sent to them so far after more than a year's waiting.

Former Interzone games staff have been cautioning staff of the newly formed studio based in Ireland, Big Collision Games, which will be continuing the development of Interzone Futebol that they may find themselves in a similar predicament further down the line.

The West Australian has received a response from Robert J. Spencer who helped set up Interzone Games in Perth. Robert, who has not been with the studio for two years, was quoted as saying "It was my baby and this is very saddening".

You can find the articles on Interzone Perth's closure at:

http://www.wabusinessnews.com.au/en-story/1/78513/Interzone-folds-owing-...
http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/business/a/-/wa/6794108/fair-work-tax-o...

Interzone Futebol on the Television News!

Comments

Anonymous's picture

A couple of inaccuracies I would like to correct for the record. Officially Interzone Pty Ltd has not closed, and staff that have not yet resigned are technically still employed. Staff were not fired or made redundant by Mike Turner as that would trigger paperwork and termination entitlements that the company cannot or will not produce. Staff are banned from the premises so cannot turn up to do their duties as current employees.

The notion that staff are "suspended" is a farce. You cannot be lawfully suspended unless you are fully paid up to date, and I also think you can only be suspended on full pay. Staff are 6 weeks behind on pay and were told that it would be suspension without pay. When this was requested in writing (in order to take to the appropriate agencies) with the reasons for the suspension clearly stated, it was refused by Mike Turner.

Mike worked with a server engineer contracted from BigWorld all day Friday to copy all the source code and assets from the Perth servers. BigWorld were notified by current & former employees in advance that they were likely to be aiding in unlawful activity but they chose to continue on regardless. I hope they were paid in advance, because if not, I doubt they will receive any payment. Note Interzone has or did have a large debt to BigWorld outstanding for about 18 months.

I can confirm the authenticity of the report quoted from our friends in China. The date is incorrect though - the China studio was closed unexpectedly in Nov *2008*.

Anonymous's picture

I would like to add to this that Interzone staff secured photographic and video evidence of what was stated above.

It should also be pointed out that on Thursday, the WA Department of Commerce were in support of the actions of staff trying to prevent theft of these assets - as they had a $500k vested interest in them. Somehow by Friday they'd changed their tune, and the WA Department of Commerce banned Interzone Employees from setting foot on Technology Park (a vast area) indefinitely. Yes, you read this correctly - a WA Taxpayer funded department, declared it illegal for Taxpayers / Lawful employees to set foot on a facility they were lawfully still employed at - that was paid for with their Tax dollars. Apparently this was done to stop the staff from preventing a foreign company from stealing and removing from the country Intellectual Property that the Department itself had a commercial interest in. Every single Australian, and particularly West Australian should be absolutely disgusted by the implications of the actions of the department in this case.

If anyone from WA Dept. of Commerce is reading this - I'd like to personally assure you that it is the intent of most IZ staff to make the Department accountable for their actions - and every individual who took part in this farce will be asked to answer for themselves, from the low level grunt, right up to Minister Troy Buswell himself.

Anonymous's picture

Good luck, it sounds like a whole bunch of people from a whole bunch of organisations have a whole bunch of justice heading their way.

Anonymous's picture

You guys got fucked even harder than the Fuzzyguys. I hope some justice comes from this. That ABC report might be a helpful push.

Anonymous's picture

From what friends tell me about this case - it could actually bring down the WA State Government.

Anonymous's picture

"it could actually bring down the WA State Government"

"bring down the Government"

What?

Anonymous's picture

I highly doubt this. A few Government agencies might get egg on their faces, and a few of their employees might get the sack or be investigated, but to say it could bring down the entire Government is a bit of a stretch.

Anonymous's picture

I choose to believe the first guy. This WILL bring the government down!

Anonymous's picture

I second that just for the sake of being insane.

Anonymous's picture

If its close to an election it will be bad press, so I think this is justified and true.

Anonymous's picture

I don't know, but they must have read the same CEO for Idiots book.

souri's picture

Interzone CEO has responded to the claims made last week, from Kotaku AU..

After being directed to your article I felt it was necessary to offer some corrections.

First, I never said and have evidence that your source Tim knew before this article was published that it is and has always been our intention to settle out tax debt and Super in Perth.

Secondly, a big part of our tax problem began when the payroll company we were using there went bankrupt after it had already deducted over $450k in taxes and never paid them to the ATO.

Third, Big Collision is our European operations arm and is ran from the US it is not a studio and does not have 1 employee.

Fourth, Mike and Greg also have deferred their own pay in the interest of the company and have more outstanding funds owed to them than anyone one else.

Next, IZ has sunk millions of foreign dollars into the Perth economy, we were initially told that there would be much more than the $500k made available to us in R&D and other grants but they never came to fruition.

