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Steam blocking adult game developers from sharing uncensored patches

Content warnings may not be enough

galaxy gals screenshot Brightly Studios/Dharker Studio

Makers of certain adults-only games on Steam are now barred from sharing official patches to uncensor their games, according to a post by one studio affected by the change. Despite Valve age-gating adult content on Steam, Galaxy Girls developer Dharker Studio wrote that the platform would no longer allow it to share official information on removing any censored parts of its game.

A thread on the Galaxy Girls discussion page on Steam asked where the instructions to install the uncensored patch for the sexy-queer-spaceship visual novel were located, noting that the game’s official site points to the Steam store page to find them.

Dharker Studio said it was unable to share the installation instructions on Steam as promised.

“Steam reps have told us that they no longer allow any information or links to the uncensored patches on Steam, so they all had to be removed,” a rep wrote in a post. “We will gradually be updating our own website with info on how to install the patch.”

Another developer, Lupiesoft, offered a similar response this week to a player asking where to find a patch to remove censored content from Mutiny!!, its pirate-themed adult game.

“Steam does not allow patches in the store,” it wrote in a reply to a post asking where to find the “full version” of the game.

Instead, both Lupiesoft and Dharker Studio are redirecting players to their official websites, where they can continue to host that content freely. Users can also share download links for tools that add in more explicit sexual content, although it appears that those threads will no longer be pinned to the top of a forum.

mutiny!! screenshot
Mutiny!! as it appears by default when purchased through Steam.

This is a marked change from what Valve allowed previously for makers of sexually explicit games. For example, Winter Wolves, creator of 2015’s Loren the Amazon Princess, pinned its post to the top of its community discussion board offering a workaround to add back in “suggestive content.” (The standard game isn’t age-gated, however, unlike most of the titles referenced.)

In July, the developer of Twins of the Pasture pinned a patch for its game that would add back in more risqué assets not in the official Steam version. Those download links were posted by a user of the game, however — and users will continue to have to rely on each other for adding more sexual content into these visual novels and other titles.

A Steam curator group called Cut-Content Police collects all kinds of games that have scenes or assets removed from their Steam releases, including mainstream titles like Resident Evil 7 biohazard, Call of Duty: World War II and Watch Dogs 2. The content removed from each game is noted, as is the availability of a patch; a link is included when applicable.

Still, for some fans of sex-oriented visual novels, restricting official patch links is a step backward. Although Valve has required content to be cut from certain adult games many times in the past, the reasons why remain murky, even inconsistent; the company doesn’t have an outright policy regarding how it handles games with explicit sexual themes or images. (For example: 2016 queer romance Ladykiller in a Bind, for example, wasn’t allowed onto the platform until several months after its release; its developer said that Valve didn’t require edits when it did eventually approve the game for sale.) And now that developers can’t openly share patches to return their games to their uncensored state through Steam, it’s only complicating the adult game situation on the platform.

lady killer
Art from Ladykiller in a Bind, a visual novel about BDSM culture that took months to get approved for Steam.
Love Conquers All Games

The closest Valve has come to addressing the state of adult games was during an Ask Me Anything session with Gabe Newell, company president, earlier this year.

“Would you ever consider allowing uncensored video games containing pornographic content to be sold on Steam?” a Redditor asked, receiving numerous upvotes. “Also, where do you draw the line for content on Steam? ... I ask this as I'm getting tired of porn games getting releases on Steam censored without any content patch to put the content that the original developers of the game intended back into the game.”

“In principle, there are two problems to solve,” Newell replied. “The first is a completely uncurated distribution tool for developers. The second is a toolset for customers that allow them to find and filter content (and people are an instance of content most obviously in multiplayer) that is best for them.”

We’ve reached out to Valve about the decision to crack down on official uncensored patch links from developers and will update accordingly.