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- The Sinking City
The Sinking City controversy has been quietly brewing for the last several months, and now the game’s developer Frogwares has denounced the “unacceptable behavior” of the game’s publisher Nacon (formerly BigBen Interactive).
Recently, The Sinking City has been disappearing from online storefronts. SteamDB — a website that tracks the behind-the-scenes actions of Steam games — notes that the game was removed from the storefront a couple of months ago. While the game is still available for purchase on the Microsoft Store and the Nintendo eShop, the PlayStation Store listing and Epic Games Store listing have also been removed. Now, Frogwares has given its interpretation of why this is happening.
An open letter from Frogwares goes into great detail, alleging that Nacon has breached its contract with Frogwares by withholding royalty payments, registering domain names for its games without authorization, and creating a tabletop game without authorization (among many other issues).
“As some of you have noticed, The Sinking City has been taken down from Steam and many other notable stores,” the open letter began. “We have received multiple emails and messages on this issue. The reason is a bit complicated, yet at the same time, quite simple. Short version: We were forced to terminate the contract with our licensee for several breaches of our agreement.”
According to Frogwares’ account, it signed a contract with BigBen Interactive (later Nacon) two years after production of The Sinking City had begun. Frogwares gave the publisher the right to “sell and commercialize the game” on PS4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam and the Epic Games Store. Frogwares otherwise retained ownership of the intellectual property.
Frogwares then alleges that Nacon was “hundreds of hundreds of days behind in payments,” with each payment being 40 days later on average. Then, Frogwares alleges that Nacon demanded the source code for The Sinking City following Nacon’s purchase of a competing studio working on another Lovecraftian game — a demand that Frogwares refused as it was not required by the contract. Adding to the troubles was the creation of a tabletop game based on The Sinking City, also made without authorization per Frogwares’ claims.
Finally, tensions came to a head when Bigben allegedly canceled past milestones, refusing payment that Frogwares believes it was owed. Suffice it to say, Frogwares was not pleased with this development.
“A retroactive cancellation on not delivering a product on time that is already out in the market is not acceptable,” reads a portion of the open letter. “That was when our legal battle began.”
Frogwares then attempted to cancel the contract via a termination clause only to be met with another surprise stated in the open letter: Nacon refused to allow this to happen due to emergency laws enacted in France to protect businesses during the ongoing pandemic.
Since then, Frogwares says that a judge has rejected Nacon’s demand to halt the contract’s termination, restoring full control of The Sinking City to its developer. It should be returning to major storefronts soon — Frogwares says it has pulled some store listings to prevent any further sales by Nacon. For now, you can buy The Sinking City directly from Frogwares while it works to restore the game to other digital storefronts.