Dangen Entertainment CEO Ben Judd Resigns as More Allegations Surface

A new batch of allegations have been presented against Dangen Entertainment, with Ben Judd (CEO, founder) and Nayan Ramachandran (co-founder, content) stepping down in its wake.

For those who missed our thorough coverage of the allegations made against Dangen, an anonymous individual published many allegations against the publisher. Dangen later responded by denying most of the claims, while also making their own claims.

On December 8th, the author has made another Medium post [1, 2*] (now deleted, along with their account), making more allegations against Dangen, alongside their co-founder and CEO Ben Judd resigning, with other key staff shuffling around.

We have analyzed the 18,000 word post, but as Dangen have not attempted to refute these claims, we will be summarizing more. However, we will point out if there are contradictions or errors that we can prove (via the indented bullet points).

Editor’s Note: Even in the oldest archived version of the post that we can obtain, images near the end of the document are corrupted. 

The following is a complete recap and breakdown of all the allegations from both parties, with our own analysis of each. The newest post claims:

Judd Refusing to Use Slack Archive to their Advantage

  • Judd “vehemently” refused to use Discord, preferring Slack. Under the free plan, Slack does not have archiving, while Discord does. Judd and Dangen allegedly took advantage of this. “By the time we [Fight Knight developers] wanted to bring up an issue, the record of it was lost to us, and Ben and Dangen would often use this to obfuscate or change the understanding of what had occurred.” 
    • Despite this claim, the author later makes reference to the company’s Slack archives costing $9.60 a month. No clarification is made as to whether this was a later addition.

Ramachandran Lied via Shifting Blame onto Other Forces

  • Ramachandran and others often backed up demands the author felt were unreasonable by citing Japanese law (“Japan makes us do this”) or claiming it was a request by the console manufacturer (“a contact at Nintendo”). In one instance Ramachandran claimed a bugfix patch would take a month to be approved by Nintendo.
  • When the author challenged this (as YIIK had implemented a day 1 patch a few months prior), Ramachandran “within mere minutes” claimed his Nintendo contact had just contacted him to let him know a quicker method of approval. Similar occurred when the request for Japanese Nintendo Switch port royalties were requested. “Nayan would instantly have exactly the answer we knew to be missing all along, but only if pressed, and always with some bizarre story about how it “suddenly” was known to him.”

Dangen Staff Ignored Fight Knight & Devil Engine, Promptly Helped Newer Developers. 

  • Dangen staff would allegedly ignore the Fight Knight, Devil Engine, and an unnamed third development team on Slack, while “responding promptly to newer developers.
    • How the author would know this is unknown, unless one of the development teams was considered “newer”, or they had discussed the matter with a newer development team.

Dangen Staff Used Private Messages to Avoid Scrutiny

  • Dangen staff “began pointedly using private messages to developers instead of the group development chats to avoid my scrutiny.” 
    • A publisher wishing to discuss some matters privately hardly seems suspicious, even with the allegations made against them.

Dangen Buys Slack Archives and Kicks Fight Knight Devil Engine Developers from Slack

  • After the first Medium post was published, the author claims that on December 1st, Dangen bought the Slack archives, and “immediately kicked all members of the FK and DE team out of the group channels, cutting our access off from the records and proof of the various miscommunications I remember to have occurred.”
  • Though the author later states “they did not kick us from the Slack workspace entirely.” The author suspects “suspect they were worried they wouldn’t have access to our private messages if they did this.” Slack did begin to allow this in 2018. This allegedly gave the author enough time to save “the complete record” of conversations with Judd and “anybody else” she had private messages with. Nonetheless, “by the end of the day, all members of the FK and DE teams were kicked from the Dangen Entertainment Slack workspace as a whole.”
    • If Dangen were refusing any further work with those developers, it seems strange that they would not end all work with them entirely- removing their publishing rights from the games, and removing the games from their website. As of this time of writing (albeit, after Dangen’s apology), we see both games are still on their website.
    • In addition, the author’s involvement with the third unknown project is not mentioned. Why would they kick both of those teams, but not also the third project the author was involved with? While no incidents involving the third anonymous team were discussed, if they were afraid the author was archiving messages and turning development teams against them, why not the third?
    • If they wished to copy down some private messages prior to kicking everyone off- why not do that prior to removing any access privileges? Swiftly removing everyone in one fell swoop after getting what you need would seem like a more logical action than risking angry private messages, and exactly what the author allegedly did. There is no accounting for acting in haste or human error however, and Dangen staff may have “partially” kicked the group, before realizing it had not been fully done.
    • Finally, to our best knowledge of our own use of Slack (albeit, the free one), a person cannot be “partially” kicked from a workspace. You are either part of the workspace or not. You seem to be still able to send private messages to former members of a workspace.

