14 votes

Sex game can't get on Steam, even after $20,000 worth of attempts

26 comments

  1. [7]
    Bullmaestro
    Link
    My educated guess as to why this game was rejected was probably because it featured likenesses of real life porn actresses. Then again, Valve's content policy is about as consistent as that dollop...

    My educated guess as to why this game was rejected was probably because it featured likenesses of real life porn actresses.

    Then again, Valve's content policy is about as consistent as that dollop of bird shit on your car windscreen. If they enforced their content policies fairly and consistently instead of bowing down to press outrage a lot of games wouldn't even be on Steam. Those hundreds of cheaply built hentai puzzle game asset flips would be gone for starters. I'd even argue that Gal*Gun would be banned too because despite not being a porn game, the mere premise and marketing of the game is problematic to say the least.

    One example is a visual novel game which was pulled from Steam after major backlash which even prompted debate in the UK House of Commons because the game was about raping people. Which is kinda understandable, until I found a sex slaver simulator game featuring graphic depictions of the same thing that is still on Steam over a year later.

    19 votes
    1. [6]
      raze2012
      Link Parent
      That is now the official ruling. "Sexually explicit images of real people" is the wording. But according to the article, this wording was added in January 2021. So these may have been unspoken...

      That is now the official ruling. "Sexually explicit images of real people" is the wording.

      But according to the article, this wording was added in January 2021. So these may have been unspoken rules while the devs were submitting.

      they enforced their content policies fairly and consistently instead of bowing down to press outrage a lot of games wouldn't even be on Steam.

      I agree. I think it's silly that I know quite a few titles up on steam whose sequels got rejected (which are about equal in content). Even having an existing game in Steam won't guarantee a smooth admission process for the rest of your series. Meanwhile, Subverse is on there, no patch needed, no attempts to hide what it is. It's at top of the lists. Possibly front and center if your settings allow.

      These issues are generally why others stores just blanket ban pornographic games (Gal girl being about as far as you can push it on consoles without having millions to "negotiate" with on the matter). I don't understand why Valve decided to open the floodgates if they weren't ready to make these calls. The "off site patch" strategy seemed like the best compromise for this without getting Valve involved.

      6 votes
      1. [5]
        NaraVara
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        In attempts to create "objective" decision criteria they've created a framework where digital images of consenting adult women is taboo, but extremely suggestive images of anime children is not...

        That is now the official ruling. "Sexually explicit images of real people" is the wording.

        In attempts to create "objective" decision criteria they've created a framework where digital images of consenting adult women is taboo, but extremely suggestive images of anime children is not and I find this extremely bizarre.

        I have a feeling that an artsy game involving tasteful nudity by a studio like Annapurna would probably not have gotten this treatment. In fact, Telling Lies is exactly this. It doesn't have nudity, but it does have video of

        spoilers Your character framed as an NSA goon voyeuristically snooping on Anita Sarafyan's character's private life as she has phone sex while wearing lingerie.
        It's technically PG-13 due to lack of nipples and profanity (e.g. "fuck"), but come on!

        Edit: Okay I just googled this game and that is. . . quite explicit. It's porniness isn't really up for debate in any reasonable person's eyes and I don't think merely censoring the images really does much, if anything, to make it less porny. The Kotaku article gave me the impression that this was using adult actresses in a "Sasha Grey cast as an actress in an indie Steven Soderburg flick" way, which is not what this is.

        2 votes
        1. hamstergeddon
          Link Parent
          Well to be fair they're all 1000 year old dragons trapped in children's bodies so you're the pervert. /s

          Well to be fair they're all 1000 year old dragons trapped in children's bodies so you're the pervert. /s

          8 votes
        2. [2]
          raze2012
          Link Parent
          If I had to take a guess, this is simply a legal CYA more than a moral judgement. They may want to avoid another The Guy Game situation and as such just employ a "zero tolerance" rule on the...

          they've created a framework where digital images of consenting adult women is taboo, but extremely suggestive images of anime children is not and I find this extremely bizarre.

          If I had to take a guess, this is simply a legal CYA more than a moral judgement. They may want to avoid another The Guy Game situation and as such just employ a "zero tolerance" rule on the matter (quotes because yes, I agree that your Annapura example would likely pass, because submissions and marketing would suggest it to be "artistic" instead of "sexually explicit").

          The timing is unfortunate because I suspect this work was impacted due not to itself per se, but from Super Seducer 3's effort to be put on steam. A supposedly "Pick Up Artist" title that was rejected from PSN a few years back. It being on PSN suggests that there's likely zero nudity, but Valve likely wanted to make it and nothing else even remotely similar would slip through the cracks.

