The society which (and certainly many of our readers) I live in is terrified of sexuality. For whatever reason, depictions of outrageous, obscene violence is okay throughout our media but not romantic and sexy interactions between consenting adults. This makes it incredibly hard for some creators out there of film, books, comics, and video games, to bring their products to market. Until these past few years, erotic visual novels (eroge) were deemed a disgusting joke by basically everyone in the gaming scene who knew of their existence. Even now, the stigma still holds, though the first few games with semi-explicit sexual content have launched on Steam this year (Kindred Spirits on the Roof and Gahkthun of the Golden Lightning). It’s because of this love/hate relationship with sex and sexuality that it is incredibly challenging for a creator to seek funds via crowdfunding platforms.

There’s just the nature of the rules which is too murky to reliably depend on. For example, explicit visual novels such as Coming Out On Top were allowed to fund via Kickstarter. On the other hand, offering up a risque pillow cover as a reward was deemed too hot for the site in the case of The Grisaia Trilogy campaign. For the most part, Kickstarter is against “adult” content of this nature and as such it is an entirely unfavorable place to fund things like erotic visual novels. Indiegogo is similar, for the most part though there’s more leeway. The main issue with Indiegogo is projects potentially generating less buzz because people simply aren’t aware of your project. Kickstarter definitely dominates in general popularity and user retention. Patreon currently sits as accepting of sexual content – but it is unknown if this will always be the case. Many creators have flocked to the site because of its general openness and many adult projects currently generate a good deal of funding from month to month.

The saddest thing about Kickstarter’s stance is that it cuts off the funding potential for so many projects out there. Without a real chance at success on other sites, creators instead opt to cut content rather than risk angering the Kickstarter gods. This is one reason why publisher Sekai Project often opts to exclusively release all-ages versions of games which were 18+ in Japan. The other reason is related to less potential sales because such visual novels aren’t allowed on Steam (though that’s changing!). In any case, gamers are left with only one option for an official game – the all-ages one, even if they would have preferred differently. Of course, even if Kickstarter were open to adult content, this would still leave Japanese developers cautious as they too are well aware of North American cultural apprehension with regard to anything sexual. It’s a very complex issue. One thing’s for sure, though. There is a definite need in the 18+ visual novel scene (and other communities) to see their work validated and accepted rather than scorned or outright banned.

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In the past, there was a site by the name of Offbeatr which allowed all kinds of awesome adult projects onto its platform. In fact, it was exclusively made for adult content! The sad thing is that earlier this year they closed up shop with nary an explanation. It was a big loss for the community given many visual novels and dating sims (among other non-gaming projects) had successfully used it in the past. CumFundMe, another all-inclusive adult funding option, arrived in 2015 only to go on hiatus early this year. The team states they’re still seeking a good payment processor who is willing to work with them. For those unaware, payment processors are themselves often incredibly averse to transactions dealing with adult content. Perhaps it’s due to a high level of payment fraud – or maybe they’re morally against it. Who knows? In any case, CumFundMe is still offline months later.

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That’s where PledgeX comes in. This latest initiative comes to us from folks in Los Angeles, California hoping to make a sustainable solution for adult content creators. This includes performers, writers, and game developers, among others. As such, it should prove really exciting new for those of us out there with a taste for uncensored visual novels, among other things. The platform’s site is now live though they are currently seeking out projects rather than showcasing a bunch right out of the gate. Here’s some thoughts as to what their current plans are as well as what they might be able to do to truly stand out from the small but existing collection of competition.

PledgeX currently looks to be a site open to a wide span of erotic content. As of right now, their content restrictions are as follows: “Absolutely no child porn, anything deeply offensive, or where someone has been hurt in the process of making it.” While the “deeply offensive” line could be used unfavorably against creators and is worrying in its fairly unspecific nature, it appears there’s not too much off the table. Even as far as the first restriction is concerned PledgeX only says that relates to actual real-life children. It’s a tough line to tiptoe because such general openness may eventually become a problem for the company.

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Of course, unlike Kickstarter or IndieGogo, PledgeX has staked its claim entirely on adult content. They can’t simply remove it if they decide the drama is too much because that’s the entire purpose of their crowdfunding platform. As such, it seems they’re ready to fight for the freedom of these creators and will do so with dogged determination as long as the site is around. This is something which even the ever-increasingly popular Patreon cannot claim. While they do stand for the freedom of content creators, if they were bought up by a large corporation it seems likely that “porn” would be the first thing to go. Chances are this won’t occur – but who can say for certain? So this is one potential huge strength in favor of the newcomer.

One of the biggest current issues is the matter of payment processors. PledgeX has been seeking a secure platform which accepts adult content-based transactions and so far have come up short. At the moment the processor they are working with only accepts payment in form of Bitcoin. Now, I can’t say I know much about this realm, but have certainly heard about Bitcoin banks suddenly vanishing into thin air. As great as the currency can be – the idea of a Bitcoin-exclusive processor leaves me with a bit of trepidation. There’s also the simple fact that being exclusive to the cryptocurrency will leave out many potential funders who would much rather pay by credit card. They’re hoping to get in a secure, reliable credit card processor but as of now that isn’t the case.

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An interesting thing to note about PledgeX is it definitely follows in the Patreon model of subscription-style payments. Folks opt to pay on a month-by-month basis and may receive “perks” (rewards) for their contributions. So, how do they stand a chance against the competition when they’re so similar in this regard? There is one huge issue with Patreon right now as a means of distributing your content. It does not offer any form of DRM (digital rights management). It is because of this that sometimes a contributor will receive the patron-exclusive work and then distribute it freely online to any interested parties. If PledgeX can manage to come up with a way to secure content distributed on its site then they will gain a huge competitive advantage with creators looking to maintain control over their work.