Devil Engine Developer’s “Toxic” Behavior was Justified, Suffers from Autism

  • The author defends the Devil Engine developer’s abrasive language (which the Dangen medium post called “toxic“), and use of the word retard when explaining their frustrations with Dangen’s alleged lack of royalty payments. “I may be medically considered retarded, but I’m not stupid.” 
  • The author then claims the developer has “many mental and physical disabilities,” including autism and dyslexia. The former was explained to Judd, and that it could result in the developer coming across as blunt.
  • After multiple alleged royalty payment delays, Judd reached out to the developer for a face-to-face meeting at TGS. The developer sent a copy of this alleged message to the author (below).

“The company is hundreds of thousands of dollars in the red because it took almost all of our indie devs over a year plus longer than they expected to release their games and we had nothing to sell but had to keep paying people. It should be noted you are about the only dev who has come in on time so I certainly appreciate that point.

[…] I don’t know a lot about your condition but I assume you do have empathy. Thinks[sic] about how it would feel to work very hard and then have the person you are trying to please call you bad names and then publicly disparage you on social media.”

  • After the developer’s reply to this message (“Your company’s shit, your workers are incompetent, and I’m pretty damn sure you being stingy with money is trying to illegally further skim off the top of my hard work without letting me see the fruits of it. […] So basically [sic] go fuck yourself”), this is when Judd allegedly requested only yes and no responses. A screencap was provided of Judd requesting this.
  • The author continues, defending her and the developer’s comments regarding “bullying them in public”. ” “Bully” in this context basically just means “ask” or “talk to”. We rarely ever use it to mean a sincere incitement for harassment.” Two other screenshots of the developer and another using “bully” in that context were included.
    • While bully can be short-hand for a repeated offensive action in some contexts (competitive sports, a synonym for brow-beating, a repeated request do something, etc.), even in context the developer and writer are discussing repeatedly drawing attention to something that would cast Dangen in a negative light (accusations of not getting paid). If false, this would be slander and still a form of harassment. If true, most legal professionals would encourage the matter be handled in court to prevent the accusing party being counter-sued for slander.
  • Later the author discusses how she “may have accidentally encouraged DE Dev by playing along with what I felt were stress-relieving jokes about hypothetically funny/mean things to do to Dangen, only for him to misread my intentions as sincere suggestions.”
  • The screenshot from the Dangen rebuttal showing the developer seemingly mocking another developer for being “constantly on suicide watch” (and not explaining to them he had not been paid) was allegedly not an insult. The author claims the unnamed developer was suicidal, and that Dangen staff were in fact offering emotional support.
  • The author defends the developer’s use of “back stabbing low life cunt,” with the claim that “another predatory publisher” had abused the developer’s dyslexia by tricking him “into signing a contract by pretending it was a routine devkit lease agreement, when it was actually a contract attempting to take merchandise rights for DE. This publisher then immediately began harassing and disparaging DE Dev, thinking he had complete control over DE Dev with this contract.” 
  • This eventually led to the publisher threatening physical harm on the author due to the developer refusing to work with them. Dangen was allegedly discussing working with that publisher, and that was his response. No screenshot was provided for the threat against the author from the other publisher.

Dangen Are Harassing the Devil Engine Developer

  • Along with allegedly refusing to pay royalties, the author claims they are intentionally “refusing to fully or properly market” Devil Engine, and “deliberately withholding royalty reports for as long as is contractually acceptable.” In addition, the author claims they are “stalking” the developer on various Discord servers “mocking and insulting him for being angry or publicly expressing his understanding of Dangen’s treatment of him, and claiming his fears about how Dangen will treat other developers are attacks on other indie developers.” 
    • No screenshot was provided to support this claim. The developer had previously (allegedly) copied the messages Judd sent them. However, there have been no public statements from the developer denying (or supporting) what the author is saying.