          4 votes
          1. Bullmaestro
            Link Parent
            How Topheavy Studios and GoD got away with a mere injunction & recall after that, I don't know. People have been arrested and jailed for less. This is the kind of game where you'd hire real life...

            How Topheavy Studios and GoD got away with a mere injunction & recall after that, I don't know. People have been arrested and jailed for less.

            This is the kind of game where you'd hire real life actresses and properly vet their background rather than go the reality TV route and film random girls on spring break. Because shit like this could very well happen and the only thing that's worse than filming child porn is burning it onto a PlayStation 2 disc and selling it for full retail price..

            Also don't understand how it only got an M rating from the ESRB despite tits.

            2 votes
        3. Bullmaestro
          Link Parent
          Going back to a game I mentioned in my previous comment... what I find bizarre is that Microsoft and Sony refused to publish the more recent Gal*Gun games but Nintendo and Valve still allowed them...

          In attempts to create "objective" decision criteria they've created a framework where digital images of consenting adult women is taboo, but extremely suggestive images of anime children is not and I find this extremely bizarre.

          Going back to a game I mentioned in my previous comment... what I find bizarre is that Microsoft and Sony refused to publish the more recent Gal*Gun games but Nintendo and Valve still allowed them completely uncut. Nintendo have traditionally been known as the squeaky-clean "family-friendly" publisher and now they're allowing borderline paedophile propaganda on their platform.

          I don't use the term "paedophile propaganda" lightly here. I genuinely felt uncomfortable after watching a trailer of that game.

          Gal*Gun is an on-rails shooter where you're a schoolboy who gets hit with an arrow by a love fairy, which causes every girl in your high school to swarm towards you. You're armed with a pheromone gun that you're meant to use to shoot these girls and bring them to euphoria. You must find and kiss your true love before the day ends or otherwise you will be cursed for the rest of your life and forever be alone.

          On top of the gameplay I described above, there are QTE sequences where you grope a girl to euphoria and also minigame aspects which involve taking upskirt panty shots.

          How is this problematic? Because it's set in a Japanese high school, where girls can be anywhere between 15 and 18 years old. If it's one that also accepts middle school students, that means the girls can be as young as twelve... These girls are also in various states of undress: including gym uniform, swimsuits, underwear, etc.

          In my country indecent images of minors are illegal, even if illustrated. Which makes it more surprising that this game is being sold here in the UK.

          2 votes
  2. [16]
    TheJorro
    (edited )
    Link
    Something I haven't seen noted is the reluctance of payment processors when it comes to anything pornographically related. The pornography industry is effectively regulated by payment processors,...

    Something I haven't seen noted is the reluctance of payment processors when it comes to anything pornographically related. The pornography industry is effectively regulated by payment processors, more than it is by actual legislation.

    When it comes to Steam's position on this, I wouldn't be surprised if they simply want to avoid this entirely. Payment processing is the chokepoint for their entire business and raison d'être. They probably have had next to no real issues because they're a game store but as soon as they enter the realm of real pornography, it's suddenly a lot more problematic.

    And this game, despite all their supposed intentions to minimize the pornography aspects, is in that territory. They're using real porn stars for a VR exerpience that's basically about "engaging" with porn stars. And people don't become classified as porn stars for their engagement of sparkling conversation over a cup of tea. Riley Reid going topless in a Cyberpunk 2077 cameo is inherently a completely different context than this. That's a standard video game with inherent and prescribed methods of interaction. She's not going to be your doll where you can do whatever you want with her. And let's not mince words: as coy as Holodexxx is being about what this VR experience is, it's 100% pornography-based. After all, you find gameplay videos of it on PornHub and not YouTube, and a quick view will immediately inform any person why.

    When Steam reviews content, they're never doing it in a vacuum. They are rather experienced with games changing things to get around or past certain standards and a VR experience that's supposed to be about sexual experiences with actual women can't be forgotten when they strip away things like nudity and more iconic faces. There's only one goal for this product and it's one that payment processors and the adult industry have been fighting about for decades. I don't blame Steam for wanting to steer clear of this entirely.

    All the arguments of "but H-games!" are missing the point. Those are pornography, sure, but not the kind that makes payment processors turn off the taps. MasterCard and Visa have no issue taking cash for raunchy cartoons but they do when it comes to real people participating in sexual activity. Even if only using virtual likenesses, they're still likenesses of real people. And nobody in this situation are playing the fool over what the purposes and uses of these kinds of content will be.

    13 votes
    1. [3]
      raze2012
      Link Parent
      Given that their third attempt was to in fact make a small game with a minority of sexual reward (AKA, the VN model that has existed since before steam allowed adult works), and the existence of...

