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.
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.
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.
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.