AeternoBlade II Devs Accuse PQube Games of Withholding Payments

Though the publisher says its attempt at new agreements have received no response.

After the developers behind Space for the Unbound publicly spoken about a dispute with publisher PQube Games, another developer has come forward regarding its relationship with the company: AeternoBlade II studio Corecell.

In a post on its social channels, Corecell says PQube did not pay the full amount of a minimum guarantee when publishing AeternoBlade II, nor did it pay expected amounts for development milestones. The studio says the publishing agreement was terminated in September of 2020, but it claims PQube didn’t return publishing control for AeternoBlade II on consoles, and has since been raking in revenue from sales.

The statement says PQube offered to return publishing rights to the studio if it didn’t publicly come forward about the incident, but Corecell didn’t want to be involved with the publisher. As a small studio, the team claims it wasn’t able to handle the fees associated with a legal fight, and Sony and Nintendo have taken the game off European stores. As such, Corecell says it has not received any revenue from AeternoBlade II’s European sales.

The full statement as posted on Twitter reads as follows:

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 content 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.

PQube has issued a response to IGN, which says it was prepared to pay the guarantee, but claims Corecell became unresponsive after post-launch meetings deemed AeternoBlade II in need of “critical fixes” to make it viable to sell. The publisher says that Corecell went on to release the PC version itself without discussing it further with PQube, and that it attempted to reach a new agreement with the studio several times over the past two years, but were never acknowledged.

“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.”

We’ve reached out to Corecell for a follow-up comment, and will update the story if we hear back.

Update: Corecell has issued a statement to Fanbyte disputing the claims that PQube has released the rights to publish AeternoBlade II on console, specifically citing the game’s Xbox store page, which still lists PQube as the publisher. The company also said it argued the publisher’s outlining of the sequence of events was inaccurate, and that PQube was the unresponsive party during the disputes.

The full statement, which has been slightly edited for clarity, reads as follows:

We never insist to release in Oct 2019. Releasing the game requires mutual consent from both Corecell and PQube. We always involved PQube in the process of QA until we think the game is good to go. Moreover, the process of manufacturing NSW, PS4 boxes requires 2-3 months and publisher money. Have you ever heard that the game developer controls the release date over the publisher?

The PC version is never in the contract. The contract says PQube has only the first rights to refuse if we make [a game on] another platform, unfortunately, they breached the contract by not paying the MG. After we sent the invoice. PQube never answered for 4 months. We flew to the UK to discuss this in January 2020, but PQube offered to pay only 20% of the agreed amount separately for several months to end the conflict, which is not acceptable for their predatory practice [and] behavior. As a result, we terminated the contract in August 2020 before the PC version was released in September 2020.
We keep asking [and] begging PQube to return the game after we sent the termination letter. We don’t want any money from them anymore, we just want our fans to get the new update when we update, fix bugs, and make any new content and we can get revenue from Europe to support the team. […] PQube requests us to sign the addendum to give up the rights to sue them and keep secret[s] of the matter. We reject[ed] to sign anything. because the termination letter is already in effect and if PQube continues to sell the game it is [a crime] to our intellectual property. [It’s] unbelievable that they never contact[ed] the platforms to return our game.
Despite what PQube said in the statement, the fact remains unchanged that: PQube has not yet paid us the agreed amount, we have not received any revenue from PQube sales in EU stores, and PQube did not return the publishing control in EU back to us. There is consistency in the truth and confusion in the lies.
We’ve reached out to PQube for comment, and will update the story should we hear back.