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Should Steam sell sex?

This is naturally a bit of a controversial debate and one where many people will undoubtedly have very different opinions. Steam has for the past few months allowed adult only content on their site for the first time in their history. This is off-course a very bold and brave move by the publisher. Steam remains “their” platform and naturally they can sell whatever they please on it. That, however; is not the debate to be had here. I’m not asking if they can, I’m asking if they should. Lets talk about it.

As many of you will know, Steam’s curation process is and always has been somewhat nonexistent. The company is well known for their unwillingness to monitor their own platform. They allow almost anything to get onto the storefront with little to no effort, especially after the removal of Greenlight. Greenlight was the process whereby the community had to vote on the games that wanted to make it to the store. These being naturally indie games, not AAA ones. This process in itself showed glimpses of Steams laziness. Let the community do the work. Off course many games made it through that weren’t any good and were meant as “memes” or “jokes”, but alt east the amount of rubbish getting through was still filterable. Now, a measly hundred dollars gets you on the store. Its a right mess.

Forward to 2018 and here we are. Adult only indie games are now available on the store. Sex sells, or does it? Steam have made headlines for all the wrong reasons so many times before it almost feels natural to be talking about the next controversy on their store. Its become somewhat commonplace. Certain segments of the market will flourish due to this move and its important that they do, but at what cost? At what stage do people start to wonder if something better isn’t out there? A store that actually cares and does some of the work they are supposed to be doing? It seems in the following next few years a new platform might become viable. At some stage Steams value will drop as investors and customers start to realize they have had enough of the companies negligence.

It might seem like I’m firmly against the idea of adult only content on the store front judging by my sour noted ramblings so far in this post. In actual fact, that’s the opposite of the truth. I believe firmly in freedom of creativity and expression. If people want these products out on the store they should have them. My cynicism comes more from a market perspective. Does it make sense for steam to sell these titles at the cost of their public image? An already torn and tattered image I might add. I can think of two reasons why this move wont be a great one.

Firstly, the children. Any adult worth their salt doesn’t allow underage children to view these kinds of content. And the children are where the numbers lie. Its like when someone asks why Fortnights player base isn’t diminishing. Its because of the kids. Fortnight has successfully created a community and cultural phenomenon that will live on for many years. The market value of children in video-games is absolutely massive.

Secondly, the niche. I know that adult only content isn’t exactly a niche and that there are millions of “adults”. What I mean with niche is more directly the amount of adults that would be interested in such video-games. Right now the genre is filled with mainly story driven visual novels that feature an eastern style of art. Anime or Hentai if you will. This in itself forms a niche. Naturally the market will widen and more styles of games will be released with these themes. Even hugely popular games have had nudity featured such as the GTA series or the Witcher series. The difference is the way in which its done. It feels natural and fitting. It doesn’t feel out of place. Most of the adult only games releasing on Steam now are poorly made, rushed indie cash grabs that aim to just jump on the next money train.

To be honest, I myself have no intention to support this segment of the Steam market and support this new trend. I have no interest in these kinds of games. Again, I do believe that there is a place for it, and I have enjoyed certain portrayals of it, especially in the Witcher 3, but a whole game dedicated to only that seems rather uninteresting. There will be those who enjoy these games, as they rightly should. There will also be those, like me, who feel the over-saturation of the market is at a point already where its bad enough, and opening up an whole new avenue for these so called “developers” seems like it might worsen the situation even more. This is a topic that devides opinion greatly, and one that I can say much more on. For now however, this post will have to do. Its a situation where we will have to wait and see how this new market segment performs and if it can truly bring something valuable to steams already full table.

Johannes Nienaber

Football Lover, Digital Artist, Game Designer, Technological Analyst.

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