The Sinking City developer Frogwares has publicly accused former publisher Nacon of pirating the Lovecraftian adventure game for its recent re-release on Steam, the arrival of which put the Ukrainian studio in the weird position of asking potential customers not to purchase its own game last week.
UPDATE 8:30pm - Valve has told Vice that the game was removed from Steam earlier today at the request of developers Frogwares, who issued a DMCA takedown notice against publisher Nacon which Valve “responded to”. Original story follows.
On February 26, following the game’s sudden appearance on Steam, Frogwares tweeted that “we do not recommend the purchase” of The Sinking City, promising more information to come. Nacon responded to that tweet yesterday morning, writing on Steam that Frogwares was trying to “revise the terms of the contract to their sole advantage” and calling the re-release “official and complete.”
In a post it put up yesterday afternoon, Frogwares further detailed the situation, writing, “[T]o our great surprise, we found a new version of The Sinking City was uploaded to Steam and launched, but Frogwares didn’t deliver such a version… Nacon, under the management of its president Alain Falc, asked some of their employees to crack, hack and pirate our game, change its content in order to commercialize it under their own name, and this is how they did it.”
Kotaku contacted Nacon about these allegations, but didn’t hear back before publication.
The game developer’s post goes on to share a variety of information that, Frogwares writes, is evidence proving the French publisher bought The Sinking City from a separate platform and altered the game’s data to hide its tracks. This included replacing online retailer Gamesplanet’s logo in the opening credits and loading screen as well as removing a dynamic “Play More” option from the main menu that pointed players towards Frogwares’ other games and acted as a non-intrusive security measure by connecting to external servers.
“We believe Nacon did this to hide the fraudulent exploitation of the game on Steam but also on other portals which they may be planning to send the game to,” Frogwares’ explanation continues. “Nacon wants Frogwares or anyone, including the French Justice, to never know the true scope of their exploitation of the game.”
This is just the latest skirmish in a contentious relationship between the developer and its former publisher. In August 2020, Frogwares pulled The Sinking City from several digital storefronts, claiming that Nacon hadn’t paid the appropriate royalties—amounting to €1 million EUR, or around $1.2 million USD—since the game’s June 2019 release. Earlier this year, Nacon announced its intentions to re-release The Sinking City on PlayStation, Xbox, and Steam after a court ruling upheld its publishing contact with Frogwares.
Since then, Frogwares alleges, Nacon has repeatedly tried to pass off illicit copies of The Sinking City as legitimate, using the same tactics detailed in Frogwares’ blog post. While previous attempts were thwarted, the February 26 re-release appears to have passed Steam’s muster, as it remains live today. Frogwares further claims that Nacon is illegally using content from the game’s deluxe edition (post-release expansions presumably weren’t included in the publishing contract) and even enlisted Nacon subsidiary studio Neopica in the conspiracy.
“Nacon decided to steal and pirate our game and they did so while leaving giant digital footprints,” Frogwares’ statement concludes. “Nacon has proved they are willing to do anything possible to serve their interest, including illegal actions. They ignored the decision of the Justice and bypassed them, pirating The Sinking City in order to deceive their partners.”
Frogwares wrote, “We have to take the measure of what happened now and follow the best path on the legal side to prevent anything like this happening again. The owner of Nacon, Alain Falc will have to face the legal consequences of the decision of pirating and stealing [Frogwares’] property.” The post concludes, “We have full trust in the Justice to see these actions considered as they should.”
UPDATE 8:46pm - The story’s headline has been updated to reflect new developments.