So the Wii U, a failure on the scale of most Scottish journalism, the Hindenburg, anyone who tried to invade Russia in the Winter or Lance Armstrong’s attempts to hide his cheating, got a physical release this week. This was already a strange enough story but when more details were added, it grew arms and legs on the scale of most creatures born nearby Chernobyl.
Critically acclaimed indie darling Axiom Verge will be releasing on the Wii U on March 29th.
‘This is shocking’ I hear the three people who owned a Wii U exclaim, from underneath their Super Mario themed bed covers, well not as shocking as the other 99% of the story.
Dan Adelman from Leadman Games has taken to Twitter to catch the world up:
Limited Run Games just announced the long-awaited release details for Axiom Verge Wii U. (Link to actual tweet: https://t.co/uyExyFDG2L)
We've been quiet about it until now, but Badland Games ripped us (me and Tom Happ) off as well. Here are some of the details: [1/14] pic.twitter.com/PEzDAzNHDR
— Dan Adelman (@Dan_Adelman) March 15, 2019
Please take the time to read this. It is a very sad story with some pretty upsetting implications across the industry. It’s more than likely that deals like this have negative twists and connotations more often than we gamers actually realise and we should be grateful to Dan for his transparency on the situation.
What’s the actual story then? Well, BadLand Games offered to Limited Run the exclusive distribution rights in North America of a physical edition of Axiom Verge on Wii U with a ton of neat extras. BadLand already had the publishing rights and in agreement with developer Thomas Happ, they would be bringing the game to several other platforms including PS4. The Wii U retail special edition would be coming later in 2017. Limited Run paid BadLand $78,000 for 6000 copies of this version of the game. The original intended delivery date was November. Then it was delayed to January. By March 2018, there was zero progress and there was no contact from BadLand.
In April, Limited Run Games CEO Josh Fairhurst reached out to BadLand Games CEO Luis Quintans via email. According to gamesindustry.biz, the email contained two options:
“A direct refund of the $78,000 owed, or $78,000 worth of Axiom Verge on the Nintendo Switch, PS4, or PS Vita. The latter option would have given Limited Run a way to recoup their money by partnering with Thomas Happ and distributing the copies. The email concluded with the first note of warning from Fairhurst – he had cc’d his lawyer Brandon Huffman of Odin Law on the correspondence, and Huffman was reviewing prior communications between the companies, just in case.”
Quintans eventually agreed to the second option after the threat of legal action. Then he disappeared for six months. He eventually did respond, legal action was filed in October and the response came two weeks later. Quintans explained that the publishing rights had already been transferred back to Happ as BadLand Games had ceased to exist. BadLand Publishing was an entirely new entity. Quintans claimed he was too busy focusing on the transfer of the company and saving jobs and assets to deal with individual cases or issues.
“On December 4 of last year, the district court rendered a judgment by default in light of the fact that the defendant never turned up for court, ordering BadLand Games and BadLand Publishing (both are listed on the judgment and suit) to repay Limited Run the full $78,000 plus $3,675.63 in accrued interest and attorney’s fees.“
Now, this is an international case which brings with it a plethora of legal and administrative issues. It gets more complex though. Check out the story of Axiom Verge developer, Tom Happ’s son.
In the initial publishing deal, BadLand promised to donate 75% of their cut to a trust fund set up for the child’s medical expenses.
This is an incredibly touching offer. It turns out BadLand Games potentially owe Leadman games and Thomas Happ about $200k for the European distribution.
So, here’s the summary:
- BadLand Games owed Limited Run games $78,000 worth of copies of Axiom Verge for North American distribution.
- BadLand Games owe Leadman games/Thomas Happ $200,000 for the European distribution of physical copies of Axiom Verge.
- A large chunk of money was also supposed to be donated to the excellent cause of Alistair Happ’s medical expenses.
Dan Adelman puts it better than I ever could:
It's frustrating to see @BadLand_Publish tweet about new games they're releasing, no doubt funded with the money they owe LRG and Tom Happ. Badland has literally stolen money from a disabled toddler. [14/14]
— Dan Adelman (@Dan_Adelman) March 15, 2019