Another developer has stepped forward to accuse UK-based publisher PQube of exploitative behavior. Thailand-based Corecell, developer of 2019’s AeternoBlade II, claims that PQube, its console publisher in Europe, withheld agreed-upon payments and refused to return publishing control for the game. The new accusations come a week after Mojiken and Toge Productions, developers of A Space for the Unbound, claimed that PQube misused funding from a diversity grant as leverage for its own commercial advantage.
Corecell delivered its statement via a Tweet on its official account.
— CORECELL OFFICIAL (@AETERNOBLADE1) September 1, 2022
In the statement, the developer alleged that PQube has not fulfilled its obligations to pay its minimum guarantee in accordance with agreed-upon milestones. A minimum guarantee in game development is an agreed-upon amount of funding delivered to a developer by a publisher over the course of the partnership (often the game’s development). It’s common for a publisher to set milestones as conditions for receiving parts of agreed-upon funding, as a way to ensure the progress. PQube published AeternoBlade II on consoles in Europe since 2019. However, according to Corecell, the publisher had paid only a “small part” of the minimum guarantee of the signing milestone by the time they sent them the game. It also claimed that PQube never paid the remaining milestones. I Corecell said that they were ultimately unable to reach a resolution with PQube, leading them to terminate the publishing arrangement in September 2020. Even then, though, PQube has refused to return publishing rights for consoles back to Corecell, continuing to sell AeternoBlade II and reaping the revenues.
Additionally, Corecell said that PQube offered to return publishing control back to Corecell on the condition that it agreed to keep the matter secret. Instead, Corecell decided not to take the deal and went public. “As a small independent developer”, it claimed, “we could not afford to pay legal fees to fight the case in another country”. After appealing to the various platforms, Corecell successfully got Sony and Nintendo to delist AeternoBlade II on their respective European stores. However, revenue from sales in Europe have not yet been transferred over.
Corecell then thanked fans for their support, promising that it would be back soon to work on patches and new content for the game. It asked supporters not to engage in “negative and harmful action toward PQube”, saying that “what we want is to explain our situation, get our game back, and move on.”
In a response sent to VG247, PQube stated that AeternoBlade 2 suffered from “significant product quality issues” after launch, and that Corecell agreed to provide fixes in order to make the game “commercially viable”. PQube claimed that the fixes “never materialized”, and that PQube was prepared to pay the full guarantee and publish the PC version, in accordance with an option in the agreement. It said that Corecell, after agreeing to provide the PC version of the game to PQube, instead listed and released the PC version on its own, without discussion with PQube. It claimed that its attempted to send “numerous proposals and supporting agreements to revert rights back to Corecell in line with their request,” but that they were not acknowledged. Finally, PQube claimed that it in fact released its rights to the console versions “well before the end of the agreement term,” and that it remains open to support Corecell. Visit VG247 for PQube’s full statement, which is lengthy and contains more detail of its side of the story.
AeternoBlade II is available on PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One. Within Europe, it is only available on Xbox One and PC.