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Game Devs Accuse Publisher Of Exploiting Their Identity For Diversity Funding, Then Never Seeing A Dime

The Coffee Talk team was forced to delay new slice-of-life game A Space For The Unbound after cutting ties with the UK-based publisher

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A pixel art boy confronts a large monster.
Screenshot: Mojiken

On August 24, the Indonesian developers at indie game studios Toge Productions and Mojiken Studio announced that their new point-and-click adventure game A Space For The Unbound is indefinitely delayed following their contract termination with publisher PQube Games. The developers were moved to terminate their contract with the London-based Gal Gun publisher, which would have handled console publishing in “western regions,” after feeling “manipulated and exploited” at its use of an unnamed diversity fund.

“At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in August 2020, PQube Games used our position and heritage as developers from Indonesia to obtain a diversity fund from a well known console platform,” the developers write in a PR email that was also posted in full on Twitter. “However, instead of giving those funds to the developers as the grant was intended, PQube Games intentionally withheld information about the grant and used it as a leverage for their own commercial gain.”

“Rather than paying the grant money to us,” the developers continued, “PQube Games hid the facts about the grant’s award and added it as a recoupable minimum guarantee and then used it to negotiate the increase of their revenue share.”

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Kotaku reached out to Toge Productions and Mojiken Studio for comment. In their PR joint statement, the developers say that PQube Games “is refusing” to grant them control over console publishing again, and so A Space For The Unbound’s delay comes from the team’s desire to “make new arrangements and ensure that it is published as intended and in a way that is consistent with our and our community’s values.”

According to PQube, whose PR team responded to my request for comment over email, the publisher has honored “all obligations of our publishing agreement and have supported Toge Productions at every stage of product development throughout their delays and difficulties.

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“This support has included offering significant further funding, over and above grant funding, to support development, porting, and marketing. Toge Productions have sought for some time to unilaterally enforce unreasonable revised terms to our agreement, and it is disappointing that, as a result of not achieving that and despite PQube’s significant efforts to accommodate this, they have sought to deal with the matter in this way. We will respond through the appropriate channels.”

PQube did not clarify the status of the diversity funds or elaborate on Toge Productions’ “unreasonable revised terms” in time for publication.

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The developers ask that frustrated would-be A Space For The Unbound players not boycott or review bomb PQube as “doing so will affect the developers who created the game and have nothing to do with our situation with A Space For The Unbound.” The warning doesn’t seem to have been precipitated by anything (major PQube titles seem to have their Steam and Google reviews intact, at least).

Despite its delay, A Space For The Unbound has a downloadable demo up now on Steam. The game, which “tells a story about overcoming anxiety, depression, and the relationship between a boy and a girl with supernatural powers,” says its Steam description, is also featured in booths in person and online as part of the Gamescom 2022 indie games exhibition.