Don’t mess with mobile game developers. They’ve got the Federal Bureau of Investigations on their side.
A former developer at studio Machine Zone, which is best known for producing the Clash of Clans-like Game of War, was taken into custody by the FBI earlier this week, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal (via Gamasutra). The feds picked up Jing Zeng as he was trying to hop on a plane to China from San Francisco, according to the Bay City News Service. Machine Zone filed a complaint against Zeng with the FBI earlier this year. The studio claims that Zeng downloaded player data and was trying to use that as leverage in negotiations with the company to get himself a larger severance package. The developer now faces charges of trying to steal trade secrets.
This is only the most recent trip to court Machine Zone will likely have to make. The company is also embroiled in a lawsuit with competitor Kabam. Machine Zone is suing that developer after an argument at a cocktail party got out of hand and Kabam corporate development director Daniel Wiggins (according to our sources) told Machine Zone chief executive Gabe Leydon that Kabam had seen Machine Zone’s private materials it was using in an attempt to raise capital.
Now, Zeng has posted a $100,000 bail today following a hearing, and he will have to remain in San Francisco until his trial. A guilty verdict could potentially lead to a 10 year prison sentence and fines up to a quarter of a million dollars.
That sounds like the roughest severance package ever.
At Zeng’s bail hearing today, it came out that Machine Zone had fired him earlier this year. The studio offered him a severance package, but Zeng wasn’t happy with it. That’s when he allegedly stole the insider information and told Machine Zone that he would expose that information if he didn’t get more money.
While both of these incidents are keeping Machine Zone’s lawyers busy, they seem unrelated.