Developer Frogwares has taken its Lovecraftian title The Sinking City down from Steam and other platforms.
This is after 11 months of dealing with “breaches [of the licence agreements], ongoing hurdles and an unwillingness to cooperate” on the part of the game’s publisher Nacon (formely BigBen Interactive), Frogwares marketing manager Sergey Oganesyan explains.
In an open letter, Oganesyan explains that in 2017, the studio signed The Sinking City contract as a licensing agreement with BigBen/Nacon. “In exchange for a financial contribution to the development, we gave them the right to sell and commercialize the game on 4 platforms – Xbox One, PS4, Steam and later, Epic Games Store.” The IP remained with Frogwares, which has always been the only producer and owner of all its games, including The Sinking City.
Frogwares alleges numerous breaches of that agreement by Nacon that are chronicled as follows:
- While production milestones were always on time and approved by Nacon, the licensee delayed each payment by 40 days on average.
- After Nacon bought a competing studio working on another Lovecraftian title, they requested that Frogwares give them our source code for The Sinking City. When the studio refused, the publisher halted financial contributions for over 4 months.
- Nacon failed to provide adequate and consistent sales forecasts, undermining the opportunity to plan properly.
- The Sinking City came out on June 27, 2019, on Xbox One, PS4, and Epic Games Store. Nacon notified the studio that the milestones that it previously approved are being retroactively cancelled, meaning that the developer would not receive any profit from the sales of the game. The studio sued the publisher.
- Following the lawsuit, Nacon started sending income reports, “though incomplete and undocumented.” The devs were kept in the dark on how many units were sold.
- Nacon created the perception that it owned The Sinking City IP. “Frogwares logo was removed from some of the PS4 and Xbox One game’s cover and other marketing materials and we only were mentioned on the reverse side with the technical partners, again, creating a perception that we were neither the authors, nor the owners of the game.” Nacon also bought multiple domain names for Sherlock Holmes and The Sinking City franchises without notifying the studio. The publisher even launched tabletop The Sinking City RPG without informing the devs. The game featured the wrong copyright notice.
- When launching Nacon on the public market, the official stock market prospectus suggested that the intellectual property of The Sinking City was owned by Nacon.
- Following a lengthy legal battle, the studio decided to terminate the contract on April 20th, 2020.
- However, Nacon said the contract could not be terminated due to the emergency laws in France, aimed to protect businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, according to Frogwares, the contract is legally terminated even without Nacon’s formally acknowledging it. This is due to failure by Nacon to fulfill its obligations and the Force Majeure clause of the contract.
According to Oganesyan, Nacon owes the studio around 1 million euros in unpaid royalties that it’s continuing to collect from stores and platforms that believe it is Nacon that owns the IP.
To stop that, Frogwares decided to delist The Sinking City from a number of stores. Until it is restored on those, the title remains available to buy from the studio’s website or through Origin, Gamesplanet, and Nintendo eShop.