A Timeline of Tentacles

Imagine yourself browsing a local game shop or digital marketplace looking for something new to play at a decent price. You spot two clearly Lovecraft-inspired suspense titles featuring detectives in dilapidated settings which were released around the same time. Both games feature sanity mechanics and the exploration of the macabre. Both have off-putting NPCs who seem to be unfazed by how messed up their surroundings appear. One of these games even has multiple listings and multiple versions from different publishers. If you’re anything like me (and you don’t believe in coincidence) the apparent competition between Cyanide’s Call of Cthulhu and Frogwares’s The Sinking City left you asking a lot of questions. 

As ironic as might be that two “fear of the unknown” video games would be so mysterious themselves, I’ll spare you a complex publishing saga information dump using my favourite infographic tool, the timeline: 

It’s a mess of tentacles and betrayal.

Frogwares was booted off the official Call of Cthulhu game by Focus Interactive, which led to another Cthulhu-esque game with their former publisher Bigben Interactive, now known as Nacon. This second publisher the buys Call of Cthulhu‘s second developer and that’s where the cracks start to form:

“Once BBI/Nacon bought out a competing studio working on another Lovecraftian game, they dictated that we give them our source code for The Sinking City. Once again, BBI/Nacon does not own the IP – they are a licensee. They sell the game – not develop and co-create it. After we refused to comply, we stopped receiving financial contributions for over 4 months.” 

Frogwares – The Sinking City is Being Delisted. Here’s Why

Forgwares also alleges being kept in the dark on the game’s official sales figures, the purchase of domaines for Frogwares’s owned IPs, and the licensing of a tabletop The Sinking City game which was okayed by Bigben. Financially, it was alleged by Frogwares that they were being cut-out of pre-approved milestone payments and post-launch profits:

On June 27, 2019, The Sinking City was released on Xbox One, PS4, and Epic Games Store. That was a great day for us. And once the game was released, we received a letter from Bigben/Nacon that the milestones that were previously approved are being canceled, meaning that we would not receive any profit from the sales of the game. A retroactive cancellation on not delivering a product on time that is already out in the market is not acceptable. That was when our legal battle began. 

Frogwares – The Sinking City is Being Delisted. Here’s Why

Between Bigben/Nacon not meeting the terms of the licensing contract and allegedly pushing a false narrative of ownership of IP, Frogwares believed in August 2020 there were valid grounds to terminate the licensing agreement. So they delisted their game. The lawsuit continued and that Fall a Paris Appeals Court judge ruled in favour of the French publishers, allowing them to republish the game. The problem? Nacon never had the source code. You’d think that would be the end of the situation, but no — Nacon published a copy of The Sinking City which appeared to have been pirated:

The Frogwares Text-post: How Nacon Cracked and Pirated The Sinking City

It’s all a bit technical but the text post linked above on Frogware’s official cite provides a solid breakdown. Nacon had recently acquired a developer with the technical expertise to grift an approved published version and flip the assets to a “Nacon” version: Filip Hautekeete, the Founder and Managing Director of Neopica, a Belgian studio behind titles like Hunting Simulator 1 & 2. It is honestly kind of impressive how his expertise could be used for this version BUT there was a catch — he left digital footprints and the evidence against him and Nacon are damning:

Nacon appears to have made a duplicate of the GamesPlanet published The Sinking City source code with newly replaced logos. This “Deluxe Version” of The Sinking City was then added to Steam by Nacon and was available for purchase until Frogwares had it taken down with a DMCA copyright strike. All of which is gross and invasive in ways which tentacle eldritch horrors are not.

Focus Interactive and Nacon have ran some significant discounts across multiple platforms for both of these Lovecraftian nightmares. I harbour no ill will towards Focus or Cyanide Studio or the work they did on Call of Cthulhu. It’s a pretty decent first-person exploration game that I would say is worth your time. That being said, if you are interested in buying The Sinking City, a game I deeply enjoy and believe is the closest we’ll get to a Silent Hill title anytime soon, please opt to pick up the Frogwares published edition. It may not be listed as inexpensively but there is a wealth of evidence that appears to support Frogwares’s interpretation of events. Save your love, energy, and (most importantly) money for the developer that put their heart and soul into their tentacles game.