The publication challenge surrounding The Sinking City has pretty much overshadowed any conversation about the game itself (which is fair Okay). Developer Frogwares and publisher Nacon have been involved in a very bad battle over, among other things, the distribution rights of the game. Last week, The Sinking City was launched on Steam only for Frogwares to implore gamers on. Twitter not to purchase this version of the game, which raises many questions as to why. Frogwares has since posted a lengthy blog post explaining that Nacon allegedly asked employees to “crack, hack and hack” a version of The Sinking City to be posted on Steam.
Buckle up because it’s a doozy. Steam was therefore one of the platforms on which Nacon was responsible for publishing The Sinking City, in accordance with the original agreement between it and Frogwares. However, once the relationship began to fall apart, Frogwares states that Nacon made several attempts to force the studio to provide a new main version of the game for Steam by claiming a contractual obligation. Nacon has taken this request to French courts twice (July 2020 and October 2020) and was rejected both times, and a final decision on the matter is currently pending. Frogwares also said that Nacon previously attempted to upload a pirated copy of the game to Steam at the end of December (following an ultimatum from Nacon CEO), but the studio was able to prevent it from selling.
This is why Frogwares was surprised to see The Sinking City hit Steam on February 26 as Nacon. This prompted Frogwares to dig; the company claims to have discovered evidence that this version was illegally modified by Nacon. Frogware blog post (and the accompanying video) gives exhausting details of how Nacon would have edited the in-game files to achieve this, such as swapping the menu and loading screen items to make it look like it was acted as the sole entity responsible for the game. In addition, the Steam version lacks achievements which, according to Frogwares, is due to file interference from Nacon and the publisher also hacked the Deluxe version of the game, which contains additional content that Nacon has not paid for or even discussed with Frogwares.
That’s a lot to unpack, and I encourage readers to read the Frogware article detailing its full investigation. The short version, however, is this: if Nacon did do this, it apparently did a poor job in covering its tracks, as Frogwares was not only able to trace the modified files back to their original sources, but also to responsible parties, even going so far as to name the culprits in question. Frogwares points out that neither Valve nor Gamesplanet are guilty of wrongdoing and were simply duped by Nacon. The studio is now focused on finding the best legal course of action, making sure to mention that violating intellectual property laws in France can result in seven years in prison and a € 750,000 fine.
Meanwhile, Nacon responded with a blog post on Steam denying the accusations and claiming that Frogwares is simply trying to revise the original contract to their advantage while adding that the game wouldn’t exist without it doing most of the heavy lifting in terms of funding and marketing. According to Nacon, “It’s easy to play the victim, but all we’re looking for is for Frogwares to honor its commitments both in the contract and as required by the courts.”
Nacon also blames the missing Steam features of The Sinking City on Frogwares, saying, “Regarding the comments on the release of Sinking City on Steam, this is an official and full version. However, due to a lack of cooperation with Frogwares, we are unable to integrate Steam specific features (cloud save / success). Thus, this version only contains the base game, without any additional content. Despite this, we have organized the release so that fans on Steam can enjoy the game. ”
So yeah, this fight doesn’t seem to be over anytime soon. If you have a dog in this race, figuring out which version of the game to buy that directly supports the business you want to partner with is a mess in itself. Frogwares recently posted The Sinking City on PS5 with visual improvements, but it will be interesting to see if and how the game appears elsewhere after this latest fiasco.