A tale of developer vs. publisher.
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This past Friday, The Sinking City was released on Steam seemingly without the consent of Frogwares, the game's developer. This was, at the time, the latest in the ongoing legal battle between Frogwares and publisher Nacon. Frogwares has been actively telling fans not to purchase the current Steam release of The Sinking City because Nacon put it up without permission.

They said that they would have more to say on the subject "soon." Well "soon" is right now, just a few days after their warning went up on Twitter.

Frogwares now says that publisher Nacon hacked the code to The Sinking City and uploaded an "illegal" version of the game to Steam. The developer put up a blog post and video that goes into detail about how Nacon "stole, hacked, changed the source code, and tried to cover up the reporting trail" for The Sinking City. The blog entry also includes some background information on why the two are in a legal battle to begin with. It's well worth a read to get you caught up.

In short, Frogwares says that Nacon purchased a copy of The Sinking City from Gamesplanet, the storefront where Frogwares is selling the game directly to consumers. Frogwares says that Nacon modified a few files and uploaded this altered version to Steam. Frogwares was able to verify the following by using a unique encryption key specific to their title.

Nacon under the management of its president Alain Falc asked some of their employees, who we even identified, to crack, hack and pirate our game, change its content in order to commercialize it under their own name, and this is how they did it.

How Nacon modified the game files
When launching the game version that Nacon released on Steam versus our version specifically prepared for Gamesplanet, you can see the following differences:
  1. The Nacon Logo has now replaced the Gamesplanet logo; an official Frogwares licensee.
  2. The loading screen is different; once again the Gamesplanet logo is removed.
  3. When on the main menu
    1. the advertisement for Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is not present on the lower left screen,
    2. the mention of the distribution platform on the lower right screen is also absent.
    3. the “more games” menu option is not present.
We took a look at the data that the Steam version made available for sale on February 26th, and noted that :
  • The folder names and structure is identical to any of Frogwares versions (Gamesplanet; EA origins, Etc…
  • The executable has a similar name but is of a different size than any of our own versions implying modification of the file.
  • The packages are 17Gb, this size corresponds to the versions created around summer 2020 when we switched to a new compressing method to reduce the game size for download purposes. Before this date the only available PC version – on the Epic Game Store – was around 30Gb in size.
In order to make changes Nacon had only one way: to decompile or hack the game using a secret key created by Frogwares since the totality of the game’s content is archived with an Epic Unreal Engine encryption system.
Now, Nacon claims that they are totally in the right as far as publishing the game on Steam is concerned. They issued a public statement, seen below.

"For the release of The Sinking City on Steam, published by Nacon, Frogwares posted on Twitter urging players not to buy it. We regret that Frogwares persists in disrupting the release of the Sinking City. It was Frogwares who came to Nacon to request financing for the development of the game, and to date, more than 10 million euros have been paid to Frogwares by Nacon. It was Frogwares that relied on our marketing and promotion teams, representing thousands of hours of work and several million euros worth of investment. Now that the game has been fully developed, and published, largely thanks to Nacon's money and work, 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."
Frogwares was caught completely unaware that their game would be published on Steam last week. They have been involved in an ongoing legal battle with Nacon related to various claims of contract breaches. The game, as a result of this legal battle, was thus pulled from a number of storefronts. Frogwares did recently publish The Sinking City on the PlayStation 5. They also have a DRM-free version available through their website, but other versions, including the current Steam release, remain out of their control.

As of the time of this publishing, the "illegal" copy of The Sinking City is still up on Steam. I would strongly advise any potential customers to avoid this version as it is an outdated build, it lacks features, and if what Frogwares says is true, it's also an illegal rip of the game put up by Nacon.