Mark Kern didn’t just quit WoW Classic: He accused his old Firefall studio of Chinese corruption

    
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Earlier this week, we reported that former World of Warcraft Team Lead Mark Kern had very publicly posted that he was quitting WoW over Blizzard’s handling of the still-festering Blitzchung incident in which the company banned and punished a Hearthstone pro player and two commentators for a pro-Hong Kong stunt during a post-match interview. He even posted a screenshot of his angry message to Blizzard as he was nuking his account.

But we didn’t report on the accusations that led up to Kern’s own Twitter stunt, which might actually be even more interesting for our particular genre than to others.

Let’s do a little backstory here on the highly controversial Mark Kern (“controversial” is his word, not ours). After leaving the Blizzard and World of Warcraft, which he repeatedly slammed, in 2006, Kern founded Red 5 Studios, which began building the MMO Firefall. He was then forcibly removed from Red 5 in 2013 (he contested that) following layoffs and the suspension of PvP in Firefall, as employees called his behavior as CEO “erratic” and “destructive” and mocked his infamously terrible e-sports bus project. He also founded and raised seed money for a now-dead VR MMO and became embroiled in you-know-what in 2014. In 2016, he tried to make himself the symbol of the Nostalrius WoW emu drama, insisting on hand-delivering a player WoW vanilla petition to Blizzard. He then resurfaced to volunteer to buy Firefall after insulting the game that launched after he was booted (to be fair, it was a mess – at one point Red 5’s Chinese owner The9 traded part of the studio to a Cayman Islands cashmere manufacturer whose stock immediately crashed). In the last couple of years, Kern has been hawking a crowdfundedspiritual successor” to Firefall called Em-8er, whose first movement demo apparently became live in June (and yeah, they’re still planning a Kickstarter on top of the Indiegogos and Patreon).

So let’s get back to this week’s Twitter thread, where Kern explains why he’s boycotting Blizzard, a company he used to work for. He points out he has personal experience here; he was born in Taiwan, lived in Hong Kong, and is ethnically Chinese. He claims that China has poured free money into local game companies that in turn have corrupted western companies by pouring that money into them too. He’s not just speaking generally; he outright accuses Red 5 of this corruption, claiming that he was booted from the company for refusing a kickback bribe and that China “planted press stories” to shade him.

“I’ve seen firsthand the corruption of Chinese gaming companies, and I was removed from a company I founded (after Blizzard) for refusing to take a 2 million dollar kickback bribe to take an investment from China. This is the first time I’ve ever spoken [publicly] about it. I’ve also seen how American company reps in China have been offered similar bribes to get licenses for large AAA titles. Not everyone refused like I did. Chinese companies tried to ruin my career with planted press stories. Money is often paid for favorable press in China and some of that money flows here to the US as well. Unfortunately, money talks. China has succeeded in infiltrating all levels of tech, gaming and more.”

But Chinese company The9 acquired its majority stake in Red 5 Studios in 2010. “We are very excited to welcome The9 as our key investor and to announce that they are making a commitment to us with the equity infusion,” Mark Kern wrote at the time. He was not dismissed until 2013. It is not entirely clear why a bribe would even be necessary for further investment from China since the company was already controlled by a Chinese company, so we can only assume there’s a lot more that hasn’t been said here.

Red 5 Studios, in any case, doesn’t actually appear to exist anymore. In 2016, The9 apparently laid off nearly everyone on the team. Firefall itself was sunsetted in 2017 after months of limbo.

Kern has a ton of fans on Twitter, but Reddit seems less impressed. Kern’s pinned tweet, from October 9th, advertises his new game.

Source: Twitter via Business Insider, Reddit. Thanks Armsbend!

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starbuck1771

Sounds like Mark was taking Chinese money too. Now he’s trying to cover his tracks.

