Indie developers Amanita Design, Colibri Games and Daedalic Entertainment have come forward claiming that UK publisher Lace Mamba has failed to pay them and has made some shady deals selling games in territories it had no authority to.
According to an open letter to the industry, Amanita Design signed a contract in November 2009 with Mamba Games Ltd., which allowed the publisher to distribute Machinarium in certain territories under the condition that it would pay the studio a minimum guarantee along with quarterly reports and royalty payments - you know, like a publisher does. Daedalic Entertainment signed a similar contract contract in June 2010 with Lace Mamba Global, which allowed the publisher to distribute Deponia, The Whispered World, A New Beginning and Edna & Harvey: The Breakout while Colibri Games signed on with Lace Mamba for The Tiny Bang Story.
None of the studios received its minimum guarantee and LMG's European managing director Jason Codd went AWOL and no one could get in touch with him.
Worse, at GDC 2012, Amanita and Daedalic found out that their games were being distributed by Mamba Games Ltd. and Lace Mamba Global Ltd. in territories where no rights were granted to these companies. Worse, the publisher would sell local distributors in the unauthorised territories the rights - that it didn't have - to manufacture the studios' games. "In some instances Mamba Games Ltd. went so far as to sell to the local distributors the right to manufacture our games for a flat fee, not only collecting such revenue in breach of our rights, but also damaging our games with a model that we would have never agreed to in the first place, no matter who would be offering it," read the report.
With all these underhanded dealings, Colibri and Daedalic sought to end their contracts with Lace Mamba Global so the publisher would no longer be able to manufacture the studios' games. Amazingly, Lace Mamba claimed to have not received the letters of termination despite the fact that they were delivered with confirmations of receipt. Allegedly the publisher also claimed that its e-mail system was "malfunctioning" on the exact days these messages were sent, despite the fact that they were months apart. Neither studio had their e-mails to Lace Mamba bounce back either.
Last month CBE software went public with a similar tale of woe regarding Lace Mamba, so it joined forces with Daedalic, Colibri, and Amanita in this coalition to get what it was owed. After "one last collective effort" contacting everyone they knew at Lace Mamba, some progress was made.
"After a week of heated discussions involving such entertaining topics as Crown Prosecution Service and possible imprisonment for organised piracy, Mamba Games Ltd. and Lace Mamba Global Ltd. provided Daedalic, Colibri, CBE and Amanita with a work-in-progress ad hoc royalty report," read the report.
As of 11th February 2013, Lace Mamba Global had settled its debts with CBE and Daedalic Entertainment and paid Colibri part of what it was owed with a signed agreement to pay the rest by 15th March, 2013. Lace Mamba was made to deliver all its unsold copies of Colibri's games to the developer and agreed to to the same with Daedalic. Lace Mamba Global has also recognised its termination from its dealings with Daedalic and Colibri. Meanwhile, Jason Codd - who initiated all of the contracts - had been fired as director of Lace Mamba Global.
"With a collective sigh we are so very happy to put this case away and to focus once again on the creative process," read the report.
But what about Amanita, you ask? Well, it turns out the studio behind Machinarium and Botanicula received the rawest end of the deal as Lace Mamba Global CEO Adam Lacey told Amanita that in fact Mamba Games Ltd. and Lace Mamba Global Ltd. are two different companies and Lace Mamba Global isn't responsible for Mamba Games Ltd - which was said to be owned by the MIA Jason Codd, who operated as director of both companies until just a few days ago.
Hilariously, Lace Mamba Global's logo is clearly displayed on retail copies of Machinarium, even though the company is disavowing responsibility for it and claiming Amanita's beef is with the similarly titled Mamba Games Ltd.
It gets stranger. Neither Lacey or Codd have been able to get their stories straight regarding who does what at what company. "Mr. Lacey writes that Jason Codd has been the director of Lace Mamba Global Ltd. while Jason Codd himself writes that he was never officially the director of neither Mamba Games Ltd. nor Lace Mamba Global Ltd., even though he sometimes signed as a European Managing Director of Lace Mamba Global Ltd. (but not of Mamba Games Ltd.)" read the report. "Also, it was Mamba Games Ltd. which wired some of the payments due under the contract with Lace Mamba Global Ltd."
Curiously, the illegally released Polish and Swedish versions of Machinarium contain the Lace Mamba Global logo on the box, while Lacey claimed that LMG is "just a sub-distributor" of the game, while Mamba Games Ltd. is the original publisher. "Mr. Lacey could not explain the reasons as to why Mamba Games Ltd., a publisher, would not place its logo on the box of the game, but would rather place a logo of its sub-distributor - both of these entities conveniently headed by the same person."
And so the legal battle wages on, but Amanita, Colibri, and Daedalic wanted to warn people about dealing with Lace Mamba Global or Mamba Games or whatever-the-f***-they're-called as it's unclear if they're one company or two and it seems to be mercurial who works under who.
"It is a long and windy road but the studio is willing to take it to establish the truth, so that other studios are prevented from being harmed in a similar way in the future," read the letter. "We stay united in our disapproval of the business practices described above and we hope that our experience prevents other developers from making similar mistakes."
The letter was signed by Jakub Dvorsky, managing director of Amanita Design, Andrey Arutyunyan, managing director of Colibri Games, and Sergei Klimov, director of international publishing of Daedalic Entertainment.
Lace Mamba Global has since responded to the allegation in an e-mail to Rock, Paper, Shotgun, stating that Mamba Games is now acting as its own company, but Lace Global admitted that there were mistakes on its end and it will try to honour Amanita's original arrangement.
"Lace Mamba Global recognise that Mamba Games (Jason Codd) pre-existing contractual obligations are not being met and we will do all we can to help developers to ensure Mamba Games are held to account," said LMG. "Lace Mamba Global also recognise that there have been some reporting and accounting issues in the past which we are actively working to resolve. We are pleased that those companies who we have been working closely with over the past few days have acknowledged that we have resolved their outstanding issues and we continue to work with and contact our other partners to ensure all of Lace Mamba's contractual obligations are being met in full."
The publishers full statement is posted below:
"In January of 2010 Mamba Games Ltd, an existing company, run by Jason Codd and Robert Neilson, formed a partnership with Adam Lacey of Lace International, with the intention of forming a new games company, Lace Mamba Global Ltd. This partnership was widely reported in the media at the time. As this was a partnership deal, Mamba Games Ltd continued to trade as a company in its own right, retaining its pre-existing contracts that were signed prior to the formation of Lace Mamba Global.
"Mamba Games sub-licensed some of its pre-existing contracted product to Lace Mamba Global for distribution in the UK and Eire. Where Mamba Games product has been sold to other territories, this was done directly by Mamba Games, selling Lace Mamba Global branded product to international distributors for which Mamba Games were paid directly. Lace Mamba Global recognise that Mamba Games (Jason Codd) pre-existing contractual obligations are not being met and we will do all we can to help developers to ensure Mamba Games are held to account.
"As per our previous statement, Lace Mamba Global also recognise that there have been some reporting and accounting issues in the past which we are actively working to resolve. We are pleased that those companies who we have been working closely with over the past few days have acknowledged that we have resolved their outstanding issues and we continue to work with and contact our other partners to ensure all of Lace Mamba's contractual obligations are being met in full.
"Lace Mamba Global are committed to regaining the trust of the gaming industry, we value our partnerships and will endeavour to resolve all the issues currently facing us. We would like to thank all developers for their continued patience while we review our contracts and report accurately.
"Lace Mamba Global would like to state that we will not publicly discuss individual contracts or issues out of respect for confidentiality."