Dangen Blurs Lines over Withholding Tax, Provided no Proof of Payment

  • The author allegedly recommending splitting up the royalty payments to be sent from Dangen to each collaborator on various projects, to ensure multiple taxes and transaction fees would not have to be paid.
  • The author also suggested registering herself as a corporation in Japan, so she would be “exempt from withholding tax for payments from Dangen, as transfers of money between two Japanese corporations are not subject to withholding. Dangen could send me everyone’s royalties, and I could calculate all the various collaborators’ shares and reduce the number of times money needed to be transferred back and forth overseas.” 
  • In addition, due to past instances of a Japanese employer not dealing with withholding tax as she was an independent contractor, she felt a similar scenario would happen with Dangen.
  • Due to ongoing issues, this never had time to form. Dangen requested a contract, which the author rejected due to her suspicions over prior contracts. The author later requested Dangen file for a particular form (“Relief from Japanese Income Tax and Special Income Tax for Reconstruction on Royalties“), which she was unable to due to her not being the Payer of Royalties.
  • The author ascertains (citing Article 12 of the 2013 US-Japan Tax Treaty) that the Devil Engine royalties should only be taxed in the US, while in Japan the withholding tax should be 0%. She also claims that Dangen’s rebuttal deliberately “cherry picks assertions about withholding tax I made in wildly different points of time under wildly different circumstances” and insinuated “that Japan’s withholding tax system is far more confusing and mysterious than it actually is.”
  • The author eventually relented, and allowed Dangen to apply for withholding tax as they wished, as long as they provided proof they had paid. This allegedly led to Judd claiming he had made an error, and required an additional $1,000 (bringing the total tax to $10,000). This was agreed to be subtracted from a future royalty payment.
  • No proof of payment came, even after the fourth request and after the deadline. On September 20th, Judd allegedly demanded the author pay $1,000 that Dangen had overpaid to receive the proof of payment.
  • The author refused to pay this fee. On September 27th, Judd sent forms for her to fill out, which allegedly were missing many pieces of information, and with numbers and data misaligned.
  • The author denies their claims about how Japanese withholding tax works. She claims it is purely the responsibility of Dangen to pay the tax.

Ramachandran Lies About Nintendo Royalty Reports

  • When Ramachandran had missed $7,000 from Devil Engine‘s Japanese launch month royalties, he fixed the mistake within a few minutes when notified. Ramachandran later claimed this was due to the unedited sales report including all games under Dangen (on the Nintendo Switch) and that sending it would violate their NDAs with those companies.
  • Speaking to an alleged publisher, the author believes that was a lie, as publishers are able to request the data they need via a tool/website from Nintendo. This allows them to request specific date ranges and specific titles.
    • Speaking to those familiar with publishing on major video game consoles and Windows PC, they claim that- while inefficient- it is entirely possible.
  • In addition, Ramachandran’s claim that the Nintendo sales reports do not show country names and country codes in their reports was false.

Elaboration of the Author and Judd’s Relationship

  • While frustrated and finding him odd, the author describes her working relationship with Judd as amicable as it could be given the circumstances, and how he would allegedly agree to something, then change his mind later.
  • The author attempted to keep things this way so as to make it easier to voice concerns and help out developers, even while Judd was fiercely protective of his staff.
  • She compares how Judd “alternated wildly between threatening me and praising me” as akin to abusive relationships she had been in the past.

