Should adult games be sold separately?
The drawbacks of splitting your audience in Naughty List News #74
This week’s newsletter was sponsored by Friday Night Fappin, read more about it below!
Selling your adult games online is a lot more fraught with complications than it should be. Developers of adult games face an uphill battle against inscrutable store agreements, government regulations, and even payment processors.
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But there does seem to be an obvious solution: adult game developers should build their own store. Then, instead of checking the customer’s age for every purchase, they could simply turn away anyone under 18 at the door. And because every game sold in this store would be intended for an adult audience, there would be no need for stringent content requirements.
Would this actually solve any of the difficulties that adult game makers face?
At the risk of stating the obvious, selling games requires finding an interested audience. And there’s a greater chance to sell your wares when the marketplace is popular with players. For PC games, Steam is the biggest player, with 62.6 million daily active users (DAU). Such a large and active userbase makes it possible for even smaller games to turn a profit.
By comparison, Steam’s biggest competitor is the Epic Games Store, which has a confirmed 31.1 million DAU, just over half of Steam’s figure. But while Steam begrudgingly allows adult content, the Epic Games Store does not. For an alternative to Steam that does allow adult content, you’ll have to turn to Itch.io. This storefront is focused more on smaller and independent games rather than blockbusters.
But there are even more niche stores out there, ones specifically tailored to selling adult games. For example, have you heard of sites like Nutaku, DLSite, and SpicyGaming?
It’s difficult to find similar stats about DAU for all these websites but luckily we can make an educated guess by using a different metric. I used the website SimilarWeb to check the total visits for each game store’s website. Steam has a total of 146.1 million visitors compared to Epic Game Store’s 79.4 million visitors. Because we know the DAU stat for both these stores, we can calculate a very rough median of 2.05 visits needed for every daily active user.
This gives us the following table:
What jumped out to me immediately is that Nutaku is actually a bigger marketplace than the Epic Games Store right now, with an estimated 39 million daily active users. There is definitely plenty of interest for stores focused solely on adult content.
Targeted by legislation
When websites are specifically tailored towards adult content, it makes them easy targets for legislation. Time and time again, sites that start out as focused on adult content either close up shop or try to pivot away from adult content entirely.
To explain what I mean, let’s imagine a hypothetical website called “sexygamesforsexypeople.xxx”. They enjoy a reasonable amount of success selling adult games to their customers in Germany. But then a German legislator gets a hair in their bonnet about “protecting kids online” and decides to ban the website at the ISP level. In this hypothetical scenario, I don’t imagine a lot of people rushing in to protest against the government to preserve the sanctity of “sexygamesforsexypeople.xxx”. I find it much more likely that defenders would be brushed aside as uncaring about the very important issue of keeping children safe on the Internet. Even though banning this particular website would do nothing of the sort.
But what I think is also important to remember is that “adult content” can be a very broad category. Adult content includes everything from porn games, to sex simulators, to visual novels. And the overwhelming majority is made by and for people in the LGTBQIA+ community. So when legislators talk about keeping children safe from adult content, they sometimes explicitly mean content made to explore marginalized genders and sexuality.
Now let’s imagine instead that the affected website is “store.steampowered.com”. In this scenario, I would expect a lot more public outcry. This is why it’s so important that adult games are sold in the same stores as other types of games. Doing so offers adult games protection from targeted discrimination against the art form.
There is definitely a healthy appetite for boutique stores that focus solely on adult games. But these stores cannot compete with Steam and are vulnerable to targeted legislation. We shouldn’t want to silo these games away, but recognize them for what they are: Artistic expressions that explore the messiness and stickiness of sexuality.
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Writing Wrap-Up 📖
Help a fallen idol back on track in management sim Idol Hands. I do love both hands and puns!
SLOOTER is an old-school FPS set in a futanari world. Use a dildo crossbow or a breast-milk blasting shotgun to stave off the horny hordes of demons!
Passion and Play is a new book by narrative designer Michelle Clough about sex in game design. This felt extremely relevant to my interests so I ordered a copy straight away!
The Daily Beast published an op-ed about Germany’s war on porn. Award-winning porn star Cherie DeVille writes that Germany’s recent enforcement of vague age verification rules could be “the first step toward kicking sex workers off the internet and banning porn entirely.”
Cheeky chuckle 🤭
Artist spotlight 💡
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Until next time!