What the hell is Steam doing with VNs right now?
The deal has been altered
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.
Lupiesoft has also just received word from Valve that Mutiny!! is being re-reviewed for content, and that the 2 week deadline is off.— Lupiesoft (@Lupiesoft) May 19, 2018
We'll update everyone as any more information comes our way.
For Lupiesoft's entire life within the VN scene and on Steam we were regarded as sleazy for the types of games we made.— Lupiesoft (@Lupiesoft) May 19, 2018
I think people have realized that people who make adult games aren't trying to abuse the system, we're following the guidelines and fighting for everyone's VNs
Update: We have just received word from Valve to disregard the previous notice. According to the e-mail, Kindred Spirits will be re-reviewed and we will be provided with specific feedback if there are concerns about the game’s content.— MangaGamer (@MangaGamer) May 19, 2018
On that note, we would also like to invite any developers affected by this content policy issue or concerned about its potential effect on their ability to sell their titles to contact us. We’d be more than happy to work with you if Valve won’t.— MangaGamer (@MangaGamer) May 18, 2018
There's been some pretty excellent community reactions as well:
Valve: Hey VN developers, we're putting our foot down on anime tiddy! No more! Take your 2D mammaries elsewhere! The #waifuholocaust begins now! Steam will be a pure platform for wholesome games only!— Yemi! (@OraMagi) May 19, 2018
Also Valve: pic.twitter.com/Vhq2URs7Ek
And some calls from other distro networks to help out:
Anyway, if your content is being affected by the Visual Novel purge, we'd love to have you on @itchio. Please reach out to me if there is anything we can do to help you.— Spencer Hayes. ACAB (@SPNKr) May 18, 2018
As a heads up: If you want to talk business stuff with @itchio you should email spencer(AT)itch(DOT)io— Spencer Hayes. ACAB (@SPNKr) June 9, 2017
You can be sure that we'll be continuing to cover this because, dear god, someone has to. What is happening here?