UPDATE MARCH 4 2022: Nacon has now responded to the accusations with a statement of its own, you can read that over here.
ORIGINAL STORY FOLLOWS: The continuing dispute between The Sinking City developer Frogwares and its former publishing partner Nacon has taken a dramatic turn, as the former has openly accused the latter of hacking and uploading a pirated copy of their game to the Steam storefront amdist an ongoing legal battle between the two.
In a blog post on Frogwares' website with an accompanying video posted last night makes several allegations against the France-based Nacon (formerly Bigben Interactive) that it summed up as "corporate bullying, and incompetent hacking, at its finest," and said that Nacon "stole, hacked, changed the source code" of The Sinking City in order to put the game back on sale on Steam.
First, a brief background: As part of the original legal battle—which accused Nacon of withholding milestone and royalty payments for the game—Frogwares pulled the game from sale. An appeal from Nacon was upheld by the Paris Court of Appeal and which said that Frogwares had "terminated the contract in a 'manifestly unlawful' manner'" in doing so, and so Nacon moved to return the game to stores.
According to Frogwares, "Nacon has tried to force Frogwares to deliver a new master version of the game through the use of their lawyers. The French Justice refused Nacon’s demands twice, first in July 2020 and then in October 2020 during an appeal. The final decision on whether Frogwares is obligated to deliver the Steam version that Nacon is demanding is still set to be judged in trial court in the next months or even years".
Frogwares claim that Nacon CEO Alan Falc gave them a 48 hour warning in December, saying that the developer must provide a Steam version of the game "otherwise we will use all solutions available within the law and the contract” in order to upload a version to Steam. The deadline passed, and Frogwares say that Nacon attempted to upload a cracked version to Steam in December. Frogwares say they talked to Steam blocked this, but another version appeared last week.
In conducting their own investigation on the latest release, Frogwares claim that they've found evidence that the current version of the game was bought from another outlet—Gamesplanet— and it was this version that Nacon stripped away evidence including indentifiers, recompiled the files and then had it uploaded to Steam.
"We believe Nacon did this to hide the fraudulent exploitation of the game on Steam but also on other portals which they may be planning to send the game to. Nacon wants Frogwares or anyone, including the French Justice, to never know the true scope of their exploitation of the game." The full video goes into more detail, and you can watch it for yourself below.
Nacon have provided a response to the accusations to Eurogamer, saying "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."
"In regards to feedback on the release of The Sinking City on Steam, this is an official and complete version. However, due to a lack of cooperation with Frogwares, we are unable to integrate Steam-specific features (cloud saving/achievements). Thus, this version contains only the base game, without any additional content. Despite this, we have organised the release so that fans on Steam can enjoy the game."
"We sincerely would have preferred that our relationship with Frogwares remain cooperative and respectful, as is the case with all of the studios whose titles we publish. We hope that many of you will continue to play The Sinking City, and may your adventures in Oakmont be a lot of fun"