      Riley Reid going topless in a Cyberpunk 2077 cameo is inherently a completely different context than this. That's a standard video game with inherent and prescribed methods of interaction.

      Given that their third attempt was to in fact make a small game with a minority of sexual reward (AKA, the VN model that has existed since before steam allowed adult works), and the existence of Subverse whose intention is extremely clear (and topping Steam wishlists); I doubt it.

      That's what the whole blog post was meant to try and figure out; how much is the ruling based on "game" and how much is based on "don't use real people sexually". As of now, the answer is somewhere between Cyberpunk's Riley Cameo for a "full game" and straight up Subverse using motion captured actors for a "game but actually smut" (and being very clear about it, the steam preview images aren't hiding it).

      I do agree that ultimately the "real" answer is

      the kind that makes payment processors turn off the taps.

      but we come back to square one with the discussion. How much, and in what context? Again, Cyberpunk vs. Subverse.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_know_it_when_I_see_it

      yes, one of the most frustrating phases to ever be uttered in the presence of the highest court in the land. I do wonder how differently the adult industry would be if they simply labeled all nudity as obscene and stopped beating around the bush.

      2 votes
      1. [2]
        TheJorro
        Link Parent
        Two big differences with Subverse, from a cursory glance (quick disclaimer: I've never heard of any of these things before this article, so I'm looking at this all on the fly): Subverse's...

        Two big differences with Subverse, from a cursory glance (quick disclaimer: I've never heard of any of these things before this article, so I'm looking at this all on the fly):

        1. Subverse's characters are quite clearly not real people, even if they're mocapped (e.g. a devil lady).
        2. Subverse has a clear game element (sci-fi space 'shmup).

        Holodexxx Home's "Lady Euphoria" is advertised to be styled after a real person and looks just like her. And the VN story just seems like the base Holodexxx experience, but more controlled so that it comes across more like a VN than a series of menus. The only gameplay goal there is basically still to take a virtual render of a real woman and make her your sex doll.

        If I was someone from Steam reviewing this, I would see Holodexxx as just another attempt to sneak their porn product through that still doesn't satisfy the requirements that might be laid out by the payment processors because, at the end of the day, it's a product using real people primarily (but seemingly exclusively) for the purposes of interactive sexual encounters.

        And these are both still a far cry from something like Cyberpunk, in which a pair of breasts isn't going to be a pornographic primary focus of the game with all the mechanics designed around interactive sexual experiences. At best, it would just be something to see for a bit, maybe at most play an animation, and that's it.

        yes, one of the most frustrating phases to ever be uttered in the presence of the highest court in the land. I do wonder how differently the adult industry would be if they simply labeled all nudity as obscene and stopped beating around the bush.

        But nudity is not inherently obscene. The entire conceit of this phrase is that "hardcore pornography" is very hard to define exactly in legal terms.

        4 votes
        1. raze2012
          Link Parent
          At this point I'm more concerned on how subverse satisfies the payment processors, not Steam. But I guess we'll never know the truth there. It isn't, but at some times I wonder if a hard line like...

          At this point I'm more concerned on how subverse satisfies the payment processors, not Steam. But I guess we'll never know the truth there.

          But nudity is not inherently obscene. The entire conceit of this phrase is that "hardcore pornography" is very hard to define exactly in legal terms.

          It isn't, but at some times I wonder if a hard line like "showing genetalia/penetration" (something Asian countries commonly do when censoring/banning pornography) from a legal sense would have lead to some more exact rulings than what we currently have in America. I imagine there'd be heavier ramifications in other areas, but it would potentially mean that the"burden of defining hardcore pornography " would not fall on the even more subjective whims of 2 credit card companies, since there'd now be a precise case to argue over if they tried to restrict certain works.

          1 vote
    2. [12]
      NaraVara
      Link Parent
      What I find funniest about the framing of the article is the depiction of the devs as just being like “Well gosh we just can’t imagine what the problem is here!” Like, they must know right? Are...

      What I find funniest about the framing of the article is the depiction of the devs as just being like “Well gosh we just can’t imagine what the problem is here!” Like, they must know right? Are they just playing dumb or being dumb?

      1 vote
      1. [11]
        TheJorro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Honestly, it reminds me of when I was younger and trying to get edgy shit past authority figures. Play dumb or make knowingly charitable comparisons. I mean, at some point in the middle of making...

        Honestly, it reminds me of when I was younger and trying to get edgy shit past authority figures. Play dumb or make knowingly charitable comparisons.

        I mean, at some point in the middle of making your VR interactive porn star experience where you fondle and engage in sex acts with porn stars, one has to realize that this will probably be relegated to the back of the magazine rack with all the other porn and not up front with Car & Driver.

