The Sinking City publisher defends its decision to put an 'adapted' copy of the game on Steam

The Sinking City
(Image credit: Frogwares)

  • A dispute between developer Frogwares and publisher Nacon led to the removal of The Sinking City from Steam in April 2020. It returned to Steam in January following a French court ruling, but was soon removed again.
  • In February, The Sinking City appeared on Steam yet again, but Frogwares warned fans against buying it. A few days later, it alleged that the latest Steam release was "cracked and pirated," and forced its removal with a DMCA takedown notice.
  • Nacon now says that it had a right to put the game back on Steam, calling Frogwares' recent comments "aggressive and prejudicial."

Last night, developer Frogwares took the unusual step of issuing a DMCA takedown notice against its own game, The Sinking City, in order to force its removal from Steam. The move was the latest step in an escalating dispute between Frogwares and publisher Nacon, which began in April 2020.

Today, Nacon issued a statement in response to the game's most recent removal from Steam, repeating its assertion that it is "contractually the sole exclusive distributor of The Sinking City on Steam," and that despite Frogwares' claims, it has paid the developer what it owes.

"In the past, Frogwares has improperly relied on accusations regarding a lack of payment to refuse delivery of the game on Steam, at which point they tried to unsuccessfully terminate the contract," Nacon said. "The Paris Court of Appeal deemed this action 'manifestly unlawful'; ordering the continuation of the contract and encouraging Frogwares to refrain 'from any action which would impede such continuation'.

"In line with the courts' decision, Nacon has repeatedly and unsuccessfully requested that Frogwares make the game available on Steam, failing which it would apply a clause in the contract wherein such a case, the game would be adapted by a third party. Frogwares then attempted, without the knowledge of Nacon and in violation of our rights, to make the game available on Steam without mentioning Nacon in its capacity as the publisher. This is, therefore clear proof that no technical impossibility prevents the game from being put back on Steam."

That paragraph is particularly interesting because it suggests that the core elements of Frogwares' claim—that Nacon "adapted" a different build of the game for release on Steam—are accurate, but also stakes out its own contractual right to do so. I don't have access to the contract, but if that is in fact the case it would go a long way toward explaining why Nacon was willing to take what appeared to be such a reckless risk to get a two-year-old game back on Steam.

For now, The Sinking City remains off of Steam, although you can still pick it up on Origin, the Microsoft Store, Gamesplanet (where Nacon allegedly got the copy it put on Steam), and elsewhere. Nacon said it regrets the conflict and the removal of the game from Steam, and also warned that it "reserves the right to take legal action against Frogwares for its aggressive and prejudicial comments."

I've reached out to Nacon for more information on the contractual clause it says grants it the right to upload modified builds of The Sinking City to Steam without Frogwares' approval, and will update if I receive a reply.

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.