Friday, October 19, 2018

Kagura Games commits to uncensored releases after fan backlash


Staggered by fan backlash over its censorship of President Yukino, Kagura Games has partnered with JAST and MangaGamer to provide uncensored releases.


For a compilation of censorship in this and other titles, check out my Censored Eroge List and follow me on Twitter for updates.


A list of censored eroge, uncensor patches, and workarounds or alternative versions
Image courtesy of Censored Gaming on Twitter


Context on Kagura Games and prohibited content on Steam


Kagura Games is a new English/Chinese adult game publisher that published its first title, Fallen ~Makina and the City of Ruins~, in February 2018.  Their focus is Japanese indie gameplay eroge like those typically found on DLsite (top DLsite gameplay eroge).  They publish primarily on Steam, though their releases can also be found in JAST USA and MangaGamer's stores.

NTR H-RPG President Yukino is Kagura Games's latest title from developer Acerola (DLsite), a notable developer of relatively high-quality RPGMaker games, including titles focused on netorare (also known as cuckholding or NTR).  President Yukino is Kagura Games's first adult release on Steam, which recently opened its doors to adult games.  This was thus Kagura Games's first encounter with Valve's new adult content policy.

President Yukino contains multiple scenes involving sex between the heroine and younger male characters (termed "shouta" in Japanese).  Loli and shouta fall into a grey zone in US obscenity law, which is meant to restrict the sale and distribution of offensive pornographic content.  As US companies, both Kagura Games and Valve are potentially liable for publication and distribution of prohibited content.  Valve, whose sprawling business is primarily non-pornographic and spans the entire globe--including countries with heavy restrictions on pornography--has little incentive to push the boundaries of acceptable pornographic content.

A shouta character in President Yukino

Censorship of President Yukino


Kagura Games appears to have been caught off guard when Valve reviewers flagged the shouta content in President Yukino, in part because the game uses a realistic rather than a fantasy setting.  Rather than simply remove the scenes, Kagura Games altered the scenes (sprites, CG) to re-use characters from other scenes that could more plausibly be passed off as 18 or older (description of altered content).  Kagura Games then published this altered version on Steam, JAST USA, and MangaGamer.  JAST USA and MangaGamer were not notified of the alternations, though Kagura Games posted a notice (not pinned) in the Steam forums.  Confusion was amplified by Steam policy strictly forbidding developers from subverting Steam rules with on or off-site patches, which Kagura Games interpreted as a blanket ban on discussion of the prohibited content.

Backlash was swift.  While many were simply upset that content had been altered, many others were upset that other stores (and their users) were left in the dark.  MangaGamer has a no-censorship policy, and JAST has promised to notify users on store pages when a game has been censored.  This incident threatened to tarnish their brands, similar to what happpened to FAKKU and Sekai Project when LOSE decided to censor Maitetsu.

Resolution


I reached out to both Kagura Games and JAST USA about the possibility of a full release elsewhere (Valve's policy appears to forbid a patch that could be applied to the Steam version).  Kagura Games initially seemed confused about Valve's policies and suggested that Valve forbid an unaltered release on any other platform.  JAST USA's Nicholas Graham responded to me as follows:
Kagura and JAST are both US based companies. We trust that any version of their game they release will follow US laws. As such, any version they officially release we will host.
Kagura Games conferred with JAST USA and MangaGamer, and both adult shops advised Kagura Games to revert the alterations outside Steam.  Thanks to their greenlight, Kagura Games is now able to officially release President Yukino on JAST and MangaGamer with its original content intact, though I'm told that minor text alterations were necessary to avoid the implication of underage sex.

The official Steam version must stay censored, as Steam policies haven't changed.  However, I'm told that users can expect uncensor patches to "appear" for this and subsequent titles that require censorship on Steam.  This sounds very similar to JAST's commitment with Shiny Days and subsequent titles.  These patches will not be official nor promoted by Kagura Games (as this would violate Steam policy), but you can follow me on Twitter for announcements when they're available.

An unofficial restoration patch for the Steam version of President Yukino is now available.  Install the 18+ patch before applying the unofficial restoration patch.

Kagura Games has also released an official statement on Twitter apologizing for their initial handling of the censorship in this title.

Analysis


As a new publisher that released its first game only 8 months ago, Kagura Games's initial handling of the issue was clumsy and uncoordinated.  Founder Rakushun explained that as the company has grown he has increasingly delegated responsibility to others, and as a result he was just as blindsided as JAST and MangaGamer were.  Kagura Games's disorganization combined with the unknowns surrounding Steam's new adult content policies, together with Valve's strict orders to not try and subvert these policies, to create the conditions for a perfect firestorm that was waiting only for the right spark.

Valve/Steam may seem like the bad guy in this story, but remember that porn is not their main business.  It's not reasonable to expect them to take risks for the adult industry.  If you want uncensored eroge, Steam shouldn't be your shop of choice.

Instead, as I argued previously, this is the perfect opportunity for adult publishers and stores to step up and differentiate themselves as champions of adult content.  And I'm proud to see that JAST USA, MangaGamer, and now Kagura Games are doing exactly that.  JAST USA and Kagura Games also reaffirmed to me their commitment to ensure that every store page for a censored release is labeled appropriately, which is another step in the right direction.

My verdict: The release was handled poorly, but Kagura Games has admitted their mistake and taken the appropriate steps to address it.

Don't forget to check out my comprehensive list of censored eroge and follow me on Twitter for updates on censorship.


Eroge with a censored official English release, a comprehensive list
A list of censored eroge, uncensor patches, and workarounds or alternative versions
Image courtesy of Censored Gaming on Twitter

Kagura Games granted me access to PR representative Sinom to discuss sensitive subject matter with a degree of confidentiality.  I allowed them to review this article before publishing to ensure these sensitive topics were discussed with the appropriate discretion.  An early, more critical version of this article was delayed to allow Kagura Games to announce the newly uncensored releases on JAST and MangaGamer.

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