By Kim Tong-hyung
Korean computer game giant NCsoft continues to get kicked in the teeth by its most famous former employee, who keeps finding different ways to turn the company into his personal ATM.
A federal court jury in Texas just awarded $28 million to Richard Garriott, the iconic multimillionaire game developer and recent space tourist, in his lawsuit against NCsoft, which had him on its payroll from 2001 to 2008.
Garriott filed the suit in May last year, accusing NCsoft of fraud and breach of contract, claiming that his forceful departure from NCsoft cost him millions of dollars from effected stock options.
NCsoft contends that Garriott left the company voluntarily to catch his ride to the International Space Station. An NCsoft official in Seoul said the company plans to appeal.
``This was just the first trial, and it won’t be the last,’’ he said.
NCsoft had considered Garriott as a major asset when it hired him in 2001, hoping to benefit from his reputation built on immensely popular games like ``Ultima’’ as it looked to strengthen its positions in the lucrative North American and European gaming markets.
However, the marriage became increasingly ugly as the years went by, with NCsoft officials, frustrated by the slow progress on Garriott-led projects like the ``Tabula Rasa’’ role-playing game, began questioning Garriott’s work ethic. Tabular Rasa, which finally went live in 2008, proved a monumental bust, despite the seven years and 100 billion won ($84.4 million) invested in creating it.
In November that year, shortly after NCsoft pulled the plug on Tabula Rasa, Garriott announced he was leaving the company to pursue other interests. This was a month after he boarded a Russian spacecraft for his much-publicized space travel, which came with a $30 million ticket.
NCsoft had claimed Garriott had unloaded his options of about 400,000 shares in the company’s stock between February and August of 2008, which would have earned him more than 17.8 billion won.
However, in his suit, Garriott claimed he didn’t leave the company voluntarily and said he lost millions of dollars after being forced to sell his shares quickly. Garriott is seeking $47 million, not the $24 million that was originally reported.
``I am extremely pleased with the decision,’’ Garriott was quoted as saying in the American-Statesman.