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In sudden reversal, Valve will let a cult classic visual novel onto Steam

Well? Is it the sensual world, the despotic society, or the destructive sanctions? Inquiring minds want to know!
Enlarge / Well? Is it the sensual world, the despotic society, or the destructive sanctions? Inquiring minds want to know!

Last week, publisher Spike Chunsoft regretfully informed customers that Valve-mandated game changes meant the first official English translation of Chaos;Head Noah would not be launching on Steam as planned. Now, the company says the visual novel will be coming to Steam later today, thanks to a change of heart from Valve’s content review team.

In a statement, the publisher said it was told that Steam’s content review team had “re-examined” the game and will now allow it to launch on Steam “as is.” That’s a major reversal from last week, when Spike Chunsoft cited “Steam’s guideline-required changes to the game’s content” that “would not allow the game to be released to [the publisher’s] standards.” It also brings Valve more in line with Nintendo, which was already allowing the ESRB M-rated game to launch on the Switch without any apparent issues.

“We believe this decision is the result of the unwavering support from fans of the Science Adventure Series as well as all of the players who are eagerly awaiting the release of this title,” Spike Chunsoft said in its statement. “Your voices have been heard. We sincerely appreciate your commitment. We look forward to your continued support of Spike Chunsoft and the Science Adventure Series.”

“I think [Valve] sensed the heat rising and doubled back before it became bad optics across more websites,” PQube Games Head of Localization Andrew Hodgson told Ars Technica of the rapid reversal.

A new, more permissive Valve?

Intriguingly, Spike Chunsoft also suggested that Valve’s more permissive policy on certain risqué games may extend beyond Chaos;Head Noah. “We’ve also examined the process that led to the previous decision about Chaos;Head Noah and made some changes to avoid situations like this in the future,” Valve said in a statement sent to Spike Chunsoft (as reported by the publisher).

Is that a schoolgirl outfit?! <em>That's it, shut it down!</em>
Enlarge / Is that a schoolgirl outfit?! That’s it, shut it down!

It has been over four years since Valve established its “allow everything onto Steam” policy, with exceptions for “things that we decide are illegal or straight-up trolling.” Since then, though, many in the visual novel community have noticed an inconsistent pattern in which Valve bars many (but not all) anime-styled games featuring characters in school uniforms. That has held true even for “games that aren’t even remotely salacious,” according to Hodgson, a description he said includes Chaos;Head Noah.

Valve hasn’t publicly clarified its stance on what specific content is and is not allowed in these kinds of games and hasn’t responded to multiple requests for comment from Ars on the matter. But Hodgson told Ars he sees this kind of promised change as “effectively an admission of wrongdoing within the process itself.”

For the moment, though, Hodgson said he’s unsure “whether or not that’s just a blanket statement to get people off their backs rather than something that actually means anything.” The proof, he said, will be whether “another visual novel with similar criteria to those that have previously been banned” is submitted to Valve and approved for sale on Steam. “Alternatively, developers who had previously been rejected may choose to try their luck again,” Hodgson added.

Listing image by Nintendo

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