Adult game Lewd Idol Project is in a bit of trouble — the Toffer Team PayPal account was locked for selling "sexually oriented materials or services" and it has lost access to its Kickstarter funds.
LIP! Lewd Idol Project is the product of a successful Kickstarter by Toffer Team; it raised a total of $35,116 against an original goal of $9,000. The developers planned to release several "Volumes" of the game, each of which would explore new aspects of the story.
Following the success of the Kickstarter campaign, Toffer Team stored their Kickstarter proceeds in a PayPal account. Unfortunately, that account has now been locked and Toffer Team has found itself without any access to its funds whatsoever, putting the future of Lewd Idol Project into question.
What Happened to Lewd Idol Project and Toffer Team's PayPal Account?
We reached out about the Toffer Team PayPal account being closed and how that has affected the future of Lewd Idol Project. As it stands, things aren't looking too good.
"PayPal locked both our account for sending/receiving any kind of funds, and at the same time, locked our [hard-earned] crowdfunded money via Kickstarter because our business is oriented towards 'sexual materials or services'," explained Toffer, the owner of Toffer Team and the lead developer of Lewd Idol Project.
"They communicated this via e-mail, from one day to another, without any warning," he continued. "Just like that, one minute I had funding for the future installments of Lewd Idol Project, and the next minute I didn't. I mean, I don't really mind getting kicked out of their platform, even if they’re the most popular and accessible platform for international payments, there's always an alternative to try to work it out. But having the funds we crowdfunded for our project taken away from us and potentially never getting them back, that's really awful."
Aside from the developer, we also reached out to Sekai Project, the parent company of Lewd Idol Project publisher Denpasoft. Sekai Project says that Toffer Team had informed them of the situation with the PayPal account, but it wasn't aware of the severity of the issue until Toffer Team made a public statement on social media.
Both Denpasoft and Sekai Project publish a number of adult games and I was curious — have any other developers had issues with Paypal?
"No other developer has had similar issues but considering the situation, we're planning to contact the handful of our developers who request payment via PayPal to consider other payment options," read a response from Sekai Project's Marketing Team.
"This is an unfortunate situation among many these days that target creators involved in adult content. We can only hope that there can be alternatives to allow for these creators to thrive without fear of repercussions that would affect their livelihoods."
PayPal's policy explicitly bans the sale of "sexually oriented goods." An inspection of a help page on the subject, however, doesn't specifically cover video games or fictional goods and is open to interpretation. Here's the policy in full:
We permit U.S.-only transactions for certain sexually oriented physical goods that are physically delivered to the customer. Videos, DVDs, and magazines are examples of physical goods. (We don’t allow transactions for such goods outside the U.S.)
We don’t permit PayPal account holders to buy or sell:
- Sexually oriented digital goods or content delivered through a digital medium. Downloadable pictures or videos and website subscriptions are examples of digital goods.
- Sexually oriented goods or services that involve, or appear to involve, minors.
- Services whose purpose is to facilitate meetings for sexually oriented activities.
Sexual preferences and viewpoints aren’t factors in determining what our policy prohibits.
In deciding what sexually oriented goods and services to allow, we consider:
- What regulations or restrictions are placed on the purchase or sale of the product.
- How the product is classified by a recognized ratings board.
- Whether the product describes or depicts sexual conduct in a patently offensive way.
- The dominant theme of the product material or website.
- The literary, artistic, political, or scientific value of the product.
- Potential medicinal or educational uses for the product.
- The product’s impact on the safety of our customers.
We reached out to Paypal asking for clarification on this subject, including exactly how it defines "sexually explicit goods and services" and how those apply to an adult video game such as Lewd Idol Project. We have not received a response at the time of writing.
Toffer did not want to specify how much money was held in the PayPal account at the time it was closed. However, he noted that they've developed roughly one-third of the game and have had to pay platform fees and taxes in the time since the Kickstarter campaign concluded.
"We're currently doing the impossible to find a way to solve this, and we've been getting a lot of advice from our backers and followers on this matter, and that's the only thing that is keeping me kinda calm and collected at the moment, the incredible support I've been receiving from them. And I truly appreciate that." – Toffer, Lead Developer of Lewd Idol Project
It wouldn't be unreasonable to assume that there are tens of thousands of dollars being held in the locked PayPal account, especially when one considers the proceeds from post-launch sales. Either way, Toffer Team has found itself without access to its funds for continuing development on Lewd Idol Project.
At the moment, Toffer is focused on trying to get access to its funds. However, the developer's research indicated a worrying situation: there's no way of knowing how much money will be left after the 180-day holding period concludes.
"[PayPal says it] will 'hold' the funds up for six months, but on the next line they detailed that my funds may be used to satisfy any obligations you may have, including potential liabilities to third parties and to PayPal," Toffer explained.
"I've been researching many cases similar to this one online, and sadly I must admit that most of the [time] the account ends up in zero after they charge you with these 'fees' after six months. Leaving you with no account, and no money to withdraw either, as you can read in their e-mail. I know this sounds really crazy and scary, but it seems that's the reality a lot of users (NSFW or not) end up suffering. And I want to raise awareness to any other content creators that might end up exactly in the same situation."
Toffer took care to mention that he had no problems working with Kickstarter after the campaign was finished, quickly receiving the funds after the successful Kickstarter campaign ended. He added that it was "super nice to work with them."
We won't give up, we're super passionate about making videogames and this project.
I asked Toffer what kind of backup plan they have in place — at the moment, his focus is on trying to get access back to the funds in the locked Paypal account. Considering the apparent uncertainty of using PayPal for such projects, I also asked Toffer Team if they were going to use PayPal for future projects.
"No way," Toffer said.
For now, Toffer Team has confirmed that it will receive payment for current and future purchases of the game. You can buy LIP! Lewd Idol Project Vol. 1 on Steam [NSFW] or on the Denpasoft website [NSFW] for $5.59 or your regional equivalent, a 20% discount as part of the Steam Summer Sale.
What do you think of the Toffer Team PayPal account being locked for selling "sexually explicit goods and services?" Have you ever had a similar experience with PayPal? Let us know in the comments below!