Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Zero-G Games and casual portal royalties…


See the comments section below, plus zero-g games have contacted me to resolve the matter and send back payments of royalties. It looks like the real villains of this piece are the casual ‘portals’ who increasingly screw the developers, and guys like zZro-G out of paying on time. I should point out that steam pay within a month, so anyone who is taking a lot longer than that is just hoarding other peoples cash.

Anyway, anyone looking for something newsworthy here should probably look towards the causal games portals rather than the spat between me and zero-G.


oooh did I really type that?

I guess I did, and it would be a disaster if a well trafficked blog became a prominent search result for the casual games publisher zero-g games wouldn’t it? But then… That’s what happens if you stop replying to your developers emails, and stop paying them, and 3 other fellow developers I’ve spoken to.

If you work for bigfish games, or any other casual portal that stock these titles:


Kudos: Rock Legend.

You will want to check your inbox for my email. Basically you are selling a game you don’t have the rights to any more, so I strongly suggest stopping that. As for anyone who wants to buy those games. DO NOT BUY THEM, unelss you buy them direct from me, or from impulse, gamersgate or direct2drive. Everyone else is depriving me of my share, and I made those games, so that hardly seems fair.

Also if you see a game called ‘oval office’ don’t buy it. It’s a cut down bastardised, casualised, americanised version of Democracy 2, which is much much better. Buy that instead.

And lastly, to any of the many publishers who keep spamming me wanting to sell GSB or my older games, and annoyed I’m not replying. Give up now. I’m never replying, I route all your emails to the bin.

Selling direct FTW!

I love making and playing games, I hate the liars and thieves in this industry though…

34 thoughts on Zero-G Games and casual portal royalties…

  1. Well said Cliffski, keep doing what you do best and don’t let them steal your deserved pay!

  2. Out of curiosity, what about Steam? I probably wouldn’t have heard of (or bought) GSB without it being on Steam.

  3. Called Zero-G to get their comments (to see if there’s a potential story here). I couldn’t get anyone on the phone. They have a really shady phone system too – only a Mark Lowe is listed in their corporate directory (ext 101). When I called him – I got the answering machine. I attempted to leave a message but got stuck in a loop with their voicemail system. I kept pressing 1 to save my message and it kept asking me “Are you there?”

    Very shady-

    Sue them

  4. Just to play devil’s advocate… you’re annoyed that Zero-G aren’t replying to you, but you’re not replying to other publishers?

  5. @Damian I think thats a bit unfair considering the people hes not replying to he hasn’t come to any previous arrangement with but Zero-G is ignoring him when they owe him money.

  6. Not replying to business spam from strangers is one thing. Thats my (and your) right. I have a legal contract with zero-G licensing my games to them, signed by both parties.
    They have just stopped paying, but I see the games are still on sale.

    It’s not actually a lot of money at all, this is purely the principle of the thing.

  7. @cliffski @Anthony I understand (and agree with) the explanation. It just sounds a bit off in the initial post, and you can guarantee all the anti-Cliffskis – who, inexplicably, exist – will use it as ammunition.

  8. Well, I’m the CEO of Zero G Games, and I personally invite anyone curious about the facts of this claim to contact me direct ( The facts are that the distributors are paying 1/4 as quickly as they did in previous years. The reports of revenue from the distributors are behind MONTHS and the checks are delayed about as long. In previous quarters we paid Positech out of our own bank and made it up with the checks as they arrived to supplant that lost income. Given that the games no longer generate the revenue they used to, we are aligning payments to Positech with the payments we receive. No one is being cheated.

    Zero G Games was founded on the principle of ethical business practices, and all our employees and contractors know that our reputation stands up to that claim.

    Cliff, your last email to me was in August of 2010. Your last payment from us was in October of 2010. We’ve only JUST received payments for units sold since then, a week ago. In some cases, we’re still waiting for the paper reports to see how much of that revenue is yours and how much are the other developers.

    Those are the facts.

  9. Much respect for taking a public stand like this.

    I’m curious: will you be pursuing legal action against Zero-G? Is it worth the time/cost? Or perhaps on principle?

  10. I don’t see why the royalty reports and checks just *stop* and nobody replies after weeks to the email address of the person who sends those reports.

    A simple email to me to explain that stuff would have been trivial. Instead, I end up having to state it publically to get an answer.

    Who isn’t paying up? BigFishGames? Iwin? Wild Tangent? I’m happy to list all the casual games publishers who are trying to withhold payments. These guys need to be named and shamed.

  11. The best way to describe royalty payments today is to look at the deals they were willing to sign five years ago. We always pushed them to pay monthly, and some still do. But the bigger the organization the more they push us for quarterly payments. Today it’s very hard to get those same deals, and in some cases, we used to have direct distribution relationships where now they’ve elected to use an aggregate service (I’ll let you guess who). When this happens, the terms that were on paper in say 2005 are no longer applicable today. We’re “told” what the terms are, and that sometimes gets in the way of setting expectations with folks like yourself, and that is frustrating on all sides.

    Zero G provides two major services, first and foremost, to get the best royalties (even after our portion) to the developers as possible. I believe we succeeded in this area with Positech. The other service is to take a game (pre-release) to the distributor and have them play test it prior to finalization. When they like the game, they’re willing to promote it better with exclusive representation etc.

