Steam Orders Further Censorship of Visual Novels 6

Valve has gotten back to some developers apologizing  and telling them to disregard the emails.

MangaGamer confirming as well.

While Valve has still not commented on the non-specific orders sent out to visual novel makers, a webpage has surfaced from an anti-pornography group formerly called Morality in Media calling for a mass flagging campaign (and claiming victory in a later post):

The lobbying group rebranded in 2015 to appear as a vaguely feminist/pro-woman group while still pushing their core anti-porn stance.

This may have triggered an automated warning to the “offending” games and Valve may not even be aware of the situation at present. Having been done near a weekend, it’s possible the story failed to gain traction before Valve knew anything was wrong and now people are home, unlikely to comment until Monday.

It’s definitely worth seeing if Valve responds that this was the case, but for now a possible culprit seems to have surfaced. Take it with a grain of salt for now, it may be entirely unrelated.


Welp, I said I was back, so let’s make it official by talking about a new wave of probably injustice being perpetrated on the good perverts of the world.

Steam has recently ordered just about every single already censored eroge on the service to make further, non-specific changes to their games or face being removed from the service.

I’ll save a little time here and go ahead and point out that the proper perv’s choice for these sorts of games should be either direct purchase (from JAST or MangaGamer or Sekai) or going through Nutaku if you need a collective service (though their hands aren’t entirely clean in the censorship game themselves). And then, on with the news.

The first and most sort-of-mainstream developer to get hit was HuniePop tweeting that they’d been sent an e-mail stating their games needed to be further censored or risk being removed from the store.

My initial thought was that this might be a baseless, auto-generated thing, but the same problem has happened to others companies which I’ll make a non-complete list of:

There are a lot of questions and Valve is curiously silent on the issue at the moment. There are a few possibilities, but the time that the games have been up makes this entire thing stink somewhat to me.

First Possibility:

The censorship is light enough in the existing titles that Valve is concerned about selling the products to underagers and running afoul of the law.

I’ll consider this the most possible reason for the entire thing. It’s hard to say meaningfully without comment from Valve, but plenty of jurisdictions aren’t going to look fondly at a company selling porn games without strong age-gating, even though those are basically useless preventative measures when it comes to keeping children from looking at porn. All measures are useless, really. But hey, security theater.

Second Possibility:

Visual Novel’s had their profile raised recently, drawing attention from Valve/outside groups

This runs a close second. The success of Doki Doki Literature Club (fuck me, I wrote Panic) has brought attention to visual novels and a more widespread curiosity about the content and artform. Obviously, along with that comes eroge, and increased attention means Valve starts paying closer attention to what’s on their service (at least in this narrow case).

Having become aware that VNs exist, someone went digging through and noticed that a lot of these games have light censorship, that perhaps stepped across the line on Valve’s opaque, uncommunicative Terms of Service.

Third Possibility:

The Chinese userbase was large enough to cause issues

While western countries are pretty lax about coming after companies for selling content we’ll call questionable to people who aren’t strongly age verified, China is much more active in policing the morality of its citizens. Anything that becomes likely to impact their society (from the government’s point of view) tends to get fairly heavily restricted. See: PUBG and gaming consoles as prime examples.

If the sales of these games brought enough attention to the platform for Chinese government officials to take notice, Steam might have been hit with some stern warnings. And given how widespread the complaints are, it’s entirely possible that might be the case.

Either way, this is something that’s fairly obviously being rolled out to avoid litigation or issues from ONE side or another. Valve has a pretty strong line against taking a moral stance, and I’m willing to believe they’re largely willing to stick to that point of view. The law can force their hands however.

Either way, it just goes to show that the sexual side of things is going to be the first to get hit out against and the easiest to downplay, especially when it comes to Japanese media and Japanese-style art, something that’s still deeply misunderstood in the west.

If this were about forcing a company to tone down violence or more acceptable depictions of sex, then this conversation would be much louder and much more likely to turn against them. But since it’s us weebs and our weird pervert shit, it’ll just get forced over and forgotten.

It’s a sad day as well, the Visual Novel was rising in the wake of Doki Doki Literature Club and that will still be a good thing for the genre in the longer term in the west. That said, if Valve should be going after anything, it should be quality control. Their platform is dying because sixty to eighty new games are released every day and 98+% of them are meme games that took a week to make or low effort first projects or direct re-releases of Asset store purchases with no changes whatsoever.

Still, if Valve wants to give people a good reason to look into other services, they are welcome to. It’s a weird brand strategy, but maybe it’ll work out for them.

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6 thoughts on “Steam Orders Further Censorship of Visual Novels

  • Niwa

    I don’t think Going through Nutaku is a good idea. Nutaku’s rather infamous for censoring their releases. I’m of the personal opinion that releasing VNs on Steam is a terrible idea. Oh sure, if it’s something like Doki Doki Literature Club, you’ll be fine. I’m referring to eroge localisations that remove sexual content on their Steam releases. I’m fine with there being optional versions of VNs with and without erotic scenes, but I’ve been noticing a rather irritating trend of some localizers ONLY releasing a censored version on Stem. See: Little Busters. As of right now, the only officially localized translated release of Little Busters is on Steam with all sexual content removed. Yes, I know, erotica is not the most important part of KEY games, but maybe I still WANT to see the sex scenes in Little Busters. And yes, I know I still have the option to just check out the original Japanese version, but localisations are pretty much the only way to get rid of mosaics in eroge/hentai and thus the wasted potential pisses me off. The worst part is that a VN could get removed from Steam even if it has NO erotica. There was a VN that got removed from Steam some months ago because the artist did lolicon art (mind you, the game had ZERO sexual content. It was literally only removed because the artist draws things that grosses people out).