Unfortunately, I do not see this happening anytime soon as PledgeX is still trying to get on their feet right now. They’re busy working with content creators to get them set up as well as try to suss out their payment processor needs. Developing a DRM solution would take even more time and would be highly technical in nature. Still, I’m just putting it out there. They should look into the potential of what they can do with browser-based DRM (ex: visual novels which run through the browser ala Date Nighto) as this is the biggest current problem with Patreon. Of course, this may negatively impact those who would rather take their content with them than be restricted to PledgeX’s environment. It’s up to the team to weigh the pros and cons.

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PledgeX could quickly become the go-to place for eroge visual novel developers out there if it plays its cards right. This site simply needs to be more attractive than the current other options (mainly Patreon). If Patreon ever changes their policies, then PledgeX could just become the default by being the only option. Of course, they shouldn’t simply wait around for that potential outcome but advocate for their platform in every way possible. Visual artists, creative writers, performers and directors, and game developers should all be courted. After all, those pursuing their creative dreams deserve the chance to be funded by those who adore their work no matter what kind of work it is. We certainly need more sex-positive options out there so here’s hoping they stick around for the long haul.

Marcus Estrada
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. Writing about video games is something he hopes to continue doing for many years to come.
Marcus Estrada

@BackerMarcus

Writer for @Cliqist - This is my new ''PROFESSIONAL'' account. Yay, crowdfunded video games!
Glad to see the BL visual novel Sentimental Trickster was funded. How about those #Kickstarter stretch goals? https://t.co/AEU8LaeD6M - 1 year ago
Marcus Estrada
  • Mista9

    If you play erotic games just don’t expect to ever have a real relationship, great way to hurt your boyfriend or girlfriend and unintentionally belittle them…

    • Why? A healthy relationship should strive and survive despite porn, not be destroyed because of it!

      • Mista9

        Watching porn isn’t healthy, and if you respect someone and find them attractive you shouldn’t need it.

        • I agree that it isn’t healthy If it becomes an addiction, however every relationship is different, what doesn’t work for one may work for the other.

          • Mista9

            I see what you mean, in some relationships couples share porn, but in most cases particularly for girls it hurts them.

          • Mista9

            i see where you are coming from, every relationship is different I just worry that people might think it’s okay to do whatever they want in relationships since I have gone through that and know how awful it is.

      • Mista9

        I have been on the receiving end 3 times and tried to be accepting, it’s painful.

        • Sorry to read that it hasn’t worked out for you.

    • Dude no, just do it together it’s cool. It’s sexy 😉

  • I like the idea of more crowdfunding platforms, if that helps the 18+ scene. However I’m not the biggest fan of the Patreon subscription model, even though I acknowledge that it’s a better system for content creators. I think an adult crowdfunding site using the kickstarter model could do well, but first it must capture the publics imagination, and it must secure a stable payment processor.

    • Dawnyaaa

      My issue with all the whole +18 and i think you and marcus like myself is thinking eroge since we’re VN fan, is that it always crude, i’ve hardly meet a +18 eroge where the sex scenes were..well-written.

      • I’ve definitely seen that argument made several times, and if you look deep into the writing, I can see it getting brought up. However, to be perfectly honest I see the writing in 18+ VN’s the same way as I see Hentai in anime. Fun stories, but you can’t take anything in them too seriously, at the end of the day the stories are so crazy that you just can’t!

      • Marcus Estrada

        You bring up a good point. interestingly enough, some of the more recent VNs on Steam (which have non-explicit sexual content) are actually making an effort with their sex scene writing (Starlight Vega comes to mind). Because they can’t just show a graphic 18+ image, they are forced to write up more interesting descriptions to bring the scene to life. Maybe more eroge developers will pick up on this style. Or maybe not, lol.

    • Marcus Estrada

      I’d personally like a funding model closer to Kickstarter as that is more manageable for me. It’s easy to keep track of a one-time spend of $75 for example, as opposed to remember that I’m subscribed to someone for $5 a month, someone else for $2, etc. But I’m excited for the prospect of any other adult-based crowdfunding options out there!

      • Agreed! Hopefully things work out for them and more competitors make their way online.

  • This reminds me of Gaijin Goomba’s video boobs vs blood. It’s perfectly fine to have violence but not nudity or a lovely pair of uh *cough* anyway nice piece. I’m still amazed that Hunnie Pop and Hunnie cam studio made it onto Steam even if they were mildly censored (and that censorship only took one patch to whisk away mwahahaha). Definitely need more adult content floating around, people are so hyper sensitive about it the only way to combat it is exposure.

    • Agreed! However I think the folks at Steam are taking baby steps into more adult friendly content, which is more than I can say about other platforms.

    • Marcus Estrada

      Totally agree with you! A lot of Steam gamers are so angry about games like HuniePop, Sakura Spirit, etc but eventually they will get over it, I think. Sexuality in games is still a taboo but this can be broken down by continuing to push content past what is “acceptable” by the mainstream.

      • Ah yes the amount of gamers who come on to the cam studio community like “RAWRRAWRRAWR THIS IS EVERYTHING WRNG WITH GAMING RAWRRAWRRAWR THIS IS SMUT RAWRAWRAWRAWR”