Nacon Fires Back At The Sinking City Dev Over Game's Sale On Steam

The Sinking City developer Frogwares is involved in an ongoing dispute with publisher Nacon, and it just got uglier.

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Update: Nacon has fired back at Frogwares in a statement of its own, saying it had contributed financially to the development of the game and that thus far, court decisions between Frogwares and Nacon have been favorable to the latter company.

Original story follows ...

After asking players not to buy a version of Lovecraftian horror game The Sinking City that appeared on Steam last week, developer Frogwares has now posted a blog explaining that the Steam upload is a hacked version of the game allegedly stolen by publisher Nacon. The game was originally delisted from Steam in an ongoing dispute between the developer and their contracted publisher on The Sinking City.

As reported by Vice, the studio published an extensive blog post titled "How Nacon Cracked and Pirated The Sinking City," which calls the Steam re-release "corporate bullying, and incompetent hacking, at its finest."

The blog post details how "Alain Falc, Nacon owner and CEO, warned us on December 28th 2020 in writing that 'you have 48 hours to upload a new Steam master otherwise we will use all solutions available within the law and the contract.'" The post alleges that after the 48 hours was up, Nacon acquired a version of the game from DRM-free marketplace Gamesplanet in order to upload it onto Steam.

The post details how the version of The Sinking City that appeared on Steam was different to any version Frogwares had previously released. It says that the Nacon logo was inserted into the game to replace the Gamesplanet logo, while the Gamesplanet logo was also removed from a loading screen. The Steam upload had also removed menu links to Frogwares' other games, and an ad for its Sherlock Holmes Chapter One game.

The studio says that when it investigated the Steam game's files, the structure and organization was identical to Frogwares', and the package size was similar to versions released after summer 2020.

"In order to make changes Nacon had only one way: to decompile or hack the game using a secret key created by Frogwares since the totality of the game’s content is archived with an Epic Unreal Engine encryption system," the blog post concludes from this evidence. "To be clear this is hacking and when hacking has the purpose to steal a product and make money with it, it’s called piracy or counterfeiting."

The studio says that it's aware of how Nacon acquired the game's encryption key, and is planning on submitting that information to the court. It also says whoever modified the game simply used the same key to re-encrypt it, meaning Frogwares could check exactly how the Steam version had been modified.

Further to this, Frogwares alleges that Nacon acquired the Deluxe version of the game, which includes content that was produced outside of its contract with the publisher.

In the initial dispute, developer Frogwares accused publishers Nacon and Bigben Interactive of withholding royalties and various contract breaches, including an incident where the publishers demanded the source code for the game. Nacon has disputed this version of events, and has also accused Frogwares of breach of contract.

The contract between Frogwares and Nacon and Bigben covers distribution on the PS4, Xbox One, and PC via Epic Games Store and Steam. Frogwares is still selling self-published versions of the game for PS5 and PC via Gamesplanet, platforms which aren't covered under the disputed contract.

The publisher has since published a statement on Steam disputing the accusations in Frogwares' blog post. It reads:

"For the release of The Sinking City on Steam, published by Nacon, Frogwares posted on Twitter urging players not to buy it. 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."

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