The Third Developer

  • The author had avoided discussing the unknown third developer- dubbed “33” (with their game dubbed “Three”)- to protect their privacy and due to it being “unreasonable to completely remove all mention of them from various chatlogs.” 
  • Dangen’s rebuttal post showing the writer insulting another Dangen developer was in fact 33. However, the author claims they were not insulting the other developer (and calling them crazy), but genuinely explaining to the Dangen team they had a serious medical issue causing brain deterioration, which caused them to have lied. The author apologizes profusely for revealing this.
  • The author had been involved with 33 since their game’s IndieGoGo campaign. 33 later contracted an incurable disease, which caused him to deteriorate rapidly and strained the author’s relationship with him (“He often would ask my advice then forget what I had said and do the opposite, or suddenly decide to do completely irrational things”).
  • The context of the what 33 lied about was never revealed. However, there were numerous incidents including that 33 “had lied to me or changed plans without my knowledge, embarrassing me in public or in negotiations”. None of the claims pertain to the allegations against Dangen, other than their relationship soured due to 33’s behavior and the author’s stress of dealing with Dangen. One incident does need explaining due to other allegations.
  • Dangen allegedly claimed that 33’s game needed a full French localization for a worldwide Nintendo Switch release (which would have cost an estimated $25,000). When 33 demanded proof that Dangen were lying, the author violated her NDA by screencapping her Switch publisher account to show a worldwide release just needed French text for the store page, and not localization.
    • If the author had a Nintendo Switch publishing account, then why did she need to ask others on how Nintendo handled their financial reports? All her descriptions of handling Ramachandran’s work sounded like it was in an unofficial capacity, so it was unlikely she got an account or password via Dangen.
    • However, we cannot rule out that the author’s other unknown work (which may be related to video games) had granted her this access.
  • 33 then immediately posted the author’s screencaps (via her Discord URL) to the Dangen Slack.

“I was just about to go to work, so I had no time to deal with the situation,” the author states. “I screamed at 33 to delete the screencaps, informed the rest of the private Discord group about what 33 had done, and advised them to delete the entire channel to avoid 33 from leaking anything more. This caused the loss of an incredible amount of evidence we had against Dangen, but as 33 could not be trusted, this was the choice we made at that time.”

The Last Negotiation and Accusations of Ulterior Motives

  • Earlier in the post, Judd had allegedly recommended that rather than the Fight Knight developer terminating the contract with Dangen outright, that another publisher pay a “modest fee” to acquire the publishing rights so all parties could save face.
  • Since the author had wanted to publish and translate Japanese freeware visual novels into English anyway, she suggested she could acquire Fight Knight and Devil Engine as a fellow publisher. The author claims they “had no intention to publish FK and DE until things with Dangen had gone completely sour.”
  • Later the author claims the threats she made against Dangen via the Slack messages to damage Dangen’s reputation were part of negotiation to terminate the contracts for Devil Engine and Fight Knight“I don’t particularly think these messages are damaging to my character even taken out of context, but I will post the complete log of my attempt to negotiate an amicable termination of contract for DE and FK with Ben Judd prior to TGS [Tokyo Game Show].” You can find the author’s allegedly unedited message here.
  • The author begins explaining how her other work (redacted) and what she did with the developers was getting difficult to juggle. While she had to take some absence “basically every dev I work with decided to take matters into their own hands and have made multiple extremely poor decisions.”
  • She explains how the relationships with Fight Knight and Devil Engine developers is irreparable. The message then goes onto what Dangen screencapped. How the author had been toying with the idea of being a publisher, and that how they could acquire the games from Dangen.
    • With this new alleged context, it seems when the author was talking about the issue becoming public knowledge, she may have meant from the developer- should Dangen refuse the termination. While her acquiring the rights to the games seems to be something Judd had proposed earlier.
  • Judd requested that the author pay for the publisher costs Dangen had spent on Devil Engine. Believing the game’s Q3 sales would cover it, she asked for “every royalty report available for Q3 that he could” along with the soundtrack sales from Bandcamp. These reports were sent promptly.
  • The author calculated they “only need to pay back a couple thousand dollars to make good” and sent Judd her estimations. While the matter was not resolved before Tokyo Game Show, Judd later requested that the deal would have a clause stating “with the exception of Fight Knight you won’t poach any Dangen contracted developers.” While the author found it odd, she allegedly had no intention “or ability” to publish other Dangen titles, making it a non-issue.
  • The author was concerned about Judd was “framing his law firm writing the transfer of publishing rights contract as a service to us that we should be expected to pay for. I had written two contracts that Ben Judd had signed already, so I didn’t see any reason to waste money on Ben’s expensive American law firm.”
  • The author explained how she would be unable to afford the cost of his legal team, and offered to write the contract free of charge. The contract could still be given to the legal team to examine, but the “back and forth” with them would be too expensive. She also explained her satisfaction with the anti-poaching clause.
  • Judd replied that he would only sign a document created by Dangen’s legal counsel. “From out perspective, we have sourced a lot of music from people that may not have joined the project, there is already a decent wish-list amount that you’ll be able to capitalize from and we have put a lot of hours on this that will have been wasted.” 
  • Dangen considered their terms for the deal “more than fair,” and stated that while these discussions were focused on Devil Engine, there would be more discussion “before we feel comfortable finding a different solution on Fight Knight.” 
  • The author found it suspicious that Judd would give up Devil Engine’s Q3 profits, but not on her paying an unspecified amount in legal feels, and Fight Knight needing different terms. When showing the proposition to the developers, both “said something approximating “hell no” .”
  • The author replied, re-iterating that only the Q3 profits would be able to pay for legal fees and neither developer trusted Dangen’s legal counsel to right the contract. After this, Judd refused future negotiations and “became very rude” regarding the withholding tax issues. The author feels after this Judd was attempting to find “any way he could to gouge me for money.” This was allegedly the last time the author spoke to Judd.
  • Later, The author outright denies she attempted to poach 33’s game from Dangen.

