The release of the first 100% uncensored sexually explicit visual novel on Valve’s digital distribution platform Steam seemed to spell the end of a period of worry for visual novel publishers after the company’s ultimatum last year, but it seems as if that was just a momentary peace. In a strange backward move this week, it has come to light that Valve has rejected MangaGamer’s The Expression Amrilato visual novels for release on Steam on the grounds of sexual content.
MangaGamer describes The Expression Amrilato visual novel as “a touching story centered around ideas of communication, social connections, and building lasting, meaningful relationships with others through mutual understanding.” The game also has an educational focus, as it seeks to teach players the ‘universal’ language of Esperanto.
In a press release, MangaGamer claimed that Valve rejected the game for release on Steam on the grounds that it “sexualizes minors.” While it is true that the game does feature a yuri romance between school students, the game does not feature any sexual content of any kind – making it hard to see how exactly The Expression Amrilato qualifies for rejection.
Yet, even if it did ‘sexualize minors,’ this doesn’t exactly infringe Valve’s previously outlined release policy following the controversy surrounding sexually explicit games on their platform, where they said that they would release anything as long as it wasn’t “illegal” or “straight up trolling.”
The Expression Amrilato certainly isn’t illegal, being an official translation and localization of the original 2017 Japanese game by SukeraSparo, and it’s certainly not ‘trolling,’ either – rather, it’s an earnest game with a proper story, a fully fledged cast of characters, and a clear educational focus.
Valve’s rejection of The Expression Amrilato for release on Steam is yet another example of what MangaGamer describes as the company’s “vague and increasingly unpredictable approval process.”
What makes this approval process even more frustrating is that other publishers, such as CD Projekt, have found no fault with the game or it’s content, and have approved it for release via their platform GOG.com.
MangaGamer have not abandoned a Steam release for The Expression Amrilato just yet, instead stating there will be a ‘delay’ as they sort things out with Valve. But, much like Valve’s ultimatum last year, the only thing that this vague and hypocritical release policy will do is drive visual novels publishers and, in turn, fans away from the digital distribution platform.
Considering that Valve is already losing out on titles such as Shenmue III to up-and-coming competitor Epic Games and their digital distribution platform, they might want to patch things up – and fast.