The developers of indie slice-of-life adventure A Space For The Unbound allege that the game’s console publisher in western regions, PQube, withheld information about a diversity grant and used that to leverage for a greater share of the game’s revenue. Mojiken Studio say they were left feeling “manipulated and exploited” by the UK-based publisher’s actions. The Indonesian team have now terminated their contract with PQube and delayed A Space For The Unbound until they can find another publisher.
A Space For The Unbound is a point-and-click adventure set in an Indonesian high school in the Nineties. It’s about young people in love, overcoming anxiety and depression, and diving into other people’s minds using a magic book. Mojiken are based in Surabaya, Indonesia, and have always made games rooted strongly in their team’s Indonesian identity. They say they issued the statement about PQube to “make a stand against exploitative publishers and speak up about this to stop things like this from happening again in the future”.
The full statement from Mojiken Studio and A Space For The Unbound’s PC publisher Toge Productions, also shared on Twitter, is below:
Dear space divers,
We are sad to announce that we will be delaying the release of A Space For The Unbound until further notice.
Earlier this year we discovered that PQube Games, a UK-based publisher that we signed for the console publishing of A Space For The Unbound for western regions had done certain things which have left us feeling manipulated and exploited, and so we have had to terminate our agreement with them.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in August 2020, PQube Games used our position and heritage as developers from Indonesia to obtain a diversity fund from a well known console platform. The diversity fund was a grant fund intended to help underrepresented game developers, especially during the pandemic. However, instead of giving those funds to the developers as the grant was intended, PQube Games intentionally withheld information about the grant and used it as a leverage for their own commercial gain. Rather than paying the grant money to us, PQube Games hid the facts about the grant’s award and added it as a recoupable minimum guarantee and then used it to negotiate the increase of their revenue share. We have only uncovered the true amount of these funds and their intended purposes in March 2022.
We are absolutely heartbroken that a party we worked with would do this and a project we have worked on for 7 years has been taken advantage of in such a way. Since the uncovering of this issue, we clearly cannot trust PQube Games nor continue to work together for the release of A Space for the Unbound as PQube Games has fallen considerably short not only of reasonable decency, but also of their obligations to us due to these predatory practices.
We have to make a stand against exploitative publishers and speak up about this to stop things like this from happening again in the future. Thus, we are also announcing that we have terminated our contract with PQube Games.
As of this moment, PQube Games is still refusing to hand over publishing control on console platforms back to us. It is with a heavy heart that we must hold back the release of A Space For The Unbound so that we can make new arrangements and ensure that it is published as intended and in a way that is consistent with our and our community’s values.
Signed, Toge Productions and Mojiken Studio
A Space For The Unbound was first announced in 2015. Katharine spoke with Mojiken and had some time with the game earlier this year. She enjoyed the game’s ‘space dive’ concept, which lets protagonist Atma delve inside people’s minds to help them, as well as the slice-of-life sections that concentrate on the high school existence and day-to-day shenanigans of Atma and his girlfriend Raya. The game’s creator Dimas Novan told Katharine that what he wants for the game is “to preserve my memories as an Indonesian”.
I’ve reached out to PQube for comment on the allegations, and will update you if we hear back from them. I’ll also keep you updated on whether the game finds a new publisher and gets back on track.Update (24/08/2022): PQube have issued a statement to Eurogamer:
A Space For The Unbound's devs and publishers have also felt it necessary to ask people not to engage in review bombing and boycotting of PQube's other games, which they say would only negatively affect the developers of those games. You can see their further statement here.
We have honoured all obligations of our publishing agreement and have supported Toge Productions at every stage of product development throughout their delays and difficulties," a PQube spokesperson told Eurogamer today. "This support has included offering significant further funding, over and above grant funding, to support development, porting and marketing.
Toge Productions have sought for some time to unilaterally enforce unreasonable revised terms to our agreement and it is disappointing that, as a result of not achieving that and despite PQube's significant efforts to accommodate this, they have sought to deal with the matter in this way. We will respond through the appropriate channels."