Crowdfunding website Patreon was known as a haven for erotic games that couldn’t exist on traditional storefronts, but a recent crackdown on adult material has users worried about the future of such fringe games.
Sex games are a huge business on Patreon, with top projects attracting thousands of patrons each. One lewd project, the first-person game Monster Girl Island, currently makes $32,516 (£24,540) every month, while another adult interactive fiction project rakes in $33,038 (£24,934) a month.
Patreon has always had rules about adult content on the platform. For a while, the site had guidelines stipulating that it allowed nudity on its platform so long as it is marked as NSFW, but that it had “zero tolerance” for content that sexualised children, or glorified rape and sexual violence. Projects that violated these rules could be removed from Patreon, or would be subject to review.
Last week, that same section got an update that asked creators to make sure all content on Patreon pages “be appropriate for all audiences.” Additionally, Patreon content containing “incest, necrophilia, or fetish content that is hard to distinguish from non-consensual sex” now also falls under a gray area. Patreon won’t outright shut projects down, instead considering the context of the project in question, “including personal, historical or educational narrative.” Patreon head of communications Mollie Star told Kotaku that it is all considered on a case-by-case basis, and that they are working with people to make sure their projects are acceptable.
Since these changes went into effect, a number of erotic games on the platform now display the following message:
On Reddit, the creator of Lewdlab said their project went under review until the page was modified so that words, descriptions, tags, and pictures met the community guidelines. Patreon apparently did not ask for the game itself to be changed, Lewdlab wrote. To wit, one of the top sex games on Patreon used to be known as “Dating My Daughter,” which one website describes as a story about “a divorced father trying to date his way into the forbidden panties of his estranged daughter” now seems to have no reference to incest at all on the official page. The game itself, however, appears to still be available for patrons. Some of the projects that went down for days have started to come back with cleaned-up pages, while others remain in limbo.
While some creators are readily complying with the changes, the enforcement of these rules seems to be making people nervous. Eromancer, the creator of an erotic RPG Malise and the Machine recently wrote a blog post expressing uncertainty about the project’s future on Patreon.
“Naturally, this trajectory leads me to question the stability of Patreon for adult projects going forward, so we’re going to make...a serious effort to come up with contingency strategies to maintain funding until project completion if the worst does eventually happen,” Eromancer wrote. Currently, Eromancer raises $7,419 (£5,599) a month on Patreon from 1,375 donors.
“This is probably a good time to point out that with five developers our expenses are running in the ballpark of $8000 [£6,038] a month (not including random things such as computer hardware), and this is without me taking any personal pay. It should suffice to say that funding is crucial for the survival of the project, so we will definitely be taking backup plans more seriously.”
As a back-up plan, Eromancer will keep back-up records every month to make sure the project can fulfil orders of the finished game promised on Patreon.
Elsewhere, creators of adult content on Patreon are banding together to petition the service to reconsider its rules around sexual material. “Your platform strikes a pose in favor of freedom of expression, but there is no way your current contradictory stances can result in any sort of comfort to the creators,” the open letter, which has been signed by dozens of creators, reads.
“We know people who would be homeless if it wasn’t for making porn on Patreon,” it continues.
Based on the blog post that originally announced the changes, Patreon seems aware that its stance on adult content makes things complicated for users.
“We have to make judgment calls about where to draw the line between an individual creator’s right to use Patreon and Patreon’s ability to be a home for all creators,” Colin Sullivan, head of legal at Patreon, wrote last week.
“These are tough policies to develop, and even tougher to enforce in a way that’s clear and fair to creators.”