[Update: 3/10/2019] R’lyeh Game responded to the accusations of manipulation and has claimed that there was no manipulation taking place, they also said they would be willing to provide their hardware information and IP addresses to prove that there was no manipulation taking place. They also stated that Valve is discriminating against certain kinds of developers and games.
[Update: 3/3/2019] New information appears to reveal that review manipulation had taken place involving the publishers/developers. Specifically, one form of manipulation was distributing the R18+ patches for the games through the review section.
[Original article:] For months now, product release manager Jason Ruymen and business development associate Arisa Sudangnoi, have been blamed for what many PC gamers have dubbed the Waifu Holocaust 2.0 at Steam. This includes a number of all-ages and R18+ anime and visual novel games being banned from the platform for unclear or nebulous reasons, oftentimes using the excuse that they engaged in “child exploitation”, even if there were no children in the game. Ruymen and Sudangnoi would go on to become known infamously as the “Rogue Employees” among visual novel fans. However, it appears Ruymen isn’t being much of a rogue