The Outbound Ghost dev defaces his own Steam page in dispute with publisher, legal action ensues

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The developer of the indie adventure-RPG The Outbound Ghost (opens in new tab) is asking followers not to buy the game on any platform, because it is not currently up to the quality standards that he expects. He has also disabled sales of the game on Steam—the one platform where he says it was up to snuff—and is threatening legal action against publisher Digerati, who he says refuses to return control of the game to him.

Following a successful Kickstarter (opens in new tab) campaign in 2021, the PC version of The Outbound Ghost launched on Steam in September to mostly positive reviews. The console releases of the game, however—PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch—had problems. On December 1, Digerati said the Switch version was "awaiting an update (opens in new tab)," and missing additional languages. On December 4, Digerati tweeted another statement acknowledging ongoing performance issues with The Outbound Ghost on the Switch.

(Image credit: Digerati (via Twitter))
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On December 8, Digerati released a third statement saying that while the PlayStation editions of the game had already been patched twice (including a day-one patch), the Switch patch was still being reviewed by Nintendo. "Any users experiencing issues with The Outbound Ghost can @ or DM us," the publisher wrote (opens in new tab). "Please be assured we are listening to all your feedback.

"Digerati has released over 50 different titles on console, and launches with situations such as this are the exception. We remain firmly committed to making further improvements to The Outbound Ghost as quickly as we can."

Outbound Ghost developer Conradical Games was not satisfied with Digerati's handling of the situation, however. Shortly after the Switch version went live, lead developer Conrad Grindheim said that control of the launch was out of his hands, but accused the publisher of releasing an unapproved, and presumably unfinished, build of the game.

"The Outbound Ghost released on PlayStation 4/5 yesterday, and on Nintendo Switch today. I have already received worrying messages concerning its performance," Grindheim said in a statement (opens in new tab) released on December 1.

"I never wanted this version of the game to come out but due to circumstances out of my control, this is the one that was released. I am doing everything that I can to get the relevant parties to fix their mistakes, and I will keep you all up to date as much as I possibly can."

The situation seemed to go into a holding pattern until December 5, when Digerati put The Outbound Ghost on sale on Steam for 25% off. That prompted a new statement from Conradical Games, who said on December 6 the price reduction "was not of my doing (opens in new tab)" and not approved by the studio.

Yesterday, December 8, Grindheim posted a video update in which he threatened legal action against Digerati unless it relinquishes control of The Outbound Ghost, on all platforms, to him.

"The past few weeks have been incredibly stressful due to many factors, but the main reason is that my relationship with the game's publisher has been dissolved," Grindheim said. "But they refuse to hand back control of the relevant pages and are profiting from the situation. We are studying the appropriate legal actions to resolve this situation and protect the game. 

"The console issues outlined recently in my socials are just the beginning. A lot more will come out regarding the breaches soon. For now, I suggest you don't buy any publicly available version of The Outbound Ghost because it is not up to the quality standards of the games that I create and that you expect of me."

Grindheim recommended that anyone unhappy with the state of The Outbound Ghost request a refund, and said that once the matter is resolved he plans to self-publish "an upgraded version" of the game. He also promised that Kickstarter backers will receive all the rewards they pledged for during the game, "as well as additional rewards to make up for the situation."

Along with the statements and responses to owners on social media, Grindheim also took a knife to The Outbound Ghost's Steam page (opens in new tab). The game has been renamed to 'This game is no longer authorized by the developer,' all screens and trailers have been removed from the page, and the game description and system requirements are also gone. The most recent Steam update (opens in new tab), posted December 8, has no text beyond the title, which is the same as the 'new' game name: This game is no longer authorized by the developer. 

That action prompted Digerati, which had previously limited its communications to status updates on The Outbound Ghost, to address the dispute with Conradical.

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"We have remained largely silent over the last few days as we've been blindsided by the sudden negativity from Conrad, the game's developer," Digerati owner Sarah Alfieri said. "Until literally hours before the console launch, we had enjoyed a cooperative and mutually pleasant working relationship with Conrad and we saw no indication of any dissatisfaction on his part."

Alfieri said Digerati provided funding for The Outbound Ghost after the Kickstarter campaign was successful so Grindheim could work on the project full time. In exchange, Grindheim licensed the distribution rights to Digerati. Following the console launches, however, he "wrongly told us he is terminating the contract."

"In addition, Conrad has unlawfully tampered with the Steam page and has attempted to take down the console versions as well," Alfieri said.

"Our goal is to support The Outbound Ghost and has always been to support our developers.We are actively trying to make improvements and release patches, and have been met with repeated attempts to sabotage our efforts and sully our name."

The Outbound Ghost is currently not available for purchase on Steam. I initially assumed that Grindheim had taken it down in protest, but he denied doing so, and said he doesn't believe he even has access to that level of functionality on Steam. Instead, he said that Digerati must be responsible for the takedown. Interestingly, a Demo for The Outbound Ghost remains available for download.

Despite the beef, Alfieri said Digerati hopes to reach a resolution with Grindheim and continue supporting the game in partnership with him. How likely that is to happen remains to be seen: Grindheim hasn't tweeted about the game or Digerati since his December 8 statement. Grindheim told PC Gamer, as he said in his video statement, that he is looking into "appropriate legal actions to resolve this situation and to protect the game." 

Update: On December 10, publisher Digerati preempted Grindheim by filing legal action against Conradical, accusing the studio of making false claims about its role in the development and release of the console versions of The Outbound Ghost, sabotaging sales of the game, and attempting to break its contract with the publisher.

"While it is absolutely not something we wanted to do, we have been forced into a position that requires us to protect our rights under the licensing agreement with Conradical," Digerati said in a statement sent to PC Gamer. 

"We remain hopeful that we will still be able to resolve this issue amicably, and will be able to cooperate on the continued improvement of the performance of The Outbound Ghost. However, we simply can not sit by and be dragged through the mud in a public forum, nor can we allow our contractual rights to be trampled without exerting some form of remedy."

The lawsuit asks the court to enforce the terms of the existing distribution contract between Digerati and Conradical. The publisher is not seeking any monetary penalties, however, "because we want to return to the path where The Outbound Ghost would be successful."

The lawsuit also reveals that neither Grindheim nor Digerati were responsible for halting sales of The Outbound Ghost on Steam. It was actually Valve, who removed the page because of the "ongoing legal dispute" over the game. (The store page no longer appears in searches, but can still be accessed through a direct link (opens in new tab).) Valve also confirmed to Digerati that the changes to The Outbound Ghost's Steam page "were made by one of the users authorized to make such changes under your partner account," but did not specify who because of its privacy policy.

Digerati also suggested in its statement to PC Gamer that other people could be egging on the dispute, for reasons unknown: "We have a reasonable suspicion that forces outside either party have interfered to sew division between us from the developer side. This is an area in need of addressing," the publisher said.

"Digerati is ready, willing, and able to work with Conradical to ensure the success of The Outbound Ghost and Conradical as a continuing partner. We hope that the need for legal interventions is short lived, and this matter can be settled immediately."

As for the long-awaited patch for The Outbound Ghost on Nintendo Switch, Digerati said it remains in Nintendo's hands but should roll out "in the next few days." It also invited players to continue sharing feedback on the game.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.