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On January 3rd, adult game developers everywhere found a disturbing email from Game Jolt in their inbox. In no uncertain terms, the platform explained that they were purging all adult content from their site, effective immediately. Those who purchased a game before its removal would have access to it until January 1st, 2023.
Every week I strive to give you an interesting perspective on the world of adult gaming
However, after an intense two days of online backlash, Game Jolt quickly reversed its stance on adult games. Instead of the games being taken off their digital shelves immediately, developers were given a 7-day grace period to comply with Game Jolt’s new guidelines.
Multiple adult game developers have confirmed to me that their games were impacted by this unilateral decision from Game Jolt. They said they felt frustrated by the lack of communication from the platform about these changes.
I’ve reached out to Game Jolt for comment but they did not respond to my questions before this newsletter went live.
Notice of removal
Adult game developer Heedless Hedon shared the original email they received from Game Jolt with me in full:
Game Jolt explains in the email that they’ve “made the decision to no longer allow content that depicts, normalizes, or glorifies sexual acts, sexual solicitation, and sexual violence.” Other game developers have confirmed to me that they have received an email from Game Jolt with the same wording.
Hedon said they were unable to inform their players about what happened because they could no longer use the community features for their game Voronica Cleans House. It was already removed from the storefront when they read the email.
Searching for “Voronica Cleans House” yielded no results when I checked on Tuesday this week and Hedon no longer had any listed games on their Game Jolt profile:
Voronica was reinstated on the store after the seven-day grace period was announced but the game’s developer has confirmed with me that they still plan to withdraw it from sales on the platform. Hedon said that they have no other games on Game Jolt. Voronica is still available for purchase on Steam and itch.io.
Hedon said that they did not receive any notifications from Game Jolt before their game was pulled. While sales from Game Jolt were not a significant source of income for them, they are still frustrated by how the removal was handled. They said to me that they “can't guarantee my audience persistence on any purchases [on Game Jolt]” and that Game Jolt has “shown they are untrustworthy.”
Botched roll out
As the dust started to settle, it became clear that the rollout of Game Jolt’s new guidelines had been handled very poorly. Besides removing games from their platform without prior notice, Game Jolt seems to have had a scattershot approach to the removal process itself.
People were quick to point out that these new policies were not applied evenly. A community of hentai and adult gaming enthusiasts has over 4000 members and was still accessible (as of writing) even without being logged in.
Then there were problems with how they handled feedback from developers. After Whales And Games challenged Game Jolt on the removal of two of their titles, the platform reinstated the wrong game. Instead of putting Whipped And Steamy - Cosplay Café back up for sale, which has no explicit sexual content, Game Jolt reinstated Bunny Splash Casino, which does:
And when Game Jolt said game makers could directly inform their players about their games being delisted, they failed to mention that followers cannot be contacted directly on Game Jolt.
Investors in charge
Some people have speculated that the purge of adult games from Game Jolt has something to do with a recent funding round. According to this article from VentureBeat, the company secured a $2.6 million investment from venture capital to rebrand the site as a “social platform for Gen Z gamers”.
Game Jolt has not commented on these allegations when I asked them for a statement via email. They did make a public statement on Twitter where they recommended developers move their “porn games” to other platforms and that the changes to their guidelines were inspired by their “large audience of 13 [to] 16-year-olds” who asked them to “clean up”:
However, this explanation is not very convincing. Game Jolt has not provided any data to back up their claim that the changes in their guidelines are due to user demand.
We’ll always have itch.io, right?
Indie games platform itch.io immediately clapped back on the news about GameJolt by responding with a tongue-in-cheek response that implied adult games are still welcome on their site.
But the current situation with Game Jolt is very reminiscent of what happened last summer. Itch.io was brought up in the US federal court case of Apple v. Epic Games. That case was about whether Apple was engaging in unfair practices by banning other stores, like the Epic Games Store, from the iPhone platform.
Epic tried to strengthen their case by allowing itch.io, a competing games store on the PC platform, on their own store as a digital download. But Apple’s lawyers took this as an opportunity to bash itch.io in court for allowing so-called “unspeakable games” to be sold on their platform, like Perveteer’s Sisterly Lust.
Ana Valens pointed out at the time that adult game developers should be careful to rely on a store like itch.io to always have our back, writing for the Daily Dot:
Don’t mythologize the website. Itch is not a DIY art space run out of a queer art group’s Brooklyn basement [...] Itch Corp, like every other privately-held company, exists to make money and assure its longevity. That’s it.
Game Jolt might have been a small player for adult games but they still made the space for them to find an audience just a little bit bigger. We should take this sudden reversal on what games are allowed on their platform as a warning:
Adult games are always the first to go when investors become involved.
What a mess
In my opinion, Game Jolt handled this situation in the worst way possible.
Game Jolt could have made manually reviewed each game beforehand and given developers an in-depth list of violations. By reviewing the content upfront they could have deflected a lot of criticism about not applying their policies evenly.
Instead, developers were cut off from their community on Game Jolt without any warning. They could not even make a post on their own store page to let players know what was going on. Game Jolt should have found a way to delist games from sale without taking the community options offline as well.
Game Jolt also should have planned in a grace period right from the beginning. This would have given developers the opportunity to either modify their games to comply with the new rules or pull them from sale voluntarily. But the seven days they got is not nearly enough time to make the necessary changes. It’s like your landlord kicking you out of your home unless you’re able to put in new floors in the next 24 hours.
At every step of the way, Game Jolt seems to have made the worst decision possible. Why move so quickly with implementing these new guidelines that you end up having to reverse your position not two days later? And why single out games with sexual themes but still allow games with graphic violence to be sold on your marketplace, supposedly to your audience of 13 to 16-year-olds?
With no additional information, Game Jolt appears to have simply woken up in a bad mood one day and decided to randomly pull titles from their digital shelves. Whether that was incompetence or malice, it leaves a lot of developers frustrated with the platform, their trust shattered.
Actions like these remind game makers that they are always at the mercy of platform holders, who could decide to cut them off from a source of income without even a moment’s notice.
Writing Wrap-Up 📖
Figure out your path to adulthood in adult dating sim Long and Hard... Summer! Failing college, cut off from family finances, yup it’s slice-of-life alright.
Legendary visual novel Katawa Shoujo celebrates its 10th anniversary with a free release on JAST. Every romantic character has a physical disability in this game made by enthusiastic amateurs.
Natalie Lawhead also wrote about Game Jolt’s new policies. She points out (correctly) that these policies overwhelmingly affect queer works of art.
The Sex Games Jam on itch.io is game devs responding to Game Jolt's purge. There will be a submission of my own to this jam later this month.
Cheeky chuckle 🤭
Artist spotlight 💡
Thanks for reading this far!
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Until next time!