        3 votes
        1. [10]
          Akir
          Link Parent
          That’s the one thing that is bothering me the most about this story. The author doesn’t even begin to explain why this game needs to be on Steam. Surely there are other marketplaces that they...

          one has to realize that this will probably be relegated to the back of the magazine rack with all the other porn and not up front with Car & Driver.

          That’s the one thing that is bothering me the most about this story. The author doesn’t even begin to explain why this game needs to be on Steam. Surely there are other marketplaces that they could sell their creation, and if not, why not just try to sell directly? There are a whole lot of questions that come from this that get ignored because of this too. Do they have direct competition that’s already on Steam? Is there a technical issue that requires the use of Steam’s technology or services?

          1 vote
          1. [9]
            MimicSquid
            Link Parent
            Why does any video game need to be on Steam? Surely there are other marketplaces that they could sell their creation, and if not, why not just try to sell directly?

            Why does any video game need to be on Steam? Surely there are other marketplaces that they could sell their creation, and if not, why not just try to sell directly?

            3 votes
            1. [8]
              NaraVara
              Link Parent
              I mean, it doesn't. Valve made the choice to make Steam as big as possible by making as large a library available as possible. But that's Valve's decision about what kind of store they want. If...

              Why does any video game need to be on Steam? Surely there are other marketplaces that they could sell their creation, and if not, why not just try to sell directly?

              I mean, it doesn't. Valve made the choice to make Steam as big as possible by making as large a library available as possible. But that's Valve's decision about what kind of store they want. If you don't want to list on Steam you don't have to. And if Valve doesn't want to list you on Steam Valve doesn't have to. Something about putting a platform on the internet seems to make people think they have an inherent right to be on it and post on it unless they violate some well articulated guideline but this just isn't the case. In the same way a restaurant can say "We don't have Pepsi here, only Coke" Steam can do the same. They don't need to justify themselves to anyone, being open is just a choice they make to be appealing to developers and users.

              1 vote
              1. [7]
                MimicSquid
                Link Parent
                No video game needs to be on Steam, but in that it's the biggest marketplace by a huge margin, there's no question that being on there is a boon. Of course everyone is going to want to be on the...

                No video game needs to be on Steam, but in that it's the biggest marketplace by a huge margin, there's no question that being on there is a boon. Of course everyone is going to want to be on the biggest platform. I'm not saying that Valve can't make decisions about their platform however they want, but for you to act like this guy is weird for wanting his game on Steam is nonsense.

                3 votes
                1. [6]
                  Akir
                  Link Parent
                  First of all, I am the you you are talking about, not @NaraVara. Second, I don't think I said anything to deserve the kind of attitude that you're giving me. Third, I don't care how obvious you...

                  First of all, I am the you you are talking about, not @NaraVara.

                  Second, I don't think I said anything to deserve the kind of attitude that you're giving me.

                  Third, I don't care how obvious you think the answer to that one question is, you're completely ignoring all of the other related questions that don't get answered simply because the first question was never asked. And even then, I don't really buy your answer; people buy things because they are exposed to them, but simply being in the Steam marketplace does not guarantee any form of advertising other than being listed as being for sale and having a description page.

                  2 votes
                  1. [5]
                    MimicSquid
                    Link Parent
                    People trust marketplaces. They trust Steam. Developers benefit from that when they're on the platform. That's valuable even aside from the additional discovery from being on their site. No one's...

                    People trust marketplaces. They trust Steam. Developers benefit from that when they're on the platform. That's valuable even aside from the additional discovery from being on their site. No one's asking why he wants to be on there because it has significant and obvious benefits.

                    I'm giving you attitude because I think you're being intentionally oblivious to those benefits in an attempt to discriminate against games with sexual content.

                    2 votes
                    1. [4]
                      Akir
                      Link Parent
                      I don't know why you would assume that. It's quite the opposite; I've played a number of games with sexual content, and one of them (Yu-No) is actually one of my all-time favorites.

                      I don't know why you would assume that. It's quite the opposite; I've played a number of games with sexual content, and one of them (Yu-No) is actually one of my all-time favorites.

                      1. MimicSquid
                        Link Parent
                        I assumed that because your argument for having sexual games just be elsewhere is frequently used to discourage content that a person disapproves of without actually needing to ban it. It's been...

                        I assumed that because your argument for having sexual games just be elsewhere is frequently used to discourage content that a person disapproves of without actually needing to ban it. It's been used to discourage many kinds of art or economic effort that's outside what is approved of by the mainstream, and thus I made an assumption about your personal character based on the argument you were using. I apologize for that.

