Frogwares recently released a statement explaining some of the issues they’ve had with publisher Big Ben Interactive. This statement is focused on The Sinking City, which is an awesome-looking game set in the Lovecraftian universe.
Initially, everything was fine and dandy between Frogwares and Big Ben Interactive. The pair signed a contract that agreed that money would be paid out upon the developer hitting certain milestones. This is fairly standard, because it means that the developer doesn’t blow it all in one go, and that there’s serious progress seen throughout the lead up to launch.
Big Ben Interactive were awful at keeping their end of the bargain though. They regularly missed payments, forcing Frogwares to issue formal notices. The average number of days that a payment was late by was 40, but some were hundreds. Around the middle of the game’s development, Big Ben Interactive acquired a studio that were also working on a Lovecraftian game. They asked Frogwares for the source code to The Sinking City, to which Frogwares refused. The developer was, and still is, the IP owner, and had no obligation to turn over the source code. Obviously Big Ben Interactive had intentions of getting this other developer to make the game, and cutting ties with Frogwares.
From there, Big Ben Interactive barely communicated with Frogwares. When they did, it was to tell them that now that the game was out, they wouldn’t honour the missed milestone payments, and no profit sharing would be happening. This is too late in the day for a big change like that, considering that the contract was two years old. Frogwares pursued legal action, and somehow Big Ben Interactvie still thought they could get away with it.
Now Frogwares has finally got the contract terminated, so anything that Big Ben Interactive produces in The Sinking City universe is illegal without Frogwares’ permission. However, Frogwares has had to delist the game from everywhere but the Nintendo eShop, because that’s where they self-published it. This is a similar sounding situation to the one related to their Sherlock Holmes games. Many of those are back up, and I’m sure The Sinking City will be soon too.
I suggest you read the full statement here. It details actions that Big Ben Interactive took that were completely slimy, such as trying to get a pirate version of the game listed on a third-party platform. I have no idea what would lead a publisher to believe that they had the right to do such a think with a developer’s IP, but clearly they need to be made an example of. This situation could have killed not only The Sinking City, but also Frogwares. Hopefully we never see anything like this from Big Ben Interactive again.