Update: Originally, the article included an email exchange between the publisher and Valve. While we were originally given permission to use the exchange, the publisher requested for it to be removed as it just came to his attention that doing so could result in an NDA violation with Valve.
The original article follows below.
Valve has made some pretty interesting moves as of late with a lot of community members having a tendency to be surprised when Valve takes action on their now saturated storefront Steam. These instances have varied from Valve cutting ties with developers who were harassing customers, faking reviews and, in other instances, action is taken in regards to a game’s content, such as what has occurred with recent events surrounding games like House Party and You Must Be 18 or Older to Enter. The subject of the article today is in regards to the game The Key to Home, which is no longer viewable on Steam due to the game being pulled by Valve.
The Key to Home was a visual novel that had its store page launched back in November and had a release date scheduled originally set for Winter 2017 but then pushed back to Early 2018 as the English translation for the game was still being worked on. The game was being developed by Katsudou Mangaya, whose only previous work on Steam is a free to play game called Beneath the Cherry Tree, described as a Japanese literature. The game was also being published by Henteko Doujin, who has a somewhat greater presence on Steam than the developer with Henteko publishing a number of other games including a free to play fighting game called Brief Karate Foolish, an action game called Soul Saber 2 and a free to play strategy RPG called HEBEREKE!: March! Red Army Girls’ Brigade. Snapshots of the store page were taken by us via Google cache archives of the page prior to the cache’s removals. In addition to these, the trailer for the game can still be viewed here.
The game’s description reads as follows:
Hiroshi Kuroyanagi, a boorish failure of an elementary school teacher, is blackmailed by his student Rika Sakuma, a girl with demonic intelligence, into a wild scheme to rob the school of a hidden fortune worth tens of millions of yen.
Lies, cheating, and betrayal…students and teachers struggle against one another for dominance in this suspenseful thriller.
Who will come out on top and claim the schools hidden fortune?
This is a visual mystery novel for all gentleman and gentlewoman who love little girls!
The description also goes on to give descriptions of each of its main cast of characters into great detail.
Despite attracting a small fanbase on the Steam community hub with people looking forward to the game, the game was pulled by Valve on December 4th before it even saw a release. The publisher of the game, Henteko Doujin two days after the removal went on to the game’s community hub to talk a bit more about the removal in the discussion titled ““The Key to Home / いえのかぎ” has been deleted from the steam store by Valve.” In the discussion, Henteko states this:
Our game, “The Key to Home” was approved by Valve after passing through their game content reviewing process. Then on Nov. 29th, we received an E-mail from Valve asking us to explain the game’s plot and to also specify its intended audience. Wanting to respond to them quickly, we hastily summarized the plot in Japanese and explained to them that the target audience is people concerned with the social problem of children and people who like children in general. We also told them our stance that if there were any questions, we would be ready to answer to them.
However, four days later reply, they responded with a very short E-mail stating simply “We are not interested in shipping this title on Steam”. Shortly after receiving this response, “The Key to Home”’s store page was deleted, and the payment we made to SteamDirect was returned.
After sending them numerous E-mails requesting a direct explanation as to why it was deleted, the response we finally got was essentially “(because)we think this novel’s core audience is pedophiles”.
Henteko, within the discussion, then goes on to defend the game saying that the intent of the game is the opposite and talked about how within the game one of the main messages it tries to promote is awareness of crimes conducted upon children.
This is a novel game that aims to raise social awareness of child and school related social issues through a story about four troubled heroines who, under unexpected circumstances, join forces with a young hapless teacher to fight against the evil forces that mean to exploit children.
To further defend the game, Henteko pointed out that The Key to Home is actually already being distributed in some Japanese stores and on these Japanese stores the game has been rated “appropriate for all ages.”
After this statement was posted, the publisher received a mixed result from Steam browsers, while as can be seen on the discussion thread there is a lot of support and a lot of people with more questions, with similar things viewable on the tweet that was posted by Henteko, the post has resulted in Henteko receiving death threats.
— ぱぃろ@冬コミ1日目 せ-07b (@Piro_Shiki) December 9, 2017
After hearing of this whole ordeal, I went ahead and reached out to both Henteko, and Valve for comment. While I have yet to hear back from Valve, Henteko was happy to talk with me in regards to the events that have occurred surrounding the game and supplied me with some extra information and insight as to how the conversation with Valve went. What follows is an interview I conducted with Henteko to get some further insight on the game its self, how communication with Valve went and how the game was received by Japanese customers.
(Henteko’s first language is not English, hence why there is the usual grammar errors and other things as such)
Q: Firstly, how did your game perform with audiences and/or critics when it got its Japanese release?
This game is sold at limited stores and some events(such as comic market), and not sold at online, so not so much sales quantity yet(around 190 copies). But, generally we got good responses, especially it’s visual and mystery story are highly evaluated, and this game is also nominated for “Recommended Doujin(indie) Game of the Year” prize in Japan, to choose best indie game in the year.
Q: Did anyone from the Japanese audiences ever allege of anything that Valve are stating about your game?
Right now, my announcement tweet for this incident was retweeted 491 times and the number is still growing. Most of the response was “Can not understand, why?” Just like we felt so.
I additionally asked Henteko if there was an English version of the game elsewhere that could be played to observe the content, but Henteko stated that there was no English translation of the game available.
In a final comment given to me by Henteko, they stated:
We dont think they are erotic, it’s just an emotional impression, and until now, no one could tell how they are erotic logically, just like “posing is erotic” or “the image has erotic feeling” We believe so too. And, let me tell you one more thing. As you may know, we have been abused and threatened to death. But we got much more warm encouragement messages. If any chance, we would like to thank them in public place.
As I said earlier, an e-mail was sent to Valve for comment, if there is a response, then the article will be updated.