Next, IZ has not received millions in funding. And the list goes on.

Let me be clear that to this day we are very close to closing a major round of funding and have always had the intention of making Perth whole through proper channels if in fact we make a full exit from Australia, and in fact we have suspended operations there until a resolution can be met.

The last 18 months have seen extremely difficult times for a lot of companies, there are plenty of fortune 500 companies that could be singled out. We have always worked in the mutual best interest of the entire organization, which is why our employees have stock and still have the opportunity to benefit – which is very rare in this industry. I believe InterZone will succeed in launching its game and it will do so with every individual that has ever been a part of the organization being properly taken care of.

Best Regards
Marty Brickey
CEO
InterZone

Anonymous's picture

Well, I can't comment on this particular situation, but I do know that we had probs when a payroll company went under as well. We paid our tax to them, they didn't pay it to the ATO. We were responsible...

Having said that, if that put them in trouble and they were trading while insolvent (not saying they were), they should not have continued to wrack up more debt.

I hope all staff and creditors get their funds. With interest?

Anonymous's picture

... we are very close to closing a major round of funding ...

This is what Marty was saying 14 months ago, when payments to staff started being delayed:


From: Marty Brickey
Sent: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 10:47 PM
To: IZ-All
Subject: updates

I just wanted to give everyone a quick update heading into Christmas. Things
with our VC are going well and progressing nicely. We have now outlined the
general terms and finalized the amount for the deal that will total $15
million USD. The in-depth diligence will begin January 5th, and we expect to
receive our first round of funds from the VC by February 7th.

The bridge loan to get us through that point has been tough. Private funds
and hard lending is very difficult to get right now in the US. I finally did
manage to close a small amount yesterday and will be tracking this and
expediting it to Perth. It should cover two pay periods and get us close to
getting caught up. I have my final meeting on Monday for a bridge that would
get us the rest of the way through January. The terms have been agreed to on
this and we are just going over the guarantees and details of the notes, so I
feel this deal is 95% done and we should have the funds by the end of next
week .

I hope this finds everybody well and enjoying a great Holiday.

Best Regards,

Marty Brickey
CEO
InterZone

Anonymous's picture

Good luck to all involved.

Anonymous's picture

holy crap !!!!! Hey fuzzyeyes dudes, does that letter 2 posts up look familiar ?! HAHAHAHAHA!!!!

We got one of those every couple of weeks!!!

Anonymous's picture

Here's a similar email all fuzzyeyes employees received a year ago when the first salary payments started to miss and we were all worried sick of whats going to happen.

Note: Southpeak was our publisher at the time, Hollywood deal was a carrot on a stick our CEO used to entice us (no one believed it but it showed how fucking dumb our CEO thought we were and how little respect he had for us), and Felix is the supposed investor that was going to "come to our rescue". Suffice to say we never saw him in person, so he could be felix the cat for all we knew.

The letter:

SouthPeak:
No result, as they "walk out" of the meeting with anger. However, we
should be able to come to a conclusion in next 72 hrs.

Hollywood:
Movie budget is set. Should be able to make an announcement to public
sometime late Aug. And royalties payment scheme has also identified,
so we should be able to receive a major chunk of dollars once we
announce the movie deal.

Felix:
Done the initial transaction for bank costs. Everything is on
schedule, and we are waiting for Felix to provide us the new business
detail from his end. The new investment company is "Felix Global
Holding". We should see the money in our bank really soon.

Ill back in Brisbane Sunday. Will give you guys detail update next monday.

regards,

--
Wei-Yao Lu,
CEO

FUZZYEYES™
http://www.fuzzyeyes.com

Anonymous's picture

Haha... sad truth is that email is true. Sonny was really a man child, that's why I loved him.

Anonymous's picture

If we kept all the letters that were posted up with promises of our wages coming in, we'd have an encyclopedia dudes. An awesome broken engrish encyclopedia.

The sad thing really is, these people WILL get away with doing what they do. No matter how hard you want to burn them, they WILL get away with it.

Anonymous's picture

In the Australian games industry. Cowboys, losers and people who think that they can work business. FAIL.

Worked for Fuzzyeyes and they had all the opportunity in the world is take on projects that were more realistic and targeted to more appealing platforms, and still create fun, interesting games. But Wei-Yao Lu was always talking about making it big, and wanting hordes of developers working in his company. Meanwhile, the rest of the development world was starting to make a shift to more realistic development formulas.

Anonymous's picture

Guys be very careful. Emails sent by Companies are Compnay property and they can sue you; the Dude from the US is obviously tracking everything so dont post comments that can be used against you. Souri would have to hand over IP addressess if it came to that; nothing is anonymous.