UPDATE (26/08): Nacon has issued an official statement refuting the claims set out by Frogwares in the story below. Nacon's official statement in full is as follows:
A dispute between NACON and FROGWARES over the interpretation of the “Sinking City” video game publishing agreement is pending before French courts. A decision is not expected for several months. However, FROGWARES thought it necessary to anticipate the upcoming ruling by issuing a press release on their website and Twitter feed, which reflects a personal and erroneous interpretation of the content of the agreement and the nature of this dispute. NACON emphatically rejects this open letter, the terms of which do not square with the facts. FROGWARES is seeking to discredit NACON in the eyes of the public and professionals alike (even going so far as disclosing confidential information!) and to jeopardise the distribution of “The Sinking City”, the development of which was principally funded by NACON. This behaviour, unworthy of any professional, is unacceptable and NACON intends to take legal action so as to get them convicted and obtain redress. NACON is confident about the outcome of the dispute, irrespective of the tricks used by FROGWARES to cause them harm.
We've reached out to Frogwares for comment on this statement. Original story follows below.
ORIGINAL STORY: Frogwares' investigative horror game The Sinking City has been removed from a number of digital storefronts, including Steam. According to Frogwares, this removal has to do with an ongoing contract dispute with publisher Nacon.
Why isn't The Sinking City on digital storefronts anymore?
In an open letter on its website, Frogwares says that it was "forced to terminate" a contract with publisher Nacon, formerly known as Bigben Interactive. Frogwares alleges several "breaches of our agreement" in the letter; the studio has been embroiled in a legal battle with Nacon since The Sinking City's release in 2019. The agreement between Frogwares and Nacon states that The Sinking City's intellectual property rights would belong to Frogwares, but the developer alleges several breaches of this part of the agreement.
An important message from our studio:— Frogwares (@Frogwares) August 25, 2020
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.
For clickable links visit: https://t.co/t7UDTVGA2z pic.twitter.com/rIUFGHkSkd
These breaches include incorrect copyright notices on box art, the Frogwares logo being removed from marketing materials, and - perhaps most alarmingly - a tabletop RPG based on the game which was apparently produced without Frogwares' knowledge or approval. Said RPG, according to Frogwares, bears an incorrect copyright notice. We have confirmed that Frogwares is the owner of The Sinking City's trademark.
In addition to intellectual property rights breaches, Frogwares also says that Nacon has been withholding royalties and other payments. The studio says it has "completely stopped" receiving royalties that are still owed, with an amount equal to roughly 1 million euros currently outstanding. Frogwares also says Nacon was "hundreds and hundreds of days behind" in paying the developer during production on The Sinking City, and that after refusing to give Nacon the source code for The Sinking City, the developer "stopped receiving financial contributions for over 4 months". As a result of various contract breaches, Frogwares says that its last resort was to immediately terminate its contract with Nacon and remove The Sinking City from storefronts "to at least halt any further sales going to Nacon".
How can you buy The Sinking City now?
Even though The Sinking City has been removed from Steam and other storefronts, it's still available for purchase. Frogwares says that you can buy a standalone DRM-free version of the game via its website. You can also still get it via Origin and Gamesplanet, as well as the Nintendo Switch eShop. If you already own The Sinking City, you can still redownload it; the game is no longer for sale on those storefronts, but it'll still appear in your library. In addition, Frogwares says it's "more than willing to have the game be present everywhere", and will inform players when The Sinking City is available via mainstream storefronts again on its social media channels.
You can keep up with Frogwares on Twitter and Facebook if you want to stay abreast of The Sinking City's resurfacing on Steam and other places. We've reached out to Nacon for further comment on this story and they have said it will be issuing a statement in the near future.
How do you feel about this dispute between Frogwares and Nacon / Bigben Interactive? Let us know in the comments below!