[Update 3/18/2019:] According to the CEO of Badland Games, he claims that he has plans on paying the full amount of the debt to Dan Adelman and Thomas Happ, as soon as the company is financially able to do so.
[Original article:] Dan Adelman and Thomas Happ were allegedly grifted out of an estimated $200,000 by publisher Badland Games. This came to light as Limited Run Games announced that the physical retail release of Axiom Verge for the Wii U would be released on March 29th, 2019 after years of delay and financial strife.
It started with a tweet by Limited Run Games on March 15th, 2019.
We won’t come anywhere close to breaking even on this project after the money our former partner took from us – but we hope Wii U fans will appreciate the chance to own one of the best indie games physically for the platform!
— Limited Run Games (@LimitedRunGames) March 15, 2019
It escalated into an attestation from developer Dan Adelman, writing on behalf of his development cohort Tom Happ.
Adelman explained the history of how Limited Run Games managed to get the physical version of Axiom Verge for the Wii U finished, as well as the financial, legal, and medical hardships that circulated the business affair involving Badland Publishing.
Adelman explained on March 15th, 2019 over the course of 14 tweets…
“Limited Run Games just announced the long-awaited release details for Axiom Verge Wii U. (Link to actual tweet: https://twitter.com/LimitedRunGames/status/1106571425178140674 …)
“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…
“We had been approached by multiple publishers to do a physical release. The reason we went with Badland is that the CEO said he was very sympathetic to Tom’s son’s health condition. (In case you weren’t aware, there were complications at birth which led to a neurological disorder called Kernicterus. Tom has talked about it in more detail on his blog: http://www.axiomverge.com/blog/the-indie-special-needs-dad)
“Badland made us an offer we couldn’t refuse. In addition to matching what other publishers were offering in terms of rev share, they said they’d contribute 75% of their cut to a trust fund set up for Alastair Happ’s ongoing medical expenses. Everything seemed to be going well until it came time to spend the $ to manufacture the discs and cartridges. They kept stalling, and it didn’t take long for us to figure out they were running low on funds.
“Badland proposed that we finance the manufacture of all of the units, and they would repay us once everything was shipped to the retailers, who would pay for the inventory upon delivery. This sent my spidey-sense tingling so I insisted retailers pay Tom directly instead. At that point, we still thought Badland was operating in good faith—they were just low on cash. We were still planning on dividing up the proceeds on the original terms. So we decided not to publicize the fact that technically Badland wasn’t publishing the game in [North America].”
Axiom Verge originally came out back in 2015, two years before the Nintendo Switch was released. The game was made available initially for the PS4, PC, and then a year later it was released digitally for the PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, and Wii U. A year after that it was released digitally for the Nintendo Switch. A Multiverse Edition of the game was released physically for the PS4, and there was supposed to be a physical Wii U version as well, but there were constant delays as mentioned above by Adelman.
Eventually Limited Run Games stepped in to pick up the slack from Badland Games, with Adelman explaining…
“Included in the NA publishing was the relationship with @LimitedRunGames. We knew LRG had paid Badland a $78k advance, and Badland was supposed to use those funds to pay to manufacture the Wii U inventory. Badland kind of glossed over that detail until I asked. Fortunately for us, LRG agreed that that $78k would stay between them and Badland. LRG would pay Tom Happ the amounts originally agreed upon. They’ve been great allies through all of this.
Badland is based in Spain, and the EU order quantities were lower, so they wanted to keep the publishing rights in Europe. EU distribution is a lot more complicated, so we agreed. Badland was able to fund production for the EU market and finally launched there. When it came time to pay Tom Happ his share for EU sales & contribute to Alastair’s health care fund (which Tom had to pay a lawyer to establish), Badland went dark on us. We didn’t even really know how much they owed us, though we have reason to believe it’s about $200k.
Not following through with $200,000 in owed expenses is a fairly significant amount of money. So far Badland Games has not made any kind of comments about the issue on social media.The company’s Twitter account is eerily silent about the issue.
However, Luis Quintans, BadLand’s CEO did offer a statement to GamesIndustry.biz, explaining that Limited Run sued them and won and that they have plans on paying them back…
“In short, this [judgment] says that we have to pay to Limited Run, which is what we are willing to do from the beginning. But for that Limited Run has to want to talk to us and keep in mind that it is not possible to face all the payments at once.”
This doesn’t really address the money owed to Adelman and Happ, though. I did reach out to Badland to find out more about what exactly they owe to the developers of Axiom Verge.
According to Adelman, they did file a lawsuit against Badland Games and he notes that a lot was learned about the publishing side of gaming, saying…
“We’ve filed a lawsuit against them, but because of the international nature of the suit, it’s proving hard to make headway.
“The only silver lining from any of this is that by taking over the NA retail publishing responsibilities from Badland, I got to learn that side of the business. That’s how @LeadmanGames came to exist.
“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.”
The physical release of Axiom Verge for the Nintendo Wii U will be available starting 10:00am Eastern Standard Time on March 29th, 2019. You can purchase the limited physical copy from the official Limited Run Games website.
(Thanks for the news tip Blaugast)