Mighty Kingdom, the studio behind Conan Chop Chop, has been accused of intellectual property theft, with two Adelaide-based games developers giving evidence to a parliamentary committee. Justin Daley and Shannon Cross claim the company took advantage of their creations to gain taxpayer-funded grants worth $480,000.
According to the ABC report, which details the alleged theft, both developers believe the studio exploited vulnerable people to claim their creations.
Daley told the parliamentary committee: “Mighty Kingdom falsely claimed control of my intellectual property to gain financial benefit in the form of a $480,000 taxpayer-funded grant.”
Daley claims the studio received a grant for finishing Kitty Keeper, a game he created. The final product never materialised, and is believed to have been removed in 2020. Daley alleges the studio acted “deceptively and dishonestly” towards him during the development and removal of this game, however Mighty Kingdom has refuted these claims.
In a statement provided to Kotaku Australia, the company said it had “fully complied with its obligations under the contract arrangements with the South Australian Government, cooperating fully, including ongoing and regular reporting regarding the grant.”
It further explained the removal of Kitty Keeper was due to the game not meeting performance benchmarks and a conclusion of contract.
“The issue of Intellectual Property ownership relating to the Kitty Keeper game is clearly spelt out in the contract between Mighty Kingdom and KitCatCo. Mighty Kingdom has operated within the clauses of the contract. Notwithstanding the contract had ended, Mighty Kingdom provided KitCatCo in good faith with the executable code of the game, so that KitCatCo would have the ability to publish it to the App Store and Play Store themselves. It seems KitCatCo chose not to. In relation to the removal of the Kitty Keeper game from the App Store and Play Store, this was a result of the game not meeting performance benchmarks set out in the contract, and Mighty Kingdom no longer having the rights to publish the game when the contract was ended.”
Mighty Kingdom further added it was still “heavily invested in the success and growth of the games industry.”
A State Government spokesperson told the ABC that Daley’s initial concerns had been investigated and the “investigation concluded all aspects of the contract had been complied with and no further action was required.”
Shannon Cross told the parliamentary committee Mighty Kingdom stripped him of creative freedom when working on Dungeon Chop Chop. “I was given the label of creative director, but I had zero power to create directively,” Cross told the committee. “I was stripped of my power, really.”
Cross also believes Mighty Kingdom took advantage of his naivety when it came to legal negotiation. “When I rock up with this great idea, but I’m naive to the legalities of it, they see this as a great opportunity for them to benefit from it,” Cross said.
Mighty Kingdom disputed these claims, pointing to the company’s employment conditions like a four day work week, mental health support and paid super. “The company is widely recognised as having some of the best employment conditions in the country and has a strong track record of retaining and promoting staff,” Mighty Kingdom told the ABC. “While the claims made by Shannon are false, we are willing to continue to work with Shannon to resolve his concerns.”
You can view the ABC report on the hearing here.