Dangen Staff Acting Weird at Tokyo Game Show

  • After this, the author claims Dangen staff “were extremely strange” at Tokyo Game Show, acting almost afraid of her. Scott Steffes (Dangen’s Unity porting specialist) later revealed that 33 had been speaking ill of working with her, and that he had been “afraid to work with” her.
  • During Tokyo Game Show, Steffes had allegedly “leaned in to whisper to FK Dev that he really liked FK, and he didn’t want anything bad to happen to it. He recommended FK Dev talk to Ben Judd to avoid this happening.” His tone was more threatening than the friendly attitude he had with the author, but both the author and developer found it more strange than anything.
  • The author had “heard rumors” that Judd was allegedly telling people there was a “malicious third party publisher, trying to spread lies and poach Dangen games.” The Fight Knight developer spoke to 33 to ask why the rumor started, though he denies any rumors started from Dangen.

Dangen’s Rebuttal

  • The author claims the rebuttal attempted to attack her character rather than rely on fact, and was “constructed around haphazardly collected screencaps from e-mails and contracts, Dangen’s Slack archives of the developer channels and private messages from Ben Judd and Scott Steffes, and DE Dev saying things in random Discord servers.”
  • The claim that the author had orchestrated a contract to receive revenue from Devil Engine was allegedly requested by Ramachandran for legal reasons- allowing her to see royalty reports. She also denies the contract gives her “sole responsibility to handle tax paperwork.”

Editor’s Note: This point is where the archive becomes incomplete, with associated screencaps being corrupted and blurred. 

  • The allegation that the writer acted as a communication proxy for both developers, was due to Dangen staff allegedly not responding when others attempted to contact them, with only Judd responding to the author.
  • She also refutes that Dangen have attempted to contact the Fight Knight developer since he terminated the contract. Judd’s American legal counsel allegedly contacted the developer, claiming the author had lied to the developer and that Dangen had proof.
  • The author admits to “grossly exaggerating” the distance from Dangen’s Yodoyabashi offices to the cafe she had her meeting with Judd in. Due to a “permanently broken bone in my left foot”, she had vastly over-estimated the distance.
    • While we have doubts over forgetting a permanently broken bone, for the condition to be long-term, the author must have had some rough estimate of the distance traveled- even knowing it would take her longer to achieve that distance.
  • The author denies she ever gave Justin Pfeiffer permission to use Devil Engine‘s music at Bitsummit 2019, citing how loud the venue was to not hearing him clearly if he did request it. Without any context to what Pfeiffer was asking (having not even been introduced) she asked him to ask Joseph (the musician) directly or on Slack. Joseph allegedly claimed he was never asked.
  • The author claims her criticism’s of Chad Porter (Dangen’s Twitter and social media marketing) due to his “Kickstarter Indie Game Fail” video series on YouTube is still valid, as they were not made before he joined Dangen, but a year after.
  • Later, the author takes issue with Dangen’s defense of their livestreams, still claiming they are focused on self-promotion. She still claims they focus on a “victim martyr complex” by appearing to look like they are struggling while doing financially well.
    • The author attacks how Judd allegedly paid for a nice hotel room for one of his staff, while the Devil Engine developer “slept in a dope two bedroom Airbnb with eight people by some train tracks during his stay at TGS.” If this was after the developers had shown an interest in terminating their contract, it hardly seems surprising Judd would not cover accommodation costs. The author herself even admits Judd became more frugal with money towards both developers as the relationship soured.

