On May 17th, 2018, two prominent English Visual Novel developers (HunieDev and
Lupiesoft) were sent warnings from Valve that their games will be removed from Steam because of “reports of
pornographic content”. This may not seem particularly weird or pressing on first impression, but what makes this
situation bizarre is the context in which this happened: these games follow all of Steam’s guidelines, and they’ve
have been on the platform for years. Valve’s actions today set a dangerous precedence for Steam as a platform as a
whole and it creates uncertainty for a growing western Visual Novel industry that has used Steam as an engine for
sustainability in our modern world.
time passes, it’s clear that this isn’t just a small thing isolated to these two VNs. Mangagamer, one of the largest
VN publishers in the west, just wrote a blog post about it because Kindered Spirits got hit with a warning,
Nekopara also got hit, etc. Here’s a running list of all the VNs that are getting hit with these take down threats.
Update 2: On May 19th, 2018, Valve sent messages to every developer
that got a warning to disregard the previous emails about violations. No clarification to policy or any information
about why the warnings were sent out was released.
With a completely arbitrary decision, and even if you follow Steam’s rules,
Visual Novel devs can see their livelihood and income disappear in an instant.
I’m not particularly fond of ecchi Visual Novels and have been on record for
complaining about them because of this exact stigma they put on the entire Visual Novel medium/genre as a whole. Even
as a detractor of these games though, it’s clear to me that this is a terrible thing for the Visual Novel industry as
a whole. As a fan of Visual Novels, a fan of PC gaming in general and a fan of the platform as a whole, I hope that
Valve takes the higher road and explains their decision. Without transparency, a platform cannot be trusted: here’s
already a level of risk to quit your day job and put your heart and soul into what you love, but now because of the
whims of a platform owner, the risk is even higher.
It is at this point where you might ask - Why can’t Eroges and Visual Novels in
general use other platforms to sell their games? You already know that answer: Visual Novels are and have been
dependent on the PC platform for decades at this point and when people buy PC games in the West, they get the game
from Steam. Steam has been stabilizing the Visual Novel industry and lead to sales numbers otherwise impossible. A
great example of this is the release of Clannad: when it came out on steam it was the 3rd best selling game
on the platform, and these sales wouldn’t have been possible otherwise without Steam. Before the western Visual Novel
industry was using Steam, the publishers sold much less or were using Kickstarter, which is much riskier and much
worse for consumers as a whole.
Steam let Visual Novels be less dependent on
Kickstarters (we can see this in major releases like G-Senjou no Maou or other Key games that don’t even need
a Kickstarter thanks to steam), and Steam lets the genre reach a larger audience while allowing the games be much more
accessible for everyone. Without Steam, Visual Novels aren’t really that viable - Visual Novel companies aren’t all
that profitable in general and when distribution is a hurdle, it’s much harder for a product to be successful.
Japanese VN companies will be much less inclined to target a western audience, and we’ll see less compelling and
engaging Visual Novels come out in the west thanks to this.
While steam might not particularly like these Visual Novels, arbitrary decisions to
remove one’s livelihood in a manner that undermines is absolutely not the way to do it. This effects more than just
these 2 games, and this effects the medium as a whole: Transparency is the key to a great platform. So, I ask Valve:
please explain why this is happening. Now is the time where transparency would be appreciated the most, and I hope for
everyone this gets resolved in a proper manner.
Thank you for reading! This is Rockmandash Reviews, a blog
focused on everything revolving Visual Novels, with stuff like tech and anime every now and then. If you want to check
out more of my writing, check out FuwaReviews
and AniTAY where I am a