IRONMACE’s action-adventure dungeon crawler Dark And Darker recently had its listing and any relations to the game removed from Steam following allegations of theft by the Japanese/South Korean studio Nexon Games. Accordingly, the studio reportedly claimed that IRONMACE had stolen assets and source code from them, which resulted in their offices being raided by South Korean police.
Insider Gaming subsequently reported on the news of the Dark And Darker being pulled from Steam on 25th March 2023. This latest delisting is a massive blow to IRONMACE, given how the Dark And Darker's popularity had sharply increased after initial playtests. To make matters worse, this scandal comes just weeks before IRONMACE scheduled the next Dark and Darker playtest in April 2023, with the full release (now scrapped) originally slated for the end of the year.
As reported by a South Korean news outlet, This Is Game, in February 2023, Nexon Games claimed that the "original idea and prototype of Dark And Darker" (translation) was one of their canceled projects, codenamed "P3," which they unveiled at a media presentation in 2021. Later that year, the studio moved on to another project, leaving the fate of “P3” unknown, in which several development team members were fired. This led to some of these ex-Nexon members forming a new studio, IRONMACE, around the same time when a Nexon employee leaked "P3" files.
While the leaker was subsequently fired, they pleaded with their former colleagues to leave Nexon and start developing a project akin to “P3,” which ultimately became Dark And Darker. This action later led to Nexon Games filing a DMCA claim against IRONMACE despite a statement on the studio’s Discord server that the game was "built from scratch." However, the studio was likely overwhelmed by these claims, which saw them issuing another statement to their Discord server, later posted to Reddit after the game was pulled from Steam.
"To all our fans, we have recently been served a cease and desist letter and DMCA takedown by Nexon regarding Dark and Darker based on distorted claims. We are currently working with our legal team to remedy this issue in the best manner possible. Due to the sensitive legal nature of this issue, we must be careful with our statements so as to not jeopardize our position.”
In light of the game’s popularity, it’s worth noting that Dark And Darker likely had a profitable future, given how its competitor, Escape From Tarkov, had been plagued by growing numbers of hackers. So as we wait to hear how the legal proceedings between Nexon Games and IRONMACE will play out, we’ll continue to follow this breaking news with the latest updates and developments.