Steam banned adult game for ‘pornography,’ developer claims

Valve’s popular PC gaming platform Steam allegedly banned a virtual reality game studio’s adult video game series because Steam does not host “pornography” on its platform, the adult creator claims.

Adult VR development studio Holodexxx offers immersive 18+ games in which players can interact with photogrammetricaly scanned versions of real adult stars.

On May 3, Holodexxx published a blog post describing three failed approval attempts to host the developer’s content on Steam. The studio initially submitted a virtual clothed lap dance experience with adult model Riley Reid, which was banned for “video pornography.” The upload featured a “heavily censored” video with adult stars but “did not have video pornography in [its] submission,” Holodexxx notes.

Afterward, Holodexxx submitted two games featuring a digital version of adult star Marley Brinx. Steam banned both with a “boiler-plate explanation that pornography was not allowed on Steam.” The last of these builds offered a 10-minute complex player-character interaction system, and Holodexxx writes that the title’s “truly ‘adult’ content makes up a small percentage of the experience.”

Holodexxx believes Steam “does not like the idea of nude models based on photogrammetry scans, but for their own reasons, are not willing to declare it,” the team says in its post. However, Quantic Dream’s Detroit: Become Human uses 3D scans of real human actors and is allowed on Steam despite including an adult segment, Holodexxx executive Mike Wilson told the Daily Dot.

The situation leaves developers uncertain and confused for when a game becomes “pornography” by Steam’s standards.

“At the end of the day, if Steam had simply told us on our first submission ‘Look, we will never accept any models built with photogrammetry,’ we could have save thousands and thousands of dollars,” Wilson said.

A still image from Holodexxx's Riley Reid experience

Valve hosts a wide assortment of pornographic games on Steam, including Subverse, a multi-million dollar adult video game that features graphic sexual content.

However, adult games are commonly censored, pulled, or held up under bureaucratic delays. In 2019, Taimanin Asagi, a popular hardcore adult visual novel, was listed on Steam and then pulled inexplicably. Early last year, Lunaris Games was briefly unable to release its prologue for its LGBTQ fantasy visual novel Errant Kingdom due to contradictory decisions from Valve over an adult content age gate.

Both cases were followed by Bokuten—Why I Became an Angel, a visual novel Steam pulled from its storefront for “adult content with underage characters,” Valve’s marketing head told the Daily Dot. Bokuten does not feature any underage sex scenes. The visual novel was later restored after its English language publisher pulled a small segment of adult sex scenes left in the game’s upload files.

Steam’s own development rules remain inconsistent. When Holodexxx first submitted its Riley Reid dance experience, Valve’s development toolkit Steamworks merely banned “pornography.” A January 2021 archived iteration of these rules briefly said developers should not publish “adult content which includes a visual depiction that requires age verification of an actual human being.” However, this was changed again to “sexually explicit images of real people” by April at the latest.

“They basically use devs to submit games which they treat as case law, but then turn against their own precedent randomly,” Wilson told the Daily Dot.

The end result is a confusing and uncomfortable landscape where communication is difficult to achieve, and developers like Holodexxx are left to figure out the rules for themselves.

“We made the decision to be honest about what we were building, knowing full well what the outcome could be,” Wilson said. “I don’t think Steam rewards honesty, but when a studio’s viability is on the line; Maybe it is a mistake to be upfront with their submission team.”

The Daily Dot reached out to Valve for comment.

H/T PC Gamer