Update: Dangen Entertainment's Head of Operations Dan Stern has contacted us directly presenting the publisher's side of the story in response to our original article (below) concerning the ongoing situation between the company and Protoculture Games. Below is the main body of his correspondence detailing the situation from Dangen's perspective and including an image of the most recent email sent to Protoculture:
Having read your article from 7/21/2020 I want to provide additional context which the article doesn't touch upon. This is because Dangen is making every effort to return Devil Engine to the developers and has done so for six months as the emails we shared show. All that's needed is a little communication to find cancellation conditions the developer will agree to.
First, a couple corrections:
· Dangen paid Protoculture on July 23, 2019. The composer acknowledged receipt here https://twitter.com/Qwesta6/status/1272540691864915968?s=20
· Dangen is not withholding payment as the article suggests. We always send sales reports on time and ask the developer to invoice. We would never withhold payment because that's immoral and illegal. Also, no amount of money is worth the negative PR this brings.
To answer the points Tristan raised in his TwitLonger:
We are not threatening anyone legally or otherwise. He has mentioned lawyers before and talking to a certified lawyer in emails sounds like a good idea. It would likely complete the negotiations quickly. In my most recent email exchange with him he said his lawyer would reach out to me. I have not been contacted yet, but I hope to hear from a professional soon.
Invoice: We don't understand why he cannot invoice. All of our other developer partners invoice without difficulty and some are also based in the same country as Tristan. In the six months where I sent those 11 emails, I never heard they cannot invoice. Until May I heard nothing while they said online that they did invoice but we were ghosting them. We will gladly pay Tristan his royalties, but the bank requires an invoice to do this because Dangen is a tax-paying entity and has to show a paper trail for sending money out of the country.
On the contract:
Why a contract? - It is a legal liability for us to transfer the game without proof of cancellation. So is Protoculture, for that mattter, if they wanted to use the music. We would never DMCA the game anyway, but a cancellation contract makes usage of the assets clear.
Why are there costs? (What are these "costs") - These were the approved costs for music and localization that the developer initially asked for. We will not sell Ignition so we want to recover these costs from cancellation because we will give the rights for all the music and localziation we made to the developer. But it's not a present and we don't want to give it away for free. We have offered two options: don't use the music and Dangen can pay the cost or pay for the music as listed in the contract under approved costs and then use the music in future games.
Superfluous costs - We have the communication receipts where all of these costs were approved and we would be happy to show this to a journalist who wants to vet it. Any item where we couldn't find the approvals was deleted before we even shared the cancellation contract with Protoculture. We were never asked to either remove or provide approval receipts for these, but we would have done so at any time. This is why we needed replies between January and May.
Striking out unapproved costs - We offered to strike out costs if we were mistaken and they had already been paid for by the dev (Feb 18). We offered to address any disagreements with the terms (May 18). And we even offered to let Tristan choose any or all costs to strike out completely under the condition that the music and translation we paid for would not be used in the release (July 21). This is not about money for us. It is purely about communicating enough to know what Tristan needs to finish this relationship and receive the game.
So what's in the contract?
· Payment of remaining royalties to dev.
· Dev can use the assets for which Dangen recouped costs.
· Transfer of Steam page within 10 days.
· Removal of Dangen branding within 10 days.
· Return of Dangen's devkit within 10 days.
· That's all. It's two pages long and followed by a list of receipts and an attachment of the contract it cancels.
Here is my most recent email to Tristan:
His reply was that I will be contacted by his lawyer and that I won't hear from Tristan again. I have not yet been contacted by the lawyer but I hope to hear from them as soon as possible. I think it's in the best interests of both companies and of fans, for a professional to handle a clean transfer of the game back to Protoculture.
I understand people have doubts based on previous management. I've genuinely done all can to fix those issues. We're working happily with all our other developer partners. The proof provided should show that I have made multiple efforts to solve the Devil Engine issue but without one party at the table, there is little that can be done. I sincerely hope Tristan spends the few hours it takes to invoice us, sign the 2 page cancellation contract, or to consult a proper lawyer so that both parties can move on.
Original Story (Tue 21st Jul, 2020 13:30 BST): Shooter fans will no doubt remember the superb Devil Engine, and with good reason – it's one of the best blasters on Switch. However, the studio behind the game, Protoculture Games, insists that it hasn't seen a penny from sales of the title on either Switch or Steam and that embattled publisher Dangen Entertainment is refusing to sign the IP back over.
Dangen, you may recall, ran into trouble late last year when its CEO stepped down following allegations of inappropriate behaviour, harassment and bad business practices. At the time, Protoculture revealed that it no longer had access to Devil Engine on Switch or Steam, and this resulted in the delay of the game's 'Ignition' expansion.
Fast forward to the present, and it seems that nothing has been sorted out in over six months. Protoculture's Sinoc, who is one of Devil Engine's lead developers, has claimed that Dangen is still withholding payment for sales of the game and the long-awaited Ignition expansion is still very much in limbo. In addition to this, he states that Dangen is still refusing to relinquish control of the game to Protoculture.
Dangen has responded to the accusations online, with the company's Head of Operations, Dan Stern, saying:
I have sent 11 emails to the developers and Jeannie Park, their representative. I received one reply on December 18th, which called my proposals "favorable". After that, I received nothing until May, even after I sent a pre-signed cancellation contract in January in which Dangen gets no revenue after termination. During this time, Dangen sent all sales reports on time, but received no invoices (which are required by law in order for us to pay them). We also saw claims that Dangen threatened heavy legal action (which I never did) and that I refused to give the titles back to the developers (which my emails show to be false).
Sinoc has since responded to this statement, saying:
The negotiations were primarily being handled by Jeannie (who wanted to remain anonymous through this, so good job outing her) as she did all the buisnessey stuff, I wanted to be left out of the CC so I could focus on my next project (It's truckin along).
The threats against us obviously weren't in the emails, but in person at TGS and hearsay from secondary sources. I know they'll say 'X employee doesn't represent us' but we couldn't exactly take any chances.
We can't send an invoice (which they constantly reference) because that's the legal equivalent of saying 'yea this is totally legit', but since they forged numbers the first time there's no way in hell we're gonna trust them again on that.
The cancellation contract they reference would have us pay a bunch of superfluous costs we never agreed to and some we can't even source, in addition to other very restricting clauses. Since they don't respect the original contract, we weren't going to enter into another.
We've been speaking with our lawyer over the past couple months on how to proceed further. Nothing has changed until we announce it has.
Sadly, it would seem this whole sorry business is no closer to being solved, and that means Devil Engine fans will have to continue to wait in order to get their hands on the Ignition expansion.
We gave Devil Engine 8/10 when we reviewed it, saying:
It seems almost customary to include the phrase 'Not for everyone' in any review of a niche genre game, and while that certainly applies to Devil Engine, it has at least been designed in a way that encourages even the weakest players to keep trying and learn from their mistakes... if you're a fan of this style of game – and you're crying out for a title in the Thunder Force vein – then Devil Engine is well worth a look.