                        2 votes
                      2. [2]
                        NaraVara
                        Link Parent
                        You know (heh), a dude in a forum I'm on was talking about it and I was very surprised to learn it was technically an eroge. The story actually seemed pretty well developed.

                        You know (heh), a dude in a forum I'm on was talking about it and I was very surprised to learn it was technically an eroge. The story actually seemed pretty well developed.

                        1 vote
                        1. Akir
                          Link Parent
                          Yu-No? Oh yes; the sex parts are more of a 'bonus' than a selling point. It's actually a bit ironic that it's one of my favorite games because I'm gay, so I really don't get much out of those sex...

                          Yu-No? Oh yes; the sex parts are more of a 'bonus' than a selling point.

                          It's actually a bit ironic that it's one of my favorite games because I'm gay, so I really don't get much out of those sex scenes. But for the most part, they are all worth reading through because they act as turning points signifying the emotional growth of the main character. People don't tend to talk about it in that light too often, but it's one of the main reasons why I like it so much.

  3. [2]
    grahamiam
    Link
    I find the tone of this article strange, and I'm not sure if it's the worldview of the article or the company, but this whole thing is based on the assumption that Valve has a set of rules or...

    I find the tone of this article strange, and I'm not sure if it's the worldview of the article or the company, but this whole thing is based on the assumption that Valve has a set of rules or should have a set of rules that are consistent and evenly enforced. And while that would be best for the developer, it seems very clear that Valve doesn't, nor do they have to. Seems pretty Occam's razor that Valve's goal is to just make a decision that is least likely to negatively affect them.

    But yeah simultaneously the fact that this company was willing to go through all this effort shows how Steam has too large of a market share. If Epic fails to make a lasting profitable foothold and Microsoft can't even seem to figure out how to compete, I'm really curious what PC gaming looks like down the road some more.

    5 votes
    1. raze2012
      Link Parent
      In the same way that a restaurant can refuse service for any reason, yes. However, provoking that rule to an otherwise normal reasonable customer who bought their dinner, paid a tip, and was...

      And while that would be best for the developer, it seems very clear that Valve doesn't, nor do they have to.

      In the same way that a restaurant can refuse service for any reason, yes. However, provoking that rule to an otherwise normal reasonable customer who bought their dinner, paid a tip, and was otherwise following socially established etiquette would be seen as unprofessional and have their yelp be review bombed.

      Note the "socially established ettiquite" line. I don't think every rule needs to be stated. However, If you're going to have rulings outside these norms, like "no wearing Metallica shirts to Denny's", it would save their and the customer's time to say so instead of spouting "no shirt, no shoes, no service" to an otherwise fully clothed person wearing a shirt that only offends the restaurant owner.

      4 votes
  4. [2]
    Comment deleted by author
    Link
    1. raze2012
      Link Parent
      I think there's more to this story. First, the timing. Depending on their submissions, the developers here would have potentially been submitting this work right during a much more controversial...

      I think there's more to this story.

      First, the timing. Depending on their submissions, the developers here would have potentially been submitting this work right during a much more controversial title:

      https://www.ign.com/articles/steam-refuses-to-sell-pick-up-artist-game-super-seducer-3

      I recall during late 2020 that Steam updated the rules to include that "sexually explicit images of real people" line you quote, likely to try and close some loopholes due to an actual bad actor. so it's very feasible that that rule simply wasn't explicitly stated when Holodexx was submitting. Kotaku seems to confirm this sentiment.

      As Daily Dot points out, Valve’s development toolkit banned “pornography” back when Holodexxx’s developers submitted their first demo, then specifically barred “adult content which includes a visual depiction that requires age verification of an actual human being” in January 2021. More recently, Valve once again altered that language to blanket ban “sexually explicit images of real people.”

      Secondly, the developers claim their first submission did not include nudity (it was a censored build, not unlike what VN's would do before policy changes), and was rejected on a generic grounds of "steam doesn't allow video pornogrpahy". In this case wording is important because "pornogrpahy" is very different from "sexually explicit", which was likely added later.

      So I think the kotaku article was on point for those who read the full article. It's just the title that's rubbish. They did not spend 20K submitting to Steam, the article itself says that was development time for a build. Something they may have needed to do for other advertising regardless. So that seems a bit misleading.

      And lack of steam isn't a dead end for the devs per se; they have a patreon with 1500 members, so those costs were likely made up for quickly (the dev costs. I imagine the liscencing cost for those performers were massive). I think the lack of clear communication from steam is unprofessional, but there's no need for the implicit narrative that this small team has nothing to show for their efforts.

      5 votes