Former Konami composer Motoaki Furukawa – which has composed music for Snatcher, Sunset Riders, Metal Gear and Salamander – is being sued by the Japanese studio hired to work on its spiritual successor TwinBee, it was revealed.
The cause of the problem is the game Steam Pilots, developed by the Japanese company Pixel. Steam Pilots was crowdfunded to the tune of over 10 million yen (about $86,000), but is unlikely to be released.
Pixel got involved in the game in 2019. According to Pixel founder Hidekuni Sasaki, Furukawa – who is also credited on Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate thanks to the inclusion of its Metal Gear track ‘Tara’s Theme’ – didn’t have the funds to make the game, so they verbally agreed that profits would be shared once it was released. The game’s small scale convinced Sasaki to take this approach, he says.
However, the scope of Steam Pilots was later expanded, and the aforementioned crowdfunding campaign was an attempt to secure the necessary budget to carry it out. According to Sasaki, Pixel was promised additional funds from the crowdfunding campaign by Furukawa’s manager, Tenki Amemiya, but, after the crowdfunding campaign ended, no payment was received from either Furukawa or Amemiya.
Despite this, Pixel continued to work on the game as it was already approaching its final stages and the studio assumed that the payment agreement reached with Amemiya would eventually be honored. However, in August 2021, Sasaki claims the scope of the project was further expanded, and it was at this point that the developer demanded payment in return for what was completed in November 2021.
Negotiations ultimately fell through and Pixel exited Steam Pilots production in January of this year. In addition to ceasing development of the game, Pixel also filed a lawsuit against Furukawa on February 16, seeking compensation for damages and for their unpaid work on Steam Pilots. Pixel had to move its own side projects in order to focus on gaming, so this had a financial impact on the studio.
japanese website automaton contacted Pixel, which claims to be responsible for the bulk of the work on Steam Pilots, including “project direction, game design, programming, artwork, character design, pixel art, artwork, animations, sound effects, UI design, logo design, trailers, and more”.
Pixel also claims that Furukawa essentially waived the rights to what he did by not paying for the work, meaning Pixel is the current rights holder of the game. Pixel also states that he contacted Furukawa in order to find out what the crowdfunding money was used for, but haven’t heard back yet.
Furukawa posted an update to campaign backers on March 5, saying Steam Pilots now has a new programmer and development will continue into the second half of April. Furukawa estimates that the steam pilots will be finished in about a year. However, since Pixel claims to own the rights to the game and its assets, it’s unclear how Furukawa will do this.
Furthermore, Furukawa states that Pixel’s abandonment of the project constitutes a violation of their joint development agreement and, for this reason, the contract between them is terminated. Furukawa is also seeking 7,583,018 yen (about $65,600) in damages. Pixel, for its part, refutes this claim and claims that no contract was ever in place.
Whatever happens next, it seems highly unlikely that Steam pilots will ever see the light of day, which is a shame.