A former developer from one of the most popular freemium mobile games Game of War was arrested on August 20th as he tried to board a plane headed for Beijing, China for allegedly carrying “trade secrets” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Federal documents obtained by the outlet have revealed that former manager at development company Machine Zone, Jing Zeng, 42, was arrested by FBI agents on Thursday as he tried to leave the country. The data in question didn’t contain source code but instead contained player information and statistics, such as how players were spending money in game. This information can be extremely valuable to other mobile development companies particularly following the success of Game of War. It was one of the top grossing apps of 2014, and this year following a successful run of adverts featuring model Kate Upton ad revenue was boosted to over $1 million per day.
“The data Mr. Zeng allegedly stole ‘provide valuable insight and a huge competitive advantage over other online game providers and competitors,'” according to the arrest documents. It is so far unclear what Zeng intended to do with the player data once he reached China.
Despite only joining to company as of November last year, it appears that Zeng has long been causing trouble. It was reported by the Wall Street Journal that Zeng became unhappy with his role at Machine Zone as early as spring of this year and asked to change his internal team but was denied. He was then asked to leave the development team and began downloading files “from a proprietary company database,”.
He apparently originally used this information as a bargaining method to increase his severance package. Allegedly Machine Zone was willing to give him a 3 month severance package while he wanted 6-7. He told the company conflicting information as to where the data was stored, either in China or San Ramon, and how many copies were in his possession. This is when Machine Zone contacted the FBI.
As the investigation continues it is still unclear how accurate these allegations are and we will update the story as it develops.
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