Developer Frogwares claim that publisher Nacon “stole, hacked,” and altered The Sinking City and uploaded it to Steam without their permission.
We previously reported how The Sinking City had been pulled from major retailers including Steam due to a legal dispute with publisher Nacon. In an open letter, Frogwares accused Nacon of withholding royalties, presenting incomplete sales data, and misrepresenting The Sinking City intellectual property as belonging to Nacon among other allegations.
It was due to Nacon’s alleged mishandling of The Sinking City intellectual property, that Frogwares decided to remove the game from sale from some retailers.
They assured consumers that the game would still be available through retailers they directly work with; including Gamesplanet, Nintendo, and Origin. Nacon accused Frogwares of “seeking to discredit [them] in the eyes of the public and professionals alike,” and took legal action against them.
Nacon later released a statement, confirming The Sinking City had returned to the Xbox Store; and would return to Steam and the PlayStation Store later. At that time, the Steam store page for The Sinking City listed its release date as January 5th.
That statement came after the Paris Court of Appeal ruled in October 2020 that Frogwares had “terminated [its] contract in a ‘manifestly unlawful’ manner” when they removed the game from sale. The court stated the terms of the contract must be continued until after it had been decided if Nacon had breached it or not.
The game finally launched on February 26th on Steam, along with an announcement the game would be 60% off until March 5th. However, Frogwares soon tweeted that this was not their game. “Frogwares 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.”
Now Frogwares have released a statement and YouTube video discussing the matter; entitled “How Nacon Cracked and Pirated The Sinking City.” Our own Frank Streva notes the video also briefly appeared on the game’s Steam page as a news post, but was deleted.
Frogwares claim that Nacon “stole, hacked, changed the source code, and tried to cover up the reporting trail” to sell the game under their own name without consent.
Over the aforementioned trial, they claim Nacon have attempted to strong arm them into delivering a new master version of the game via their lawyers. This was denied by French courts twice, with the decision if Frogwares is obligated to do so still being judged.
Frogwares claim Nacon’s owner and CEO Alain Falc threatened them on December 28th, 2020. He allegedly wrote “You have 48 hours to upload a new Steam master otherwise we will use all solutions available within the law and the contract.”
After this 48 hour period, Nacon allegedly purchased The Sinking City from Gamesplanet (where only developer Frogwares is listed as the publisher), and uploaded it to Steam as though it were the Steam version of the game. Frogwares claim this is against the law and against their contract.
Frogwares discussed the matter with Steam, preventing the game from being formally released. This had allegedly also occurred previously in February 2020 with a version of the game from Utomik.
Nacon employees, who Frogwares claim they have identified, then allegedly modified the game files of the Gamesplanet version of The Sinking City, under orders of Falc. This included removing logos and mentions of Gamesplanet, removing adverts for Sherlock Holmes Chapter One (another Frogwares title) and the More Games menu option.
Frogwares also claim the Steam file uses the same folder names and structure, and the package size matched the smaller size thanks to compression for PC versions after Summer 2020. However, the executable is a different size with only a “similar” name.
To modify the game, Frogwares claim Nacoon must have used the secret key created by Frogwares, as all of the game’s content is archived with an Epic Unreal Engine encryption system. As such, Frogwares claim Nacon used skilled programmers.
“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. In order to achieve this goal, programmers with serious skills need to be involved. This is not DIY work by inexperienced people, this is done by programmers who know Unreal engine well.”
Nacon then somehow obtained the Encryption key, which Frogwares claim they know how and will be presenting in court. Nacon then allegedly altered the games config files and recompiled the game for their own release.
Frogwares then used their encryption key to open up the Steam version of the game, wherein the config file allegedly features references to Gamesplanet, and using the same filename for the Gamesplanet logo image (replacing it with the Nacon logo). The internet connectivity was also allegedly removed; something that would have triggered non intrusive security measures.
Frogwares claim the modification of both the config and executable files was so Nacon could hide their tracks; with the executable also lacking Frogwares digital signature; something Nacon could not falsify. The Steam achievements were also deleted.
The Gamesplanet version of the game is also the deluxe version of the game; featuring content developed after the game’s original release. Frogwares claim Nacon did not pay for this content, or negotiated; adding theft to the allegations, along with Nacon having no rights to commercialize the game.
Frogwares claim the Steam version of the game was uploaded by “filip.hautekeete”, who could be the same Filip Hautekeete that is the managing director of Neopica. Neopica was acquired by Nacon in October 2020, after collaborating on games for several years prior.
Frogwares state they have taken legal action to prevent this happening again, and that Falc faces up to 7 years in prison and a €750,000 EUR fine (plus damages) for violating French intellectual property law.
Nacon have released a statement via Steam (an earlier version archived here, mostly identical apart from formatting). Nacon emphasize that Frogwares had asked Nacon for financial assistance (over €10 million EUR) for development, along with marketing and promotion.
Nacon claims that after their assistance, 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.”
Regarding Frogwares’ claims- or “feedback” as Nacon put it- Nacon state that the game is “an official and complete version.” They claim the missing Steam features (cloud saves and achievements) are “due to a lack of cooperation with Frogwares.”
The Sinking City is currently available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and coming soon to PlayStation 4. it is also available on Windows PC (via Steam).