Major Game Dev's Office Raided; Computers, Documents Seized, And One Person Arrested

Starbreeze's problems continue to mount.

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Authorities in Sweden raided the offices of Payday 2 and Overkill's The Walking Dead developer/publisher Starbreeze today, detaining one person on insider trading charges. Multiple news outlets in Sweden reported today that the country's Economic Crime Authority conducted a surprise raid of Starbreeze's offices in Stockholm, seizing computers and other documents from the premises.

ECA communications rep Niklas Ahlgren confirmed to GI.biz that the organisation conducted a raid of Starbreeze's office. "This morning officals from the Swedish Economic Crime Authority raided the offices of Starbreeze in Stockholm. One person was arrested and items were seized," Ahlgren said. "The raid is part of an ongoing investigation involving suspected insider trading."

The identity of the detained person was not disclosed, nor are further specifics about the charges against this person.

For its part, Starbreeze released a statement confirming that the raid took place "due to suspicions of insider charges." Starbreeze said the company as a whole is not under investigation, however. Starbreeze also said it is cooperating fully with the ECA in this matter, adding that this raid "does not affect" Starbreeze's plans to restructure its business in the wake of troubling financial times for the company.

Earlier this month, Starbreeze filed for "reconstruction" with the Stockholm District Court as a means to help itself secure its future financial position, though whether or not that happens remains to be seen. During the reconstruction period, Starbreeze will continue to pay salaries to its employees, and overall, its operations will "continue as usual."

As part of the reconstruction, Starbreeze CEO Bo Andersson resigned from the company, while other members of the Board of Directors also left.

At the end of November, Starbreeze acknowledged that sales of its latest major game, the poorly received shooter Overkill's The Walking Dead were lower than expected. The game launched in November for PC, but its Xbox One and PS4 editions were delayed. As a result of this, Starbreeze will not be able to recognise the $10 million license fee this quarter that 505 Games is paying Starbreeze for the console edition, which it is publishing.

In the wake of these financial challenges, Starbreeze announced it was launching an internal review of its business operations with the aim of reducing costs and focusing more on the core pillars of its business. Starbreeze said it's expecting to see "significant cost savings" as a result of the re-focus. However, Starbreeze shared no specifics on how it would go about cutting costs, or if this move would result in any job losses.

"We have initiated a review of our costs to ensure better alignment with our revenues. We are designing a program towards that end, naturally while keeping a careful eye on revenue development. We must focus on our core business and ensure delivery of the company’s important games," Starbreeze said.

Developer David Goldfarb, Payday 2's former game director, responded to the news in a statement on Twitter. He called the situation a "disaster," noting that he suspects management is responsible for the tough times.

GameSpot's review of Overkill's The Walking Dead scored the zombie shooter a 3/10. It's getting mostly low review scores across the board.

"From its restrictive mission structures, unbalanced difficulty and frustrating means of progression, The Walking Dead struggles to justify the time it requires from you," Alessandro Barbosa wrote. "It's a collection gameplay blueprints stacked upon one another without thoughtful consideration on how they might cohesively work together, wrapped up in a dull presentation and mundane combat that very rarely excites. The Walking Dead is a mess of scattered ideas and a lack of direction, and there's no reason to make sense of it all."

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Avatar image for naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

Well after the mess with PayDay 2, I find I'm just not that surprised.

It takes a particular kind of person to pull off that kind of stunt.

And it's the same kind of person that releases a game like Walking Dead in the state that it's in.

Avatar image for kaminobenimizu
KamiNoBeniMizu

Wait... these guys are major!? Even Yacht Club seems bigger than these guys, and they JUST made Shovel Knight. If they're big, then "How the mighty have fallen" suits this company like a charm. Even THQ on its last days seemed more popular.

I just hope they won't collapse and many go out of jobs. This hurts. Or will they just be absorbed by a bigger company (kinda like how Sega absorbed Atlus)?

Avatar image for suprsolider
suprsolider

Looks like garbage.

Avatar image for dlM0kn
dlM0kn

They shouldn't have killed off Bain in Payday 2. He might've tipped them off to the incoming raid and been able to protect the bags better.

