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What the hell is Steam doing with VNs right now?

The deal has been altered

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Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun

Okay. Here's... here's the thing. I've learned more about visual novels in the last 24 hours than I've known in the last 33 years of my life. Most of what I've learned is that VNs are doing a lot of cool things, and some other VNs? Those VNs are doing dangerous things. And the one universal rule of video game distribution is still in effect: Valve has no gosh danged idea what they're doing. Yesterday, there was a series of emails from Valve issuing warnings to several developers and publishers, threatening to remove their games from Steam unless they are edited to remove ‘pornographic content’. Today, those same devs and pubs are getting emails saying "Just kidding. But also... MAYBE NOT."

Valve. The hell? Is Gabe spinning some gigantic wheel in the office right now? We just randomizing policy? OH LOOK, it landed on Surprise Steam Sale!

I cannot sum up the situation better than Dominic did in his coverage yesterday:

This just seems to be the latest round in Valve’s never-ending game of Calvinball regarding what exactly constitutes ‘adult content’ on Steam. Their guidelines for what is actually allowed for sale on Steam are notoriously vague, and no public-facing definition of what is allowed has been published, merely that it should not be ‘pornographic’. Apparently they are free to change their internal definition of pornography without telling anyone, which is fully within their legal rights, but also an enormous pain in the arse for anyone wanting to release a game even vaguely near the limits of what is supposedly allowed.

Gita did an excellent round-up of the history of Valve's nightmare wishy-washyness in a piece yesterday at Kotaku. It's just so frustrating and must be such a nightmare for the industry folks who, mostly, have gone out of their way to make sure Valve was okay with their content prior to release.

Valve continue to have zero consistency. And today's news only supports that, as apparently the games threatened with takedowns are merely going to be 're-reviewed'. There's no further explanation of what that term means, so we only have the tweets from publishers to go on. Here's what we've got for now, until Valve makes any sort of official announcement.

There's been some pretty excellent community reactions as well:

And some calls from other distro networks to help out:

You can be sure that we'll be continuing to cover this because, dear god, someone has to. What is happening here?

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