Since yesterday, multiple developers of anime games on Steam that contained sexual elements have reported warnings from Valve for "pornographic content." Developers of HuniePop, Tropical Liquor, Mutiny!!, Kindred Spirits on the Roof, and others have been asked to censor the content from their games within two weeks, or be removed from Steam.
This warning came as an unpleasant surprise to the developers, many of which have had games on Steam for months or years without trouble. Kindred Spirits on the Roof, for example, launched in 2016. Publisher MangaGamer says that the team did its due dilligence in ensuring the game would not conflict with Valve's content policies:
"We went to great pains to run the game's content by Valve representatives--including sending along every potentially questionable graphical asset along with advanced builds of the title--to ensure that that feeling was mutual. The game would have never appeared on the platform if we had not confirmed with Valve representatives that they did not feel the content was pornographic and was appropriate for the platform."
Based on what other affected developers are saying, the line between "appropriate for the platform" and inappropriate has been a questionable one in the past. Valve's policy specifically prohibits "pornographic content," but exactly what that means or where the line is drawn between pornographic content and mature content has been perpetually unclear, and does not always seem to reflect more popular definitions. In a Kotaku report, Paul Rasmussen, one of the LupieSoft developers of Mutiny!!, described what seems to be a double standard on Steam when it comes to different types of mature content:
"They're vague in the sense that they say 'Pornography' is banned, and that is a very broad term which means different things to different people," Rasmussen said. "I think the most natural definition is any subject matter that shows aroused genitals or penetration (which Mutiny!! does not)."
Neither does HuniePop, which includes nothing more revealing than bare breasts in its Steam incarnation (though far more explicit mods are readily available outside of Steam). Meanwhile, as LupieSoft pointed out via its official Twitter account, other games with bare breasts and even more explicit sexual content such as Grand Theft Auto or The Witcher have not been threatened. According to developer Christine Love, neither has Lady Killer in a Bind, an erotic visual novel with multiple BDSM scenes. Based on known warnings issued, anime-style games with visual novel elements seem to be Valve's primary targets.
While they await further information from Valve, Lupiesoft and several other affected developers are collaborating to promote their games on other services such as itch.io. The games will likely remain available on Steam for the next two weeks. Those who have already purchased a game will not lose it from their library.
GamesIndustry.biz has reached out to Valve for comment.