    KUDOS sold better than DinerDash for several months. That’s remarkable. We were able to show them the game prior to release in America, tune it as per their feedback, and get front row seats to the public. We would have loved to be more involved in future titles as to achieve this same level of polish and representation at the big guys you noted. Sadly, this process died after the first game, and so too did the revenue opportunities.

    Had I known that one of our biggest game developers, Positech aka Cliff was frustrated about payments, I would not have slept until the matter was resolved regardless if we ever sold another copy of your hard work.

  12. Cliff –

    Mark was nice enough to contact me and I’m glad that I may have contributed to you finally getting a response. I was going to shoot you an email about his responses, but he took the initiative and posted on your blog. Hope it resolves itself.

  13. Cliff,

    This is indeed an awful situation and I hope it will be resolved promptly. It seems to me that Zero-G Games would not have had your attention without this article on your blog. Zero-G Games failed on communication level at the very least.

    Nevertheless, I’d like to mention that blogs are not appropriate to resolve such matters. This is exactly how an indie game developer thought he was in his right to openly discuss and renegotiate our contractual terms on my blog. The problem quickly became out of proportions when he had his fans to support him, he retaliated other indie game developers in that market against me and it turned into harassment. He went living in his car to avoid any legal actions.

    This experience taught me that people take sides with complete disregards of the truth. It doesn’t matter to fans which party is right but it will hurt one of the parties and possibly both parties.

    Be careful of the dormant power you have, Cliff. Your concerns were legitimate this time but they may not next time. My advice to you? Next time send a legal letter expressing your concerns to their business address. Honest businesses have a business address and they will reply to your concerns within a reasonable delay. Most situations are promptly resolved when a problem is addressed in this manner.


  14. @Ian Trudel,

    Well, that’s an interresting story. But to keep market clean, I fell that we need both the soft an quiet route with letters, and sometimes some public lights to “encourage” companies to play it fair and with clear rules.

    You describe a situation getting out of control and backfiring at the developper, however in that case he apparently repeteadly used the net to bash you. Which is clearly one step further than sending a single post on a blog.

  15. @Ian Trudel

    Most of the time that people take something to a blog is when there is a lack of or breakdown in communication. I can’t say what happened in your case but if you are up front with people and reply within 24-48 hours to any email you will almost never have that kind of trouble except from someone who is just looking to cause it.

  16. @Flap,

    The situation Cliff experienced was frustrating and needed immediate attention. I just thought Cliff was a bit ahead of himself with a blog article rather than a formal notice through mail. Such a legal notice does establish the faith of the other party. Ignoring a formal notice or avoiding at all cost to receive one establishes bad faith from that party. First things first. :)

    One thing is clear about this incident: Cliff is dissatisfied with publishers in general. It would be great to read a blog article about what Cliff expects from publishers.


    I absolutely agree that addressing promptly business emails is the most effective solution.


  17. > Selling direct FTW!

    And what if you get hit by a bus?

    Selling directly might be very good for you, but for customers it means they’re constantly under the threat of losing their bought goods.

  18. how?
    If I get hit by a bus, I don’t teleport into your house and format your hard drive.
    Why can’t you spare 50MB to backup the files?

  19. Nice black humor Meepmeepmeep… You surely missed the whole point, cliffski meant to say that selling direct gives him more autonomy on his sales.

    Furthermore, even Digital Rights Managements via other parties doesn’t guarantee anything to customers. If a company become defunct and suspends all operations (stop to provide online registration services for example) the product becomes locked forever and unusable.

    I think there’s something bad to DRM system but it will take some time before the market can evolve to something new.

    P.S: As far as I’m concerned I think sales via affiliates is way to go.

  20. > Nice black humor

    It is in no way, form or shape humor. Look up Bus Number or Truck Number, it is an existing and serious metric describing how many people have to be killed (or in any other way taken out of the picture) in order to destroy a given project.

    I’ll make no bones about this: Cliffski is *decidedly* much more trustable than any digital retailer. He’d most certainly do what he can to do good by his customers.

    However, he has a Bus Number of 1, where the number for retailers runs in the hundreds. This is a sad, but undeniable reality.

    > Why can’t you spare 50MB to backup the files?

    In brutally honest words:

    Secure backups are decidedly nontrivial. In fact, the expenditure and effort involved is such that i’d much rather trust someone else to do it, who does it as a profession for a huge user group.

    With a digital retailer this is fairly cost-effective, but using something like Amazon makes the whole thing prohibitively expensive.

  21. There is a good deal of metrics and models that determine the risk of failure or success for software development. Whether they should be advocated or ignored, it depends of the given project.

    The Truck model is designed with some kind of ‘humour noir’ behind it. I mean, come on, why being so gruesome to describe one’s death? Is it necessary to precise a member of a team have to be ‘crushed to death under the wheels of an oncoming truck’? So yeah I think this concept is kinda mordid – even if researcher think it’s so damn fun?

    The way you formulated it, Meepmeepmeep, sounded a bit cold in my opinion. Well, you surely didn’t mean it this way.

    Anyway I guess we all understand the concept of fatality and the way it can affect a project. If anything happen to Cliff I’m just hoping no one will not write letters of complaint to him…

  22. You can also place your software on You will get a lot of visitors there &also iMerchant will pay you $12 per month for placing each product.

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