by Marcus Estrada
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he successfully Kickstarter-funded Coming Out On Top finally arrived and has already proven a hit with players! Even many who were not previously interested in visual novels and dating sims have suddenly found themselves as genre fans thanks to Obscurasoft’s standout title. Recently the game has also made the rounds between many popular gaming websites – introducing it to an even larger audience who didn’t Kickstart the project. Because of this, many folks have lamented the fact that it currently isn’t on Steam Greenlight. Others have brought recent, highly controversial, games which are allowed on Greenlight into the discussion as well.
If X, Y, and Z games can go through Valve’s Greenlight service on Steam then why can’t Coming Out On Top? This is the question so many have taken to asking and immediately jump to some unfortunate, but grounded assumptions. Some believe that many homophobic, or at the very least incredibly ignorant, gamers will downvote the game heavily. Others believe that Valve themselves are gating off content of an LGBT nature. While both of these aspects may or may not hold nuggets of truth, neither is why Coming Out Of Top is not heading toward Steam.
The reason is incredibly simple: Valve doesn’t allow for games containing 18+ degrees of sexual content in them on the service. What does that really mean? Well, basically, that a game would not receive an M for Mature rating from the ESRB but an Adult’s Only rating of AO. Most of us know what “sex” currently looks like in the M-rated atmosphere and it’s generally a very tame (and often awkward), obscured depiction. This is okay for a Steam release. But any game which would escape such confines is simply not allowed on the digital storefront.
At the start of Steam Greenlight these rules weren’t explicit enough just yet. During the first week of launch adult-themed game Seduce Me saw tons of positive votes before being quickly removed. Sure, Greenlight is all about letting players dictate the marketplace but all games selected must still fit within Steam’s overall content rules. Of course, those rules seem pretty lax when games with stolen assets or are completely broken get added to the marketplace without Valve batting an eye. In any case, if they’ve proven one thing it’s that games with content that could be judged as pornographic are not allowed.
You can find these rules (and more) on the Steam Greenlight Submission Fee page. They make sure to tell you before spending $100 whether or not you’ll actually have a shot at getting a game Greenlit. The important line as far as our discussion is concerned is as follows:
“You agree not to post any items to Greenlight that contains… porn, inappropriate, or offensive content.”
Sure, blanket terms like “inappropriate” and “offensive” are pretty vague, but likely purposefully so. Valve maintains the right to a degree of wiggle room in the interpretation of these rules. That’s likely why games such as Sakura Spirit are allowed despite many people viewing them as inappropriate and/or offensive. Valve is the final gatekeeper – not community members. In any case, since Coming Out On Top has explicit sexual scenes it would simply receive the boot even if it had 100% positive votes and comments. We could get into the discussion of the irony of Western culture which accepts ridiculous levels of violence but not an ounce of sex in games, but discussing it won’t change the reality of the situation immediately.
Instead what is worth discussing is the possibility of Coming Out On Top ever coming to Steam because it is actually possible. Unfortunately, the current solution would rob the game of much of its artistic merit, intentions, and become a bit less enjoyable. I’m suggesting the culling of erotic CGs to create a “clean” Steam version to submit on Greenlight. Shock, how dare someone suggest censorship! It is certainly not a fun choice to make, and it doesn’t seem Obscurasoft is currently considering it at all, but there is already precedent of other companies doing exactly this to make some Steam bucks.
Multiple visual novel publishers have been very successful on Steam Greenlight thus far. Over time they’ve becoming increasingly daring – adding games which once included hardcore sexual content. Two recent examples include Nekopara and Girlish Grimoire Littlewitch Romanesque. Many PC visual novels begin with erotic content and then have it removed for subsequent releases. As such, there is a precedent for creating two versions of the same visual novel in Japan and the practice is readily accepted. Some fans are disappointed, but this is way things must be handled in the current Steam climate. Other Kickstarter successes such as HuniePop have already decided to create two versions to ensure a Steam launch.
Why is it even worth pursuing a Steam release? Over time, the digital distributor has definitely lost much of its initial allure. Years ago Steam was viewed as a bit of a “golden ticket.” Any developer who could get their game on there was practically guaranteed sales. Now, with Greenlit games coming out all the time, success is much harder to obtain. There’s simply too many games launching every week! With that said, highly unique or niche titles can still do well. In particular, visual novels are a big trend on Steam as of late.
Longtime visual novel fans know the lengths they had to go to to enjoy a genre which was outrageously niche in English for years. Even more recent fans are aware that these games are far fewer in number on Steam compared to everything else. As such, the Steam-based visual novel community doggedly pursues most of anything which launches on the service. Combine that with the fact that Coming Out On Top is a critical success and it could definitely make some nice sales via Steam.
The biggest “problem” with PC gaming culture right now is that so many are dependent on Steam for games. They are aware that the likes of Origin, Desura, and itch.io exist but want nothing to do with them. Over the years we’ve simply grown very complacent with the conveniences associated with the platform and mostly ignore its issues. Steam is not necessary for a PC game to succeed but it can provide a very powerful boost when utilized. I personally would love to see Coming Out On Top arrive on Steam because then it would be so easy to share with Steam-obsessed friends and allow many others to stumble upon it. This is a great game that deserves all the praise its received. I just think it deserves even more.
[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/marcus.jpg”]Marcus is a fellow with a love for video games, horror, and Japanese food. When he’s not writing about games for a multitude of sites, he’s usually still playing one. One day when he became fed up with the way sites would ignore niche titles he decided to start his own site by the name of Pixel Pacas. Writing about video games is something he hopes to continue doing for many years to come. Some of Marcus’s favorite games include Silent Hill 2, Killer7, and The Sims. [/author]