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3dom

> a kickback bribe

It’s a common business method in post-communist countries. “You said it cost $10? How bout we give you $100 and you transfer $50 back to our personal accounts?” – this never gets old with uncontrollable money flow from omni-corrupted regimes such as Chinese and Russian (the latter is being financed by nearly 80% of its budget by Germans btw)

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Bro Tato

It bothers me to see so many jump on the bashwagon so quickly without much information. Firefall is dead,Red5 is dead. There is only 1 person attributed to both of those that exists in the public and can personally confirm or deny any claim. It’s Mark Kern. He answers his Twitter and DMs. The faceless anonymous person who gave everyone their amazingly convenient “I’m right, he sucks” fodder might not even exist.
We know that Mark Kern has a temper, but when he goes on a tweet storm, he says stuff he probably shouldn’t. Like NDA stuff that he signed away to prevent making his old company and bosses from looking bad. That’s the most likely reason why people don’t hire him. He will just slag you if you screw with him or the game. He’s the most real game dev/CEO you will ever get. Pay attention and you might get some insight into the shady business deals of companies willing to bend over backwards to screw you and your dog over for a couple of bucks.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

Um, no. Mark Kern must be off his medication again.

Mark Kern was removed for acting like a raging psycho, constantly changing directions of the project, spending huge swaths of money on side projects, videos, broken down busses you couldn’t even drive, etc. He’d show up in the office after not being there for a long time, scream at everybody, throw out everything he had them doing for the past number of months and say they needed to go in a new direction. He did this multiple times over.

How convenient that he is trying to insert himself into the current drama and gaming political shift. “Oh no wait guys, I was really fired for not taking a Chinese bribe! That’s it! Get behind me, I stood up to the Chinese back then but just didn’t say it until now! Honest!”

I’m surprised he didn’t also say “They fired me for that and also because I stood up for the women in the office! Yeah that too!”

If you try to call him out on it he’ll just block you :P

His current game, Em-8er, he is trying constantly to sell skins for the game that doesn’t exist yet. He is thinking if selling ships all these years has got Star Citizen so much money, that he can do the same thing. He doesn’t even have the skins in game, he’ll show us drawn concept drawings of the skins and sell them to people (and a lot of people are actually buying them).

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rafael12104

Hmm. That is what I don’t understand. Why do people follow him?

Hey, to each their own, right? But is it not obvious by his track record that this guy is not worth your money?

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Bruno Brito

Kern inserts himself in anything that brings him into relevance, because other than a famous Vanilla WoW designer, he’s just a raving lunatic.

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kgptzac

I just learned about Mark Kern’s change.org petition, and wow that was such a poorly written petition. This dude seems to think it’s irrelevant to speak in details and all he has to do is to bark louder.

I’d like to see what he thinks is the “planted stories”, and whether there’s falsehood in those stories.

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Castagere Shaikura

I don’t have any AAA companies’ games on my PC anymore. Not for a long time now and I thought it would be hard to do but it wasn’t. It just makes me feel better.

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rafael12104

You know, I’ve been on a Beattlejuice craze these last couple of weeks. I watched the old movie with my nieces and they loved it so much it is an ongoing meme between us. So, my brain might be oatmeal at the moment, but Kern is the freaking Beattlejuice of MMOs, isn’t he?

All that is required is someone saying Blizz Sucks three times in a public forum and his visage rises from the ground with a new, but at the same time old, parlor trick.

It is funny though. I was thinking this morning as I was drinking my morning cup of joe (that’s coffee for you non-Muricans) nothing more could be added to the beauty of Blizz’s latest debacle when I came across Mark’s response. I literally laughed out loud. He is truly the “ghostest with the mostest”. The man has become a meme onto himself.

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cursedseishi

I would say many things about Kern, and I would say many things about Beetlejuice…

But I would never insult Beetlejuice by comparing him to Kern. Kern’s a goddang Sandworm. Nobody likes them, they burrow into everything and they have a bad habit of trying to eat and bite onto things better than themselves.

Techno Wizard
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Techno Wizard

I’ll stick to non-Blizz MMO’s I guess? It’s sort of a protest.

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Utakata

Thanks for making Azeroth great again by leaving it, Mark? o.O

Alyn
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Alyn

This sums Mr Kern up for me-
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Jim Bergevin Jr

Soooooo .. a Derek Smart wannabe?

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Castagere Shaikura

Sorry, but I don’t think Smart is as bad as Kern now.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

Oh definitely not. I’ve always enjoyed Derek’s antics ever since the Flame War Follies days. I think people dismiss him a bit too readily than he deserves.