Ukrainian-based developer Frogwares, who are best known for their Sherlock Holmes games and more recently The Sinking City (good game, by the way), has had a number of their titles removed from digital stores such as the PSN and Microsoft stores.
Titles such as Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes and Magrunner: Dark Pulse have all had their listings pulled from the aforementioned storefronts. What’s the one that these titles have in common? They’re all published by Focus Home Interactive (on consoles at least – these titles are unaffected on Steam as they’re self-published). Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is facing a similar fate, with the product’s listing expiring on September 29 on Steam, PSN and Microsoft stores.
This revelation was shared in an emotional blog post by Frogwares, which explains that the reason for the delistings is because Focus Home Interactive ‘refuses to transfer the title IDs’ to Frogwares, despite their contractual obligations being fulfilled and Frogwares now the legal owners of the IPs in question.
The post goes on to say that Focus Home Interactive explained to Frogwares (via an official statement) that “Focus has put in place a policy in accordance with which they will not transfer any title – the content ID or title ID – belonging to any developer which has removed all of their games from the Focus catalogue”.
Furthermore, this decision and policy by Focus Home Interactive has left the future of the studio in limbo, with Frogwares preparing for a ‘significant loss’ as a result. However, the studio will not go down without a fight and have started contacting storefronts to see what can be done to rectify the issue, as well as setting up new store profiles. But this process will take time and cost a fortune, two resources that Frogwares would much prefer to use elsewhere.
Sure these titles may be old, but it’s the principle of being in control of your own creations when you own them.
You can read the official statement below:
This letter is addressed to everyone who is interested in the video game industry, and wants to take a look at what’s happening behind the curtain.
We are Frogwares, the developer of the Sherlock Holmes video games, and The Sinking City. We make detective games because it’s our passion, and because it allows us to live off it.
But today, that is under threat. Some of our games are being removed from Sony’s and Microsoft’s storefronts, and even maybe from Steam. This list includes our titles like Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes Vs. Jack The Ripper and Magrunner: Dark Pulse (see full list below).
Why? Because Focus Home Interactive, the licensee (or “publisher”) that was in charge of commercializing these games on these platforms, refuses to transfer the title IDs to us, the creators and IP owners of those titles, even though our Publishing and Distribution Agreement has expired.
Because, according to their official statement, sent to us only last week, “Focus has put in place a policy in accordance with which they will not transfer any title – the content ID or title ID – belonging to any developer which has removed all of their games from the Focus catalog”.
A policy that is not in any of our previous or existing contracts with Focus and that has never been applied to us in the past.
Because of that policy, our games will be taken down from all storefronts.
As it stands right now, the only game left is Sherlock Holmes Crimes & Punishment which only has until September 29th. It is possible that it will be taken down at this date or earlier if nothing is done. The players will no longer be able to buy and play the game. We will also lose all our wishlists and every other bit of information on those store pages. As the creators and IP owners of all those games, we have no control and no say in this. The decision of Focus Home left us voiceless.
We are in the process of setting up new store profiles, and we are contacting console stores and hope to try and rectify the situation. However, we are unable to confirm if this can be done and already know that it will be impossible for certain games on previous gen, and very costly for others as we will have to update the SDK and that takes months. We are certainly not going to give up, and will pursue this issue through the appropriate channels.
We have always been an independent studio. We worked with many licensees on the grounds of mutual interests and benefits, but it’s the first time in 20 years we have encountered such a situation. We are losing all revenue attached to these games, for some – for an unknown period of time and for other games, forever. This new policy from Focus Home towards former contracted developers will land a serious blow to our studio, threatening our future games and the people who develop them.
Right now, we are in a tough situation. We are preparing ourselves for a significant loss. To those parties that can help us and have influence over the situation – feel free to contact us.
We’ll update this article as the story evolves.