UPDATE: Nacon have issued a statement to MCV/DEVELOP regarding their side of this ongoing situation.
“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.”
The Sinking City, an action-adventure title from developer Frogwares, has been pulled from a number of storefronts, including Steam, GOG, Epic, and the PS Store.
This is a result of an ongoing legal dispute between Frogwares and BigBen Interactive/Nacon, the licensee holder. Frogwares addressed the situation in an open letter, detailing the legal dispute, which has been ongoing since the game’s release on June 27, 2019.
“In 2017 we signed The Sinking City contract as a licensing agreement with BigBen/Nacon,” reads the open letter, “2 years after the start of production. 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 intellectual property would still belong to Frogwares, which has always been the only producer and owner of its games, including The Sinking City.”
However, Frogwares lists a number of claims against Big Ben Interactive/Nacon, accusing them of not paying royalties, demanding the studio turns over the game’s source code to a competing studio, and misleading marketing suggesting Big Ben Interactive/Nacon was the game’s developer.
“On June 27, 2019, The Sinking City was released on Xbox One, PS4, and Epic Games Store. That was a great day for us. And once the game was released, we received a letter from Bigben/Nacon that the milestones that were previously approved are being canceled, meaning that we would not receive any profit from the sales of the game. A retroactive cancellation on not delivering a product on time that is already out in the market is not acceptable. That was when our legal battle began.
“Furthermore, we were surprised to find that copyright notices on box covers and storefront pages were legally incorrect, creating a perception that it was not Frogwares which was the owner of the IP.
“Our 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.”
The studio claims that domain names for Sherlock Holmes and The Sinking City brands were bought by BigBen/Nacon without Frogwares’ knowledge, a tabletop The Sinking City RPG was created without the company’s consent and the official stock market prospectus for Nacon suggested that The Sinking City was owned by Bigben/Nacon.
After attempting to solve these issues for 11 months, Frogwares terminated their contract on April 20th, 2020. However BigBen/Nacon claimed that the contract could not be terminated, citing emergency laws in France designed to protect businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, although Frogwares claims the company still refused to uphold its commitments to the developer.
“The “Emergency Laws explanation” actually triggers the Force Majeure article of our own contract, entitling us to terminate the agreement in case the parties could not minimize the effects of an Event of Force Majeure on this agreement for a period of 60 days.
“The agreement is, therefore, terminated without further formality. Moreover, on July 17, 2020, Nacon attempted to oppose the termination in court, but the judge rejected the demand, and the contract is now terminated in the eyes of the law. ”
Despite the termination of the contract, Frogwares claims that BigBen Interactive/Nacon have created the impression that they own The Sinking City IP, causing confusion among partners when Frogwares attempted to regain full control of the game.
Therefore, Frogwares requested the game be removed from storefronts in order to prevent any further sales going to BigBen Interactive/Nacon.
The game is currently available via Frogwares’ website, as well as on Origin, Gamesplanet and on the Nintendo Switch.