The Author has Met Judd’s Alleged Victims

  • The post then details how the author met “many” of those who had been allegedly victimized by Judd.
  • Alex had made public accusations against Judd on Twitter [1, 2] prior to the author attended the Tokyo Game Show. There was an alleged rumor that Judd and all Dangen staff had been banned from the TGS 8-4 party, and speculation Judd would be banned from other events “was rampant.”
  • While speaking with other indie developers, someone asked the Devil Engine developer what Dangen was like. He responded “Dangen is shit and their CEO’s some kind of a sex offender I don’t know.” This caused other people to present to allegedly respond “Wait, Ben Judd? Yeah, that guy completely screwed me over! Fuck that guy. What’d he do to you? Was he creepy? That dude’s so fuckin’ creepy.”
  • Others joined the conversation. “Are we talking shit about Ben Judd? Yesss. God that guy is such an asshole.” […] “I heard ‘Dangen’ and ‘creepy’, are we talking about Ben Judd?” The author claims “practically everyone” at the event about Judd being “weird or creepy or horrible.” These included “acting out” at industry events while drunk, and exposing himself in public.
  • No further details were given by the author, and the author states she had not been given permission to publicize the names of those involved or evidence. She also cites her wish to avoid slandering “the few” uninvolved with what Judd allegedly did.
  • The author claims the majority of Dangen staff have been “active defenders and apologists” of Judd and “have aided him in gaslighting, isolating, and slandering his victims, and in some cases are victimizers themselves.” No details on these claims were given.

Dangen did not issue a reply to these fresh allegations.

At some point between December 7th and December 10th (1) Dangen updated their staff page, removing Judd and Ramachandran. Prior to this (as seen in this archived Google cache) the staff page showed a group shot of the staff. While the cache does not show this, it also showed each member’s picture next to their name.

On December 10th, the page showed that Judd and Ramachandran are absent. As of this time of writing, Dan Luffey was also removed from the page. Ignoring the page’s humorous job titles, it seems Luffey was in charge of localization. Luffey’s Twitter account (originally linked in his profile on the staff page) is also gone. Due to no mention of the account being suspended, it is likely Luffey deleted the account himself.

No accusations came against Luffey, the quality of localization, or how localization operated in the original accusations. In the second accusations, Luffey is said to have kicked the author from a Slack group after she was fired, but otherwise the two had a good relationship. The author claims Luffey “had always highly respected his skill and diligence as a localization manager” and “was basically the only member of Dangen staff to be particularly sincerely kind towards me at all, and I’d previously had pleasant interactions with him at Bitsummit 2019 and 2018.”

In spite of this, the author does claim they “heard some unpleasant rumors about Dan Luffey, but nothing concrete enough to be credible, and I often wasn’t sure if people were mixing up “Dan Luffey” and “Dan Stern”, so this is my honest assessment of my personal interactions with him.”

It is unknown whether these staff have left the company, whether they have only been removed from the staff page, or if their removal is temporary or permanent.

In Luffey’s case, it is unknown whether one or more of the above apply to him, or whether he left due to the allegations made against other staff (either in protest and/or wanting to distance himself from the company). Deleting his Twitter profile may also be a measure to prevent harassment against him, though Ramchandran still has his Twitter account up, and is still active as of December 9th. Judd has seemingly never had a Twitter account associated with Dangen.

On December 11th, Dangen officially posted two statements, one from Judd and one from Dangen as a whole.

Judd’s post seems to admit to wrongdoing against Alex, and his immediate resignation from Dangen and the video games industry. On the other hand, Dangen’s statement was an announcement of the aforementioned company restructuring.

For now at least, it seems to be the end of the allegations against Dangen, but it came alongside real changing of staff at the company.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below!

, , , , ,


Ryan was a former Niche Gamer contributor.

Where'd our comments go? Subscribe to become a member to get commenting access and true free speech!