Under normal circumstances, developers desperately want people to buy their games from Steam.
But when it comes to The Sinking City, these are very much not normal circumstances.
The H. P. Lovecraft-inspired horror adventure returned to Steam yesterday – and it didn’t take long for the developer to warn potential customers not to buy the game.
In a tweet, Ukrainian developer Frogwares said it had not created the version of The Sinking City made available to buy on Steam this week. “We do not recommend the purchase of this version,” it said.
This version was published by Nacon, the company Frogwares has endured a long-running dispute with over control of the game.
Back in August 2020, Frogwares pulled The Sinking City from sale a year after it filed a lawsuit against Nacon, the French video game company formed from the consolidation of the Bigben group ahead of an IPO.
Frogwares alleged Nacon tried to claim copyright of The Sinking City after its release, withheld milestone payments, and owed the developer around €1m in unpaid royalties.
“We did our best to deal with this quietly and amicably but to no avail,” Frogwares boss Wael Amr said at the time.
Then, in October 2020, the Paris Court of Appeal ruled Frogwares acted unlawfully when it pulled The Sinking City from sale, and ordered the developer to refrain from any further action that would affect its contract with Nacon until the dispute between the two parties was resolved.
This decision opened the door to The Sinking City’s return to Steam. But before Nacon managed it, in January 2021 Frogwares released the game on Valve’s platform – although it was pulled soon after.
Now, a month later, Nacon has put The Sinking City back on Steam, and already it’s getting review-bombed, with customers complaining that the latest release appears to be an old version of the game.
Overall, the reviews are “mostly negative”. “This is an old version of the game,” wrote Steam user LizDeLaFuentez.
“There’s no DLC, no cloud saves, no achievements… This is NOT the same version that got released by Frogwares early January, and Frogwares hasn’t released any news about this release, so I doubt they’ll ever see the money, which is why I’d recommend staying away from this until they do!
“My negative review has nothing to do with the quality of the game, just the scummy publisher.”
“Game is actually fun,” wrote Acadius. “Bought it cause I like everything related to Lovecraft. And then I heard about this version and what happened between the developer and the publisher. I do not support that. Asking for a refund and will buy from Frogwares.”
In January 2021, Nacon said it was “continuing its action in defense of its rights” and had asked platforms and sites to put The Sinking City back online “so that no one is held hostage to this situation”.
Nacon continued: “It is however specified that insofar as some of the game’s online stakes depend on the goodwill of Frogwares to perform, their absence cannot be attributed to Nacon.”
In response to one Twitter user who said “Jesus Christ the nightmare never ends,” Frogwares replied: “yes.”