I read yesterday that Interzone (operating as Big Collision Games) is launching Interzone Futebol (now branded for North and South American launch as Online Soccer Champions) into closed beta, despite still owing over $1.5 million to former employees of the Perth studio and the Australian Tax Office.
Here’s a screenshot of the Online Soccer Champions website:
I paused the launch trailer on the opening logo, which still reads “Interzone Games”. Indeed, it appears to be the same trailer released for Interzone Futebol back on August 2009 (and featured on the Gamigo Futebol website).
For those of you who haven’t been following the news regarding Interzone Entertainment (site currently down), the webpage “Interzone: The Downward Spiral” has been collecting related news articles and online information pertaining to the company’s activities.
Following Perth studio employees being locked out of the office (without prior notice) back in February, the story was also covered in this ABC News report:
Sadly, there has been little progress since that report.
The message (from Marty Brickey, CEO Interzone Entertainment LLC and sole director of Interzone Pty Ltd) on the door to the office building (visible in the video above) was posted after staff were locked out. It includes the following text:
We would like to resolve any issues directly with you to avoid any legal costs. The funds that we raise will be limited therefore the less external expenses the more funds that will become available distribution. We accept that after external expenses you will have priority with any distribution or pay out. We will keep you informed on our funding progress as information comes to hand.
Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge:
- Internal expenses must come before external expenses. Staff must be paid for work that they have already undertaken.
- Interzone has not kept former employees informed on funding progress or any new information.
- With the game now re-entering closed beta, this indicates that the company has funds to continue development and launch.
- Interzone has failed to respond to communication from the Fair Work Ombudsman and Fair Work Australia. It has also failed to attend unfair dismissal and mediation hearings.
With funds available, why isn’t outstanding debt being paid? There must be some amount of money that can be assigned to paying down debt without compromising the ongoing operations of the company. At the very least, why isn’t Interzone engaging in dialogue with former employees and the ATO?
A rather disappointing aspect of the whole situation is that a fellow Australian company, BigWorld Technology (which assisted in transfer of intellectual property from the Perth studio) may be providing ongoing technical (and possibly game development) support to Interzone. (Please note that this is conjecture.)
Encouragingly, it appears that the announcement of Online Soccer Champions is inciting former employees of the Perth studio to maintain pursuit of their unpaid wages and superannuation.
If anyone from Interzone is reading this, please feel free to contact me to engage in collective dialogue with former employees.