“Never Paid Us A Single Cent”: Lace Mamba Global Breach Publishing Deal With CBE Software

J.U.L.I.A.

UPDATE:
Having spoken to Lace Mamba Global over the phone, we can say that it seems they fell behind on paying out royalties to some of their clients. They claim that they haven’t received a number of letters from some developers and say that the statistics sheet that Jan mentions in this article does not say that the game saw zero sales, they claim that is false information. Lace Mamba Global have now hired somebody to start issuing out royalty statements to some of the developers named in this article and have communicated with them to inform them that they will receive the money they are owed shortly. We shall update again when appropriate.


What an absolute nightmare it must be to invest nearly everything you have in developing a game for four years, to then enter an exclusive publishing deal with a company for them to not pay you any of the money they’ve generated from selling your game, and then to ignore all of your efforts to contact them. What do you do in that scenario? That’s what’s been facing Cardboard Box Entertainment (CBE) Software, who have just cancelled their publishing agreement with Lace Mamba Global (LMG) for these exact reasons.

Lace Mamba GlobalCBE entered into an exclusive publishing contract with LMG back in October 2011, which meant that the latter company were to publish the adventure and puzzle games J.U.L.I.A. and J.U.L.I.A. Untold in boxed form around parts of Europe and in digital form worldwide. This part of the agreement went smoothly, but when it came to paying CBE for the sales their games had been generating, LMG did not deliver any royalty reports, nor did they pay any of the money mutually agreed upon in the said publishing agreement for a period of 10 months.

The news went out yesterday that CBE have now cancelled the publishing agreement with LMG and will order all retailers selling the two games concerned to not do so any more unless they write up a distribution agreement with CBE themselves.

We reached out to Jan Kavan, the director at CBE Software, to get the precise details of what it is that LMG owe them, and what happened upon trying to reach out and get them to pay up. He gave a numbered response:

“1. They haven’t paid per territory release (as stated in agreement) – invoiced and taxed by us, so that’s another money loss.
2. They haven’t delivered any correct royalty reports (after 4 months of us urgently contacting them everyday to receive answers like “tomorrow, on Monday, Wednesday, next week”).
3. When I confronted them, they went into hiding. No email answers, no promised Skype conferences. The meeting at GamesCom 2012 didn’t take place as the CEO never appeared – I was told he had to leave immediately.
4. We’ve sent a registered letter to both of their addresses – unanswered
5. We’ve paid English lawyers to send them a very formal letter – unanswered
6. We’ve paid English lawyers to send them very formal follow-up letter – unanswered”

J.U.L.I.A. Adventure ShopIn the end, Jan says they received one blank sheet of paper, on which it said that 0 digital copies were sold, 0 copies of J.U.L.I.A. Untold had been sold and that a handful of boxed copies had been sold. Thing is, Jan already had lots of proof that the game was selling. The picture to the right shows J.U.L.I.A.’s placement as top-seller on The Adventure Shop, where it remained for three months. And Jan says that he knows there were actual copies sold since he had to do tons of support requests connected to intrusive DRM that LMG put in the game.

That brings us up to where we are today. “They never paid us a single cent,” Jan told us. He then says that it shows that you can enter these agreements with a lawful understanding between developer and publisher, but if you’re not able to afford an expensive lawsuit, you’re screwed if they don’t keep to the contract. “And this publisher knows it,” he concluded.

Not The First Time

J.U.L.I.A.

The problem is bigger than just this one case too! In August of 2012, Colibri Games also cancelled their publishing deal with Lace Mamba Global after they also didn’t receive any royalty payments or reports after a whole year. Jan tells us that the exact same thing happened with Darkling Room (formerly XXv Productions) when LMG published a couple of their Dark Fall games. He adds that it could have happened to more companies who have been less public about the whole ordeal too.

“I don’t want to speculate as to why someone would act like this, but it’s pretty common. DTP, Lace Mamba – it’s always the same story. Maybe they only pay developers who cross a certain income threshold?”

CBE Software won’t rule out using a publisher ever again, but they’re no longer prepared to hand over finished games that they have invested a huge amount into themselves. With the J.U.L.I.A. games, Jan tells us his whole family poured money into them, and obviously four years of his and Lukas’ life were spent making these games, and this is the end result. Obtaining the necessary funding for their future development projects through other means such as crowdfunding may mean they’d use a publisher again, but if they’ve invested their personal savings into a game, then that won’t be on the cards.

On a more positive note, CBE haven’t long released Vampires!, and that seems to be doing pretty well for them at the moment. They’ve also submitted J.U.L.I.A. onto Greenlight in hopes that the game will get approved and distributed through Steam.

Related Posts

  • epynephrin

    If it’s any help, Amanita Design made similar claims on their Facebook account: http://www.facebook.com/Amanita.Design/posts/594423003916705

    It sounds like there is something fishy going on, even if they’re lawyering up.

  • http://areograph.com Luke Reid

    We are the indie developer of the Casebook series of games. We also never received a cent from them and are in the process of putting together a legal case against them. Jason Codd and his team kept stringing us along instead of just being honest about their difficulties – if they had we would have been happy to work with them to get through it. This has directly resulted in the loss of jobs of some very talented indie game developers with young families. Makes me sick.

  • http://www.himalayastudios.com Rachel Presser

    Just plain unconscionable. Reminds me of this shady business plan writing service that completely ripped off my company because they damn well knew small businesses wouldn’t be able to lawyer up. There’s a special place in hell for people like that who pick on the little guy.

  • Faraz Ahmed

    In 2009, Jason Codd and Robert Neilson (http://www.vg247.com/2009/01/30/ex-thq-exec-starts-mamba-games/) had contacted our studio with a publishing offer for our title Cricket Revolution (http://www.cricketrevolution.com).

    Being an indie studio with burnt out funds after four years of development and approaching a gold master, we took the bait. Everything hit the fan after that. Jason Codd disappeared after receiving the gold master. Nothing that was discussed in the contract was delivered. We received no money and did not hear from them despite numerous emails.

    Eventually we threatened them with a law suit but had no funds to follow up the threat and with no options left, pursued other channels for selling Cricket Revolution. Steam (http://store.steampowered.com/app/25500/) eventually took up our title and we signed some localization deals that helped us survive.

    Here is the kicker, our contract has terminated and expired, and Lace Mamba Global is selling our stolen gold master openly and freely on Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lace-Mamba-Global-Cricket-Revolution/dp/B002N5M8BY and most likely across other sales channels as well.

    Let there be no mistake that Mamba, Jason Codd and his partners will be brought to justice eventually. Its just a matter of time, bit of money and cooperation between other studios that have been trapped by this entity.

    Check out this open letter as well: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/JakubDvorsky/20130211/186420/Indies_vs_Mamba_Games_and_Lace_Mamba_Global.php