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.
CBE 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”
In 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
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.