In theory, Steam Greenlight will let any aspiring game developer get their game onto PC gaming's hottest online marketplace as long as enough gamers vote for it. But that promise doesn't appear to apply to the makers of the erotic game Seduce Me. The game's listing was pulled from Steam's new Greenlight service last Thursday, the same day it was posted there.
The game's developers are crying foul, saying the removal of Seduce Me affirms the view of gaming as a childish pursuit.
Valve, the architects of Steam and the new Greenlight service have yet to comment.
UPDATE: "Steam has never been a leading destination for erotic material," Valve's chief spokesperson Doug Lombardi told Kotaku. "Greenlight doesn't aim to change that."
Greenlight launched last Thursday on Steam. It allows, in theory, anyone to publish a listing for a game they are making, complete with a text description, screenshots and videos. Steam users can then vote on which games seem to be the best. The winners get their games listed on Steam. Anyone who submits their game must affirm that they own it and check off which of the following categories their game is in: action, adventure, strategy, RPG, massively multiplayer, casual, simulation, free to play, racing and sports. (They must also agree to the Steam subscriber agreement.)
Valve's official Greenlight guidelines indicate that not every game can be submitted to Greenlight. The game has to be yours, and...
Are there any restrictions on what can be posted?
Your game must not contain offensive material or violate copyright or intellectual property rights.
Perhaps Seduce Me was considered "offensive." It's hard to say, but it's easy to leap to that conclusion. The game lets players chat with virtual women, including the characters Cecelia (... "an older divorcee. Sexually aggressive, confident, and on the look out for her next meal ticket...") and Esper ("Officially she's the barmaid and waitress. Unofficially her job is as eye candy and to keep guests entertained."). Chatting with them successfully unlocks "erotic" scenes involving the women.
This video shows gameplay and, while pixelated, is probably NSFW.
Seduce Me's Steam Greenlight listing was pulled on Thursday. In its place is this notice:
The game may have been pulled for those vague reasons on Thursday, but Seduce Me developers believe they've narrowed down their violation. It's that good old sex-is-worse-than-violence double-standard, they say. They said it in a press release:
AMSTERDAM, Sept 02, 2012. No Reply Games announced today that their erotic indie game 'Seduce Me' has been kicked off Steam Greenlight.
"We submitted the game on Thursday, when Steam Greenlight launched," explained Miriam Bellard, co-founder No Reply Games, "but they took it down almost straight away."
"Many people still view games as 'for children' in spite of the fact that the average gamer is 30 years old." said Miriam. "The gaming establishment is fine with violence and gore but is uncomfortable with sexual themes." continued Andrejs [Skuja].
I've checked with Seduce Me designer Miriam Bellard to learn more about how her team was notified of the game's removal and will update this story if I hear back. I figure other developers might want to know which games of theirs might be too offensive for Greenlight.
UPDATE 2: Bellard told me that her team had received an e-mail saying the game was pulled for violating Steam or Greenlight's terms. They have not complained about it to Valve. "We haven't heard from Valve, but then we haven't contacted them. The email we received said to contact Steam Support if 'you believe your item has been banned mistakenly.' The take down was obviously not a mistake so we interpreted the situation as a non-negotiable one.
It looks like Steam will continue to be, like Apple's popular App Store, a no-eroticism zone.
Seduce Me will be released in November, according to its creators, with or without Steam Greenlight.
UPDATE 3: Valve's Lombardi tells me that Greenlight's terms of service will be updated to more clearly reflect content restrictions.