The Swedish Economic Crime Authority today raided the offices of Starbreeze Studios, the company behind games including Payday 2 and recent flop Overkill’s The Walking Dead, over suspicions of insider trading. They arrested one person and seized a computer. Starbreeze are in big financial trouble at the moment, planning to cut costs and filing for administration following the harm done by The Walking Dead’s launch – and that game’s the issue. Reports say two Starbreeze fellas sold all of their company stock in November, shortly before the game’s poor sales saw share drop as low as 10% of their prior value. Which could be iffy.
Initial reports are a bit cobbled together from Swedish newspapers and such, but GamesIndustry.biz got confirmation from the authorities.
“This morning officals from the Swedish Economic Crime Authority raided the offices of Starbreeze in Stockholm,” The Man said in a statement. “One person was arrested and items were seized. The raid is part of an ongoing investigation involving suspected insider trading.”
You don’t need insider knowledge to spot that a four-player cooperative zombie-zapping FPS is ten years too late to stir great excitement (it’s, like, fine, says our Overkill’s The Walking Dead review) but you might have a better idea of quite how bad it’ll be for the company. And it may well be illegal.
Starbreeze shares hit 8.14 Swedish krona (about 71 pence) on November 6th, the day Overkill’s The Walking Dead launched, then began to tumble. On December 3rd, after Starbreeze filed for administration, shares reached their lowest point at 0.85 krona (7.5p). Selling in time would save one a whole lot of money.
“The company as such is not subject to any suspicion,” Starbreeze told GI.biz. “The company cooperates full with the Swedish Economic Crime Authority. The event does not affect the company or the ongoing business reconstruction.”
The Man say they’ve searched several houses too and, to be clear, it doesn’t seem Starbreeze itself is on the hook, only those specific people. Variety report that a Swedish site report that the outgoing CEO and finance manager are those who sold their stock, but at this point information is filtered through layers of translations and subscriptions and… I’m not sure how solid that detail is.
I hope Starbreeze survive this. They, and their subsidiaries like Overkill, have made some great games and interesting takes on the FPS. It’s weird that they wandered into VR hardware but they don’t deserve this. Their Chronicles Of Riddick games somehow made movie games good, Brothers was a delight, I still play Payday 2 a bit, and I’ll even stand up for Syndicate for its co-op.