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The CEO of Japanese Indie Publisher Dangen Entertainment Resigns As Allegations of Harassment Mount [Update]

Ben Judd is stepping back from the publisher he helped found, as well as his "other industry endeavors."

This article first appeared on USgamer, a partner publication of VG247. Some content, such as this article, has been migrated to VG247 for posterity after USgamer's closure - but it has not been edited or further vetted by the VG247 team.

Update: On Friday, December 13, a spokesperson for DDM reached out with a new statement regarding Ben Judd's dismissal from the agency:

Digital Development Management (DDM) has dismissed Ben Judd as Partner, Executive VP of DDM Japan. These actions were initiated by DDM as a direct result of the recent, serious allegations made against Ben. DDM takes workplace conduct and client confidentiality very seriously. DDM has now restructured its leadership team to address and accommodate the company's ongoing workload and client representation needs.
The original article continues below:

Dangen Entertainment CEO and co-founder Ben Judd announced today he will be stepping down from his role at the company. Following several weeks of allegations of both Judd's behavior in public and private, as well as reported poor business practices, Dangen will undergo restructuring, the Japan-based publisher said in an announcement.

USgamer has previously reported on the various accusations against Judd and Dangen. Months after a former partner of Judd's came forward with allegations of harassment and other inappropriate behavior, disputes between Dangen and the developers behind two of its published games, Fight Knight and Devil Engine, came to light in posts on forums and social media. The mounting claims culminated in an anonymous Medium post by a person who claims to have worked on both titles, whose identity was verified by USG. Dangen initially responded to these allegations with its own rebuttal.

Following Dangen's response and our report, the anonymous author published another post on Medium with more allegations of misconduct, including a claim that Judd made insensitive remarks to Devil Engine's lead developer while responding to his frustrations with Dangen's payment practices. All three Medium posts have since been removed from the platform, but archival forms for each remain accessible.

In both the second anonymous Medium post and messages from his former partner, Judd has been accused of exposing his genitals in public on multiple occasions. The same partner has published screen captures of reported text message exchanges with Judd regarding Judd sending unsolicited explicit photos of himself and keeping explicit photos after the end of their relationship.

Dangen's new statement on the company's restructuring names employee Dan Stern as its interim CEO and new owner. The statement adds that Dangen co-founder Nayan Ramachadran will exit his full-time role at the publisher, but will continue to work on unspecified projects on a freelance basis. Ramachandran was named in the original anonymous Medium as the Dangen employee responsible for Devil Engine missing a vital Steam sale, one of the development team's primary complaints.

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"We feel that we have given sufficient evidence to support our rebuttal of the claims made against us," writes Dangen in the statement, but goes on to say the restructuring is "in the interest of protecting [its] current employees and clients from further trouble." Dangen did not respond to a request for further comment prior to publication.

"In order to take responsibility and give myself time and space to work on this, I will be stepping away from Dangen and Bitsummit and taking leave from my other industry endeavors," writes Judd in a separate statement. BitSummit, a Japanese indie games festival which Judd had previously been a part of, announced today that Judd has resigned from the event's board of directors and will no longer be involved with the organization or have hosting responsibilities.

In addition to his roles in Dangen and BitSummit, Judd held a prominent position at video game business agency DDM. Until recently, Judd was listed amongst the agency's executive team as a partner and vice president of DDM Japan—now, his profile has been removed from the agency's website. A representative for DDM confirmed to USgamer that Judd is on leave from the agency.

Judd's personal statement focuses mainly on the personal allegations raised by his former partner, Alex. "There are many things I now see I must work and improve on," Judd says. "Some of them will require difficult choices, but it's my sincere hope to learn from this and become a better person, for myself and for my family, and for everyone."

In the course of USgamer's reporting, several sources who wished to remain anonymous corroborated that Judd's behavior was troubling and that his prominent position in the Japanese game dev scene made it difficult for individuals to come forward with their experiences.

On Twitter, Alex has said they do not accept Judd's apology nor do they see the situation as resolved, especially in light of the other allegations raised by the author of the anonymous Medium post and the developers of Devil Engine.

Developer Team Sorcerobe's official account for Fight Knight responded to the new statements from Dangen and Judd by calling for apologies, and for Dangen to "give Devil Engine back" to its developers, Protoculture Games.

In the replies to Dangen's tweet on its new statement and Judd's, numerous individuals have echoed the call for for Dangen to relinquish its hold on Devil Engine.

With partner developers unsatisfied by Dangen's response thus far and Judd's apology being met with disapproval, Dangen's reputation as a publisher seems far from steadied. Last week, without referencing the allegations gaining traction online, developers Octosoft announced they were pulling their in-development game Renaine from Dangen. While Kayin Nasaki, the lead developer of Brave Earth: Prologue, notes that they have been treated well by the individuals they have interacted with at Dangen and are relieved Judd is exiting the company, they say their contract would prevent them from parting ways with the publisher regardless. Dangen may be able to move past this situation in time, but its actions thus far don't appear to have satisfied those who feel wronged by its actions and wary of its now-former association with Judd.

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