UPDATED 5/19: HunieDev posted on Twitter today that they received a response from Valve telling them to disregard the email. Valve is working on re-reviewing the game’s content, but no decisions have been made yet and they will apparently be in touch once they have.
The topic of content curation on digital game platforms is one that seems to keep resurfacing. These platforms struggle to find the right balance between maintaining control over their libraries and censoring potentially popular content. GOG.com got in trouble for blocking a popular puzzle game and blamed their curation process. Itch.io published a statement saying they will always curate with humans instead of algorithms, taking a subtle shot at companies like Steam and Youtube that almost have to use robots to keep up with the demands of their platform.
Now, Steam is in the spotlight again for a recent push to remove more adult content from the platform. Developers from both fantasy visual novel Mutiny!! and the incredibly popular match-three puzzler HuniePop posted online to let users know that Steam has threatened to remove their games from the Steam store if they didn’t amend their content.
– IMPORTANT NOTICE –
I’ve received an e-mail from Valve stating that HuniePop violates the rules & guidelines for pornographic content on Steam and will be removed from the store unless the game is updated to remove said content.
— HunieDev (@HuniePotDev) May 17, 2018
So far, HunieDev is mostly making jokes which is on brand for the tongue-in-cheek tone of their games. They also tweeted that they had reached out to Valve to attempt to “resolve this issue in the best way possible.”
Lupiesoft, the developers behind Mutiny!! also took to Twitter to report that they received the same notice from Valve. However, they didn’t stop there. They went on in a thread to detail how closely they’d worked with Valve to ensure that the Steam version of the game followed all content rules.
We’ve just received some troubling news today that @steam_games has decided to pull down our titled “Mutiny!!” within 2 weeks for ‘reports of pornographic content’. Now those of you who know @Lupiesoft know that we don’t put that on Steam, or advertise that content on Steam.
— Lupiesoft (@Lupiesoft) May 18, 2018
It is important to note that the Steam version of both games are already censored. Both of the uncensored versions were available straight from the developers, but the Steam version can easily be patched for either one. This indirectly allows users to play the uncensored version straight from their Steam library.
It is an interesting standard for Steam to set given that they allow nudity and other ‘pornographic content’ in main stream games like Grand Theft Auto. It seems as though more visual novel style games are particularly being targeted by the platform’s censorship. However, it is hard to say what their aim may be without a statement from Valve, but they have remained quiet on the subject so far.
Users who purchased these games through Steam should retain access to their content even if the games are removed from the store, but it is still distressing for the developers and their fans to suddenly receive this type of warning. This is a developing situation that will no doubt progress as the days go by, and the two week timer ticks down on these games.