Frogwares’ Sherlock Holmes games being removed from digital stores due to dispute with Focus

Sherlock Holmes – Crimes and Punishments
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Frogwares, developer of the really-not-bad Sherlock Holmes series as games, as well as Magrunner: Dark Pulse and, more recently, The Sinking City, is having its games removed from digital storefronts due to a dispute with publisher Focus Home Interactive.

An independent studio formed in Ukraine, Frogwares has established itself in the detective genre over the years, partnering with French publisher Focus for a number of titles over the years. 

Unfortunately, Frogwares alleges the Publishing and Distribution Agreement for a number of these titles has expired and Focus Home Interactive has refused to transfer ownership of the titles developed back to Frogwares. This would include transferring title IDs which would, in turn, allow Frogwares to sell its own games. Frogwares claims it is the creators and owners of these IP, as well as the sole distribution now the publishing agreement has lapsed.

On their side of the fence, Focus has issued an official statement saying it 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”. Frogwares says this “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.”

Which seems…. Very odd. Agreements are agreements and should be honoured as such. A blanket refusal to ever allow a game to be removed from Focus’ catalogue, even after the license has elapsed, smacks a little of bullying tactics.

It’s all a bit of a mess, basically, and now it now means games like Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes Vs. Jack The Ripper and Magrunner: Dark Pulse are being removed from the Xbox store, PlayStation store, and potentially Steam as well.

The full list of affected games is as follows:

On Steam, PS4, Xbox One, PS3 and Xbox 360: Sherlock Holmes Crimes & Punishments availability ends on September 29th.  Already taken down on PS3: The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, Magrunner: Dark Pulse Already taken down on Xbox 360: Sherlock Holmes versus Jack The Ripper, The Testament Of Sherlock Holmes, Magrunner: Dark Pulse On Steam, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes Vs. Jack The Ripper and Magrunner: Dark Pulse are published by Frogwares and not by Focus Home Interactive.

As a result of these changes, Frogwares says users will no longer be able to buy the games, wishlists will be lost, as will every other bit of information on the Store and community pages. They’ve set they’re currently in the process of setting up new independent store profiles, although this may be impossible in certain situations (such as previous gen consoles).

“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,” wrote Frogwares. “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.”

If, like me, you got a bit confused and remember fellow French publisher Bigben Interactive acquired Frogwares shortly after partnering up for The Sinking City then know, just like me, you’ve got it completely mixed up. Bigben Interactive has acquired a new studio recently, GreedFall developer ‘Spiders’, but it merely partnered up with Frogwares to publish The Sinking City. As it stands then, Frogwares is a wholly independent studio, meaning this move from Focus really has ripped the safety net out from underneath them.

It’s all a bit of a mess, to be honest, and just one of many sticky situations we’ll inevitably find ourselves in once we tread further down the line of digital ownership and complex platform licensing agreements. Suffice to say, if you’ve got your eye on a Frogwares game then it may be worth picking it up sooner rather than later. Fingers crossed this all gets sorted out soon though with any major financial repercussions for Frogwares.