Update: The Sinking City has now been delisted from Steam once again, with Valve complying with a DMCA takedown request from Frogwares.
Valve VP of marketing Doug Lombardi issued a statement to VICE saying, “The Sinking City has been in dispute in French courts for a while. An interim decision last fall appeared to give Nacon the right to distribute the game on Steam while the litigation proceeded. However, today we received a DMCA take-down notice for the version that Nacon recently shipped, so we have responded to that notice.”
The original article follows.
The Sinking City developer Frogwares has claimed that their game, The Sinking City, has been illegally uploaded to Steam by the game’s publisher Nacon (formerly Bigben Interactive). “That’s not possible,” you might think, but Frogwares allege that the version of the game on Steam was downloaded from another storefront, cracked to remove DRM, and then listed on Valve’s digital storefront.
This is a continuation of a years-long battle between the developer and publisher, with Frogwares taking Nacon to court over late payments during development, the delisting of the game from digital storefronts in August 2020, and previous claims that Nacon had tried to distribute a cracked copy of The Sinking City via a game subscription service that was not a part of the game’s publishing agreement.
Frowares allege that this is the third time that Nacon has tried to sell an illegally sourced version of the game. In August 2020, the game was delisted from all platforms Nacon was licensed to distribute the game to – Steam, the Epic Games Store, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 – pending the legal dispute between the two companies going through the French courts.
In the meantime Frogwares, who retained full ownership of the IP, has continued to sell the game on the Nintendo eShop, where they self-publish, as well as through other storefronts on PC like GamesPlanet.
Nacon has tried to compel Frogwares to supply a new master version of the game for them to relist, once in July 2020 and in October 2020, but the decisions are pending the court trial. Even so, Nacon has persisted and Frogwares state that Nacon CEO Alain Falc warned on on 28th December that Frogwares had “48 hours to upload a new Steam master otherwise we will use all solutions available within the law and the contract.”
That solution, it seems, has been to purchase the game from GamesPlanet, decrypt it, replace logos and remove some main menu text, re-encrypt it and then publish this version of the game on Steam.
The Sinking City has since been review bombed on Steam by fans of the game siding with the developer, forcing Nacon to issue the following statement:
“We regret that Frogwares persists in disrupting the release of the Sinking City. It was Frogwares who came to Nacon to request financing for the development of the game, and to date, more than 10 million euros have been paid to Frogwares by Nacon. It was Frogwares that relied on our marketing and promotion teams, representing thousands of hours of work and several million euros worth of investment. Now that the game has been fully developed, and published, largely thanks to Nacon’s money and work, Frogwares would like to revise the terms of the contract to their sole advantage. It’s easy to play the victim, but all we seek is that Frogwares respect its commitments both in the contract and as demanded by the courts.”
It’s another messy situation that Frogwares has ended up in with a French publisher. In 2019, the studio’s many Sherlock Holmes games were delisted as they argued with former publisher Focus Home Interactive, and now we have a similar disagreement with Nacon.
Hopefully the issue can be resolved sooner rather than later by the courts, but it seems certain that this is a bridge that’s been well and truly burnt and leaves the future of this game in particular in doubt. Meanwhile, Frogwares is hard at work on Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One, a game that they are self-publishing. Funny that…