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Economic crime unit raids Funcom

Officers from Norway’s economic crime unit Økokrim were waiting at the doors when Funcom employees arrived at the company’s headquarters in Oslo on Wednesday morning. Witnesses reported police raided the offices, causing quite a stir in Oslo’s mostly residential area of Skøyen, but both Økokrim and the gaming developers remained tight-lipped on details.

Funcom invested huge amounts in its online multiplayer game The Secret World, but it wasn't as popular as expected. The company is being investigated by Norwegian economic crime police PHOTO: Funcom
Funcom invested huge amounts in its online multiplayer game The Secret World, but it wasn’t as popular as expected. The company is now being investigated by Norwegian economic crime police for breaching disclosure requirements during the game’s development. PHOTO: Funcom

Half-a-dozen Økokrim officers raided the offices and packed boxes of seized documents into a van, witnesses told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). Staff at Funcom, which created the successful game Age of Conan among others, left the building around midday, but refused to answer journalists’ questions. Økokrim would neither confirm nor deny that officers had searched the company. “The answer is that you just have to follow along,” said deputy crime chief Thomas Skjelbred.

On Wednesday afternoon Funcom confirmed it was charged with breaching disclosure requirements related to the game The Secret World from August 2011 until two months after the game’s release in July 2012. Økokrim is also investigating whether Funcom has failed its duty to keep accurate lists of those who had access to inside information over that period of time. “The company is cooperating fully with Økokrim,” said a Funcom statement.

Funcom went into a trading halt on the Oslo Stock Exchange (OSE) on Wednesday morning. Communications director Per Eikrem at OSE said trading halts usually tend to be short, but can sometimes last a couple of days. Eikrem said the Exchange is waiting on more information from the business. “It’s the company that has control over when the message comes,” he said. “It would be wrong of me to disclose anything, but I expect it will arrive today.”

Peaks and troughs
Funcom became hugely popular after creating multiplayer role-playing internet games, including The Longest Journey in 1999 and Dreamfall in 2006, but has struggled to replicate its early success. Its large investment in The Secret World two years ago wasn’t as popular as the company expected, and it had to cut half of its staff after weak sales. Funcom announced last year that its new focus was on developing Lego games.

Between the start of the year and January 7, Funcom shares surged 160 percent, then fell 21 percent. At the time, chief executive Ole H Schreiner had no explanation for the rollercoaster ride: “There’s no information we’ve come across recently which would indicate this increase, but obviously, it isn’t my job to speculate on this here.”

Schreiner told DN last autumn he hoped the company’s profits would improve, despite several years of falling revenues. “We want to start development of a new game as soon as possible,” he said. Woodgate



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