Funcom talk police investigation: “We were back in full production the day after they came”

Funcom downsized dramatically after the release of The Secret World, laying off about half of their staff.

Funcom started off the year in lights for all the wrong reasons. They’d been raided by Økokrim, Norway’s financial crime unit, the headlines wailed, who were investigating one charge of market manipulation and another of wrongfully-filed insider information from around the time of The Secret World’s release.

After a short, dreadful silence, Funcom told the press that all was well; that they were cooperating and remained “committed” to The Secret World. And now a more recent account suggests that despite the ongoing investigations, it “all blew over very fast”. Funcom’s coders are coding again.

“There was speculation that we were out of business and that the Økokrim had taken all of our computers,” Funcom CEO Ole Schreiner told GamesIndustry. “They took a handful of computers, didn’t touch the production environment and gave them back two days later. We were back in full production the day after they came. So even though it was quite a dramatic event, it all blew over very fast. The police were very professional.”

On top of an allegation of insider trading against a former executive, Funcom had been charged with presenting an unrepresentatively pretty picture of The Secret World’s financial prospects – right before it bombed, with just 200,000 copies to its name in its first two months.

“The second charge is fairly common,” said Funcom SVP of sales and marketing Morten Larssen. “Norway’s biggest bank, which is partly state-owned was charged with it last year. So it’s the first charge we feel we really want to shed light on.”

Larssen pointed out that it was “tough” to predict the success of any entertainment product before its launch.

“Look at the Lone Ranger,” he said. “Gore Verbinski, Johnny Depp – same writing team as the Pirates of the Caribbean, which all opened at $100 million plus. They choose a perfect launch weekend over the fourth of July, and it bombed. $29 million and it’s gone. It’s very hard to predict – so many little pieces and so much opinion.”

No current staff at Funcom have been charged – a “handful” have been interviewed as witnesses. The police have told the studio that they might be fined – but not how large the fine might be or when they might expect it.

Schreiner thought Funcom could have done a better job in keeping the press informed – but said things have “settled” at the studio.

“We’ve been cooperating fully with the police on everything, giving all our information and helping when they need any more documents,” he said. “We definitely want this case out in the open and done with as soon as possible.”