Unfortunately, developer Frogwares once again sits on the receiving end of a publishing deal gone wrong, resulting in the delisting of another title. This time, 2019’s The Sinking City is taking the blow. The title no longer appears available to purchase on PlayStation Store, Epic Games Store, Steam, and Xbox Live. Frogware’s breakdown of the matter suggests publisher Nacon, formally known as BigBen Interactive, is at fault for the situation due to a breach of contract. Apparently, it all began as soon as the two companies started collaborating.
According to Frogwares’ statement, the two have been engaged in a legal battle since The Sinking City’s release in June 2019. Because these details are part of ongoing court proceedings, they’re free for the public to peruse and no longer beholden to confidentiality agreements. The studio shared its statement in the following Twitter post and through a link to its website.
An important message from our studio:
The Sinking City has been taken off Steam and from other platforms. The reason for the take-down is due to the actions of our Distributor BBI/Nacon. Here is our full statement.
— Frogwares (@Frogwares) August 25, 2020
Frogwares inked a deal with BigBen/Nacon in 2017 as a licensing agreement for The Sinking City, which began production two years prior. The contract seems rather simple. BigBen/Nacon would assist development with financial support. In turn, Frogwares handed over rights for the title’s sell and commercialization on PS4, Steam, Xbox One, and later Epic Games Store. As with all of its projects, Frogwares would retain The Sinking City’s IP rights. The developer notes, “we signed the deal on those terms and we would receive part payments for each production milestone completed. Then a share of revenue starting at the first euro or dollar.”
Throughout production, Frogwares claims BigBen/Nacon failed to adhere to its end of the deal. Payments were often 40 days late, despite Frogwares achieving its agreed upon milestones. Consequently, the studio had to file several “formal notices” in an effort to receive money owed. The situation grew worse as time wore on.
During development, BigBen/Nacon acquired a team that was also developing a Lovecraftian title. The publisher wanted Frogwares to share its Sinking City source code, a request that Frogwares refused. Since the latter owns the game’s IP, they were in the right. Reportedly, BigBen/Nacon didn’t consider as much. In the following four months, the publisher stopped sending Frogwares financial support.
Still, the ordeal worsened. Frogwares claims it was left in the dark about various “business plans.” In asking for sales forecasts, for instance, the details they were given lacked consistency. Ultimately, this put the team in a difficult position, leaving it unsure of how to plan for the future. Suing BigBen/Nacon seemed the only option.
We filed a lawsuit against Bigben/Nacon on August 2019 and, incidentally, only then we started to receive income reports, though incomplete and undocumented. So it was not possible for us to see if the revenue was correctly calculated or even how many units we sold. At some point we received a statement claiming that one of the console manufacturers hasn’t paid royalties for more than 5 months, while actually the same console manufacturer paid our royalties from other games without any delay in the same period of time.
Frogwares further alleges BigBen/Nacon took part in several shady practices regarding the IP, which, again, is owned by the studio. Some PS4 and Xbox One game covers didn’t feature the Frogwares logo. Multiple domain names for The Sinking City and Sherlock Holmes games were purchased without the team’s knowledge. BigBen/Nacon even greenlit and “freely” distributed The Sinking City’s tabletop RPG without permission. The tabletop RPG also failed to house the correct copyright notice.
All in all, confusion mounted with regards to who owned what as far as platform holders were concerned. Thus, Frogwares decided to speak openly. While the crew continues working towards returning The Sinking City to all platforms, there are a few ways fans can pick up a copy. In its statement, Frogwares shared the following options: “For now, you can now buy a DRM free PC version of the game from our website here, or through the partners that we ourselves dealt with such as Origin here or Gamesplanet here, or on Nintendo Switch here.”
Given this situation and that which plagued a Sherlock Holmes entry last year, it’s no wonder Frogwares has opted to take the self-publishing route. Hopefully, The Sinking City drama also concludes with a happy ending for the studio.
[Source: Frogwares via Frogwares on Twitter]