Avatar image for Vodoo
Vodoo

This was the company Vin Diesel used to own when their first game was Riddick. I'm guessing he jumped ship a long time ago. How can you go from Riddick, to the crap they've been putting out?

Also, if they were releasing the game on one platform initially, it should've been the PS4, not the PC. A lot of PC gamers will just pirate the game because if it's lackluster reviews, where PS4 owners have to buy.

Then, after recouping some money, release the Xbox and PC ports.

Avatar image for brunorr
brunorr

@Vodoo: What?

PC and console gamers are two very different kinds of beasts. Some games are very popular on one platform and no one cares on another. Payday 2, for example, is very popular on PC. And PC gamers give a lot less attention to official reviews than console gamers, I can guarantee. Some games like Dead by Daylight and LoL got lackluster reviews on launch but people love them.

Games are primarily made on PCs so it makes much more sense porting a PC game to consoles than the other way around, when in many cases things get messy.

Avatar image for Vodoo
Vodoo

@brunorr: My point was that the most popular console, where people cannot pirate games, would've been the best financial move. Where many sales would be lost to pirating on PC.

So many times I hear, "I'll pirate the game and if it's good I'll buy it to support the developer." So firstly, if the game isn't good then they lose that sale. Secondly, even if the game is good, I wonder how many people will actually go back and pay for the game they already have and completed?

I'm not saying all PC gamers are pirates, but there's an aweful lot. Yes, it's cheaper to develop for PC, but you still lose a lot of sales, where that's not possible on a PS4.

This has nothing to do with pc gamers and console gamers. People are individuals. Everybody looks at a review score out of curiosity. Some couldn't care less, some think it's writen in stone. But pc gamers can easily "try" that game for free, which may have to do with not caring about reviews. Consoles have very few demos available. So in most cases you have to buy the game to even try it.

Avatar image for brunorr
brunorr

@Vodoo: Well, you will have to provide numbers on piracy to prove your point. If it was as bad as you say no publisher would care for PC. Some devs, specially indie ones, are getting filthy rich making games for PC. Games like FTL and Binding of Isaac, which are a only a few megabytes to download on pirate websites, sell like hot hotcakes on Steam.

Making a game for a more popular platform doesn't necessarily mean it's goint to sell more of it. And many times, it's not the best move. Like I said, its best to code a game for PC and port it, and maybe they had that in mind. You can be more flexible with your price range ratio to quality/ length of a game on PC. You don't have to deal with Sony and Microsft policies, which are a lot more strict than Valve's, for example. I don't know what this game is about but PC gamers are more inclined to buy niche games than console gamers. And the list goes on.

PC gamers don't care as much about official reviews because they can read hundreds of them from people that bought and played the game. Which, in my humble opinion, is a lot more reliable than looking at a few scores from professional critics that may have an agenda we don't know about.

Avatar image for Vodoo
Vodoo

@brunorr: Nobody can give actual numbers. But it ranges from 70-90% piracy rate on PC on numerous articles. I just read an article of an indie game dev who was anti drm, launched his game with the multiplayer servers able to handle 60,000 simultaneous players. They had over 120,000 players, when they only sold 18,000 copies, which crashed the servers. They refunded their paying customers because they wouldn't be able to fix the game to the standard they wanted, and left the game industry altogether.

Here's an article of 50,000 PC gamers polled, with 35% admitting piracy, mostly for the reasons I said....

https://www.pcgamer.com/pc-piracy-survey-results-35-percent-of-pc-gamers-pirate/

That's just the ones admitting to it and they list the reasons why they pirate.

https://www.gamespot.com/articles/ubisoft-ceo-claims-93-95-percent-piracy-rate-on-its-pc-games/1100-6392939/

There's list after list of these if you Google it. And while developing on the PC may be cheaper because you don't have to pay the console manufacturer tax, in the end it seems that most people choose to steal their games on PC and make it cost more than the console tax.

One of the reasons people listed for piracy was to try the game. But it goes against logic that if you already played and own the title, why would you go back and pay for it? I'm sure some do, but I'm betting most don't.

There was even an article with torents freaking out because they were afraid MS was going to implement anti-piracy in Windows 10.

These articles were just on the first page of Google and there's a lot more.

It even got so bad that the Chinese, who rip off everybody, wanted to work with the US on digital rights management because they couldn't even sell their bootleg games do to piracy.

Perhaps if there were more demos of games it would reduce the amount, or the excuse, of people just wanting to "try" a game? I can't say

But piracy is a large part of why games never make it to PC or get crappy ports. Why invest in something that's gonna bite you in the ass?

Avatar image for brunorr
brunorr

@Vodoo: I read the articles. They state piracy exists, as we knew already. What I'm looking for are numbers that state piracy is diminshing profit to a point where devs should relegate PC to a second or third place as launching platform as you are suggesting.

Even the article states piracy numbers are sketchy "Overall, about 90 percent of the responses indicated that pirates do sometimes, even oftentimes, buy games after pirating them.".

But piracy in itself is not the point. The point is you are saying it's better to launch a game, any game, on PS4 first because there is no piracy and there is a larger audience. I'm telling you that many times it is better to launch on PC, despite piracy and a smaller audience. The proof is that publishers do and profit off of it.

Another reason is that console gaming audience is deceptive. Many people only buy AAA games. Many people don't buy games with no physical copies.

"But piracy is a large part of why games never make it to PC or get crappy ports."

No, it's not. Games are made for one or another platform because of it's target audience. Proof of that is Dark Souls, a quintessential console game. DS1 was programmed for consoles first and foremost, but because of it's huge success they made a PC port, which was crap. Knowing afterwards the game had it's audience also on PC, they programmed DS2 and DS3 also for PC from the ground up and both ran great.

Coding a game to PC and porting to consoles is easier because it's like applying fine tuning to another platform. There is a reason today's consoles are so much like PCs. Despite the code itself, the devs jobs is to adjust textures resolution, anti-aliasing and so on so it runs at 60fps or 30 fps, whatever is the target.

Coding a game directly to a console is like making a game for a very specific PC, and integrating lines so it can work on a very large amount of different machines is a lot harder.

"Why invest in something that's gonna bite you in the ass?"

Come on, you don't seriously believe that. Gaming is big business and people go bankrupt. There's a big amount of time and money invested on making and porting games. If some business is not reliable, they simply don't do it. No dev is gonna go "I'm releasing a bad version of my game for PC because I hate PC pirates".

Avatar image for Vodoo
Vodoo

This was the company Vin Diesel used to own when their first game was Riddick. I'm guessing he jumped ship a long time ago. How can you go from Riddick, to the crap they've been putting out.

Also, if they were releasing the game on one platform initially, it should've been the PS4, not the PC. A lot of PC gamers will just pirate the game because if it's lackluster reviews, where PS4 owners have to buy.

Then, after recouping some money, release the Xbox and PC ports.

Avatar image for Daian
Daian

Insider trading of what?

Avatar image for Vodoo
Vodoo

@Daian: Insider trading is when you buy or sell stock based on your "insider" knowledge of what the company is doing.

So if this guy knew the game was going to tank, and sold off his stocks before it came out, that would be insider trading.

Avatar image for Jinzo_111887
Jinzo_111887

@Daian: Stock.

Avatar image for Tidus1012
Tidus1012

TL: DR

Clickbait

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

Well, they did make a game about stealing money

Avatar image for Jinzo_111887
Jinzo_111887

@Thanatos2k: Two actually, but the second one added in drugs, goats, nukes, paintings, artifacts, cars, motorcycles, computers, weapons, phones, tablets, and even pardons to the list of things you could steal.

Avatar image for Pupchu
Pupchu

@Thanatos2k: Good one

Avatar image for Barighm
Barighm

Starbreeze is a major dev, huh? Frickin' click bait articles.

Avatar image for tonyleo01
tonyleo01

@Barighm: This is 100% click bait headline even though the story is legit. What's missing is "And A Single Mom Saved the Day! Here's How!"

Avatar image for death_burnout
death_burnout

@Barighm: In the grand scheme of things, they sort of are. There are a few well-regarded and influential games under their belt. Don’t think they’re the company they once were though.

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Avatar image for Barighm
Barighm

@death_burnout: If you have to describe them as "sort of", then they're not major.