Another indie developer has come forward publicly with allegations that UK-based publishers PQube have withheld money from them. Thai dev team Corecell claim they’ve only seen some of the minimum guaranteed money agreed when they signed the European console publishing rights to their action-puzzle game AeternoBlade 2 over to PQube in 2019.
Corecell say they attempted to resolve things with PQube but that didn’t work, and they had to terminate the publishing agreement in 2020. Since then, Corecell have tried to regain the rights to AeternoBlade 2 from PQube to no avail. Corecell allege that PQube did offer to return the rights to the game, but only if they would agree to keep the situation secret.
Here’s Corecell’s original statement in full:
It has been tough for us for the past three years. We have struggled to recover since we signed a publishing deal with PQube. But now it’s time we came out with the truth. Hopefully, this will help other indie game developers to avoid what has happened to us and inform our fans about our situation.
PQUBE has published AeternoBlade II on Nintendo Switch, PS4, XBox One in Europe since October 2019 under a publishing agreement with us and agreed to pay a minimum guarantee to us. However, PQUBE only paid a small part of the minimum guarantee of the signing milestone by the time we sent them the game and they never paid the remaining milestones. We have been trying to resolve this issue with PQUBE but were unable to reach a solution, leading us to terminate the publishing agreement around September 2020. However, PQUBE has refused to return the publishing control on the console platforms back to us and continues to sell and take all revenues from AeternoBlade II.
PQUBE offered to hand over publishing control to us only if we agreed to keep this matter secret, but we no longer wanted to be involved in any more deals with PQUBE. We knew something was not right, but as a small independent developer, we could not afford to pay legal fees to fight the case in another country. We have contacted each platform to ask for the return of our publishing control. So far, only Nintendo and Sony have taken our game off their Europe stores, and we still have not received any revenue from the sales in Europe.
Because of this incident, we had to do various additional works to recover from our financial situation. We promise that we will soon be back to patch the problems and continue to release new contents for AeternoBlade II. We are always thankful for everyone who has been supporting us. We want everyone to have fun with our game, satisfied with our product. We hope our fans understand our situation and hope you will continue to support us.
Thank you so much for understanding,
Corecell’s allegations follow on from an earlier claim by Indonesian devs Mojiken Studio. Mojiken published a statement in August that accused PQube of withholding information about a diversity grant for slice-of-life adventure A Space For The Unbound, and that PQube used that to leverage for a greater share of the game’s revenue. Corecell’s statement was retweeted by Mojiken.
A second statement from Corecell qualified that they don’t want “negative and harmful action” aimed at PQube, just “”to explain our situation to our fans, get our game back, and move on”. PQube responded to Corecell’s claims in a statement to VG247:
We enjoyed working with Corecell on our first project together and Corecell were very happy with the success of this. We were pleased to work again with Corecell on Aeternoblade 2 and, despite delays and quality issues we endeavoured to release the game in October 2019 for them as they requested.
At our post launch meeting in January 2020 Corecell acknowledged significant product quality issues and agreed to provide critical fixes in order to make the game commercially viable. Unfortunately, these fixes never materialised and Corecell remained unresponsive. PQube remained prepared to pay the full guarantee for the game, despite the very poor reviews and sales, and to publish the PC version in line with PQube’s option in the agreement. Corecell agreed in March 2020 to provide the PC version to PQube but then proceeded to list and then release the PC version itself without further discussion with PQube.
Over the following 2 years, PQube proposed and sent numerous proposals and supporting agreements to revert rights to Corecell in line with their request but these were not acknowledged by Corecell. Nevertheless, despite all of the challenges and the lack of communication from Corecell, PQube released its rights to the console versions back to Corecell well before the end of the agreement term. We remain open to support Corecell in any way possible.
Throughout our 12 years of distribution and publishing history, we have worked with numerous partners and have released over 200 games. PQube have a proud history of working with developers both large and small. From established global IP, to championing independent projects from smaller teams – we continue to publish multiple projects and sequels from our existing partnerships which is testament to the ongoing strength of our relationships and the strong bond between our development partners and our passionate and diverse team at PQube.
We have always strived to provide focus and commitment to maximise the results for our partners and to support them fully through all stages of the product lifecycle. When challenges have arisen, as is inevitable over such a long period in the games industry, we have always sought to resolve them in a fair and reasonable way.
We will continue to focus our energy on doing a great job for our partners. We continually work to develop and improve all aspects of our business and are fully committed to providing the best possible service and success for all of our partners.
AeternoBlade 2 is published by Corecell on Steam, so any money from that goes directly to the studio rather than PQube. Corecell are still hoping to gain the console rights to the game.