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Irish developer Frogwares, creator of The Sinking City, did not mince words when it told the world how it felt about the game’s former publisher Nacon (previously known as Big Ben Interactive) last week.

After the game reappeared on the Steam store without Frogwares knowledge, the company responded via Twitter saying it “has not created the version of @thesinkingcity that is today on sale on @Steam. We do not recommend the purchase of this version. More news soon.”

A few days later, on March 1, in a lengthy blog post, Frogwares alleged that Nacon purchased the game from a third-party vendor, then tapped a veteran programmer who joined the firm in a recent acquisition to rewire the game from the inside, with the new version then becoming the one appearing on Steam that Frogwares begged fans not to purchase.

It’s a fascinating read, a tale of treachery and tech that sounds like it belongs in an episode of Black Mirror and it seems neither side is willing to budge on their position. After the new Steam listing was removed by Valve, Nacon produced a lengthy statement of its own where it affirmed it is “contractually the sole exclusive distributor of The Sinking City game on Steam,” while stoking the now-public fire and deriding Frogwares’ accusations.

“In the past, Frogwares has improperly relied on accusations regarding a lack of payment to refuse delivery of the game on Steam, at which point they tried to unsuccessfully terminate the contract,” Nacon said. “The Paris Court of Appeal deemed this action ‘manifestly unlawful’; ordering the continuation of the contract and encouraging FROGWARES to refrain “from any action which would impede such continuation.”

The statement also responded to Frogwares’s tweet asking players not to buy the game, saying, “By encouraging the gaming community via Twitter not to buy the game on Steam, Frogwares is once again sabotaging our investments in the game.”

When asked about the situation, Frogwares CEO Wael Amr tells VENN: “We were forced to react quickly on all [sic] this. Certain points of our dispute are already public, and so sitting quietly while Nacon uploaded a cracked version of our work and our IP, along with content they have absolutely no rights to was not something we were going to allow.”

Frogwares was tipped off to the newest issue, according to Amr, via Steam store data the company still had access to, but according to them this isn’t the first time Nacon has tried this. The blog post cites a previous attempt by Nacon in December 2020 to distribute the game without Frogwares’ consent on Steam, as well as an even earlier attempt to use another distribution platform called Utomik.

“We never prepared a version for [Utomik] and our contract at no point says Nacon has the right to publish a separate version with Utomik,” Amr says. “However, the company also acknowledges Utomik’s innocence in the matter, with the rep being sure to clarify,” Amr says. “This is something we think Utomik was not aware of so we don’t put any of the blame on them.”

Amr does acknowledge the legal decision that went in favor of Nacon per the company’s official release, but also declared further action from Nacon rendered that decision moot. “An initial court ruling said we were in our rights to terminate, but an appeals court said we need to continue the contract as per usual until a trial court could see all the evidence,” he says. “Actions like cracking our software and using DLC Nacon has zero rights too is of course not something the contract allows, hence why we spoke out about this publicly.”

So what caused the relationship between Frogwares and Nacon to sour to this extent? Amr points to many different instances, including some that were also made available in a blog post, as reasons for the falling out.

“Nacon admitting publicly to pirating our game is just the latest occurrence in a long list of troubles,” Amr says. “Throughout production and then after release, we felt that Nacon was failing to deliver on multiple contractual responsibilities. We eventually had enough and when we felt we had sufficient evidence to support terminating the contract and pulling our games from digital stores, we did.”

Photo courtesy of Frogwares