    As for a solution? I dunno, make a Steam rival that’s for porn and other such degenerate content? But how would that work? I don’t know jack shit about building a business. I just think choosing Steam as a platform to release VNs on is a terrible idea and all of this bullshit that’s been going on is proving my point. It also irritates me how next to no VN fans seem concerned about this. But then again, I fear that normies have infiltrated the VN fanbase and are continuing to shit it up as I type this.

    Lol, sorry for the rant. This is just something that’s been building in me for a while now and this post was the perfect time to let it out.

    • Onii-chan Post author

      A fair point about Nutaku and I adjusted the phrasing to reflect my intent (and clarify).

      It’s been a problem for a long time, from the fight against censorship with the translation firms themselves in the case of MangaGamer and several of their releases.

      I sort of see those sorts of releases (and Little Busters in particular) as basically waving a flag saying “Hey, go ahead and pirate it if you actually want the original content”

      As for making a Steam competitor, it’s awkward. Basically, you’d need to make a collective store for it, take as little money as humanly possible, and hope it worked out. It’s a hard problem to fix because the legalities involved are awkward and the financial pressures on the English release companies are pretty high as well.

      And no problem about the rant, that’s the whole point of posting about this stuff. :D

  • SJE

    I’m always baffled by news concerning censorship of Japanese books and VNs. I can’t go through one single day without learning something new and abhorrent about the reality that I live in and the people who make it so. The last thing that would come to my mind would be to wage war against FICTION. And I find the argument that said fiction could give ideas to the morally deranged to be so baseless and obsolete.

    But I don’t know. Maybe, after 1000 years, someone will finally convince me otherwise. In the meantime, I’ll keep reading fan-made translations. Those or the original Japanese versions if the language is simple enough.

    • Onii-chan Post author

      I think it’s one of those things that’s just hard for people to talk about, which is part of the core problem. You can’t force people to discuss the actual concerns or problems they have with someone seeing titties or who should be responsible for children potentially seeing titties.

      Hard to say if there will ever be progress in this particular part of the conversation, since on top of being about sex, it’s also fighting against people thinking of Japanese culture as weird and perverse when it comes to sex-related things. And certainly the values don’t mesh well at all with the western norms.

  • [?] Zeithri (@Zeithri)

    As Niwa said, I am in the same boat that Visual Novels always felt iffy on steam.

    This really comes as no surprise. Visual Novels on Steam basically advertise ON THEIR STOREPAGE, ” You can get the uncensored patch from out website after buying the product here. “, and if it wasn’t on the store page, it was almost always pinned on the forum so anyone and everyone could get it quickly right after having bought the game.

    Of course, there’s always the argument to make in regards to sex vs violence but, yes. The fact that it was so easy to get the porn and how it was so blatantly advertised by both users and developers is probably what made the banhammer slam down harder than Newel’s fist on asset flippers.

    Also uhm.. Doki Doki Panic? That’s an NES game that Super Mario Bros. 2 was based on.
    Not a visual novel… unless I’m missing something here..

    I don’t believe a Steam competitor ‘in the west’ would work because you’d inevitably have the Visual Novels that keep having loli characters would would fall under underaged which would slam your platform with some really nasty legal issues. So the fix would be to ban such games from the service all together but when you’d have those who actually like that shit honk their censorship horn like a floppy dick and in short: It’s a lose / lose situation because either you have to try and please everyone and get railed for doing it, or you ban a certain demographic and you still get screwed over.

    • Onii-chan Post author

      Holy shit, I wrote Doki Doki Panic, not Literature Club. Fuck me. That’s what happens when you don’t have someone proofread. Haha. Thanks for mentioning that. Muscle memory.

      I know MangaGamer had to pull their links to uncensored patches last year, and aren’t allowed to mention them. Of course, that’s not going to stop the flood of Google Translate VNs that are cropping now to try to grab cash during the current surge. Weirdly, the angle here seems to have gone after the more legitimate companies. It’s not a good look, and I’m hoping the random Feminist flagging scheme is actually to blame. I’m not entirely convinced it was, but Valve was clearly aware of the censored versions so it seems like there was no meaningful tipping point to bring this on otherwise.

      I’m actually a little sad to see the Sex vs Violence arguments trotted out. To me, making an argument that’s basically trying to call a bluff isn’t really the right way to go. “Oh, if you’re going to ban sex, why not ban the violence too?” What’s our move there if they say “Okay, you’re right. We’re banning violence too.”

      Obviously, market being what it is, that kills Steam, but it’s not a viable argument to push forward on the sexual side of things. And it’s something of a deflection, rather than a straightforward defense of what we want.

      The west is a wide space, but it’s an incredibly dangerous thing to sort of want to put your name behind for a lot of people. Even then, I’m with you, there’s not much benefit to one rising up. Nutaku’s been at it for a while now, and they’re certainly making good on the scare. But there runs the risk that they fail to curate well or over-curate. There’s a lot of trash cropping up on Steam in the VN/eroge space and figuring out how to handle that would be important. It’s somewhat useless if they’re just hosting the few major eroge companies, and that’s on top of the potential limiting you mention, something that’s more easily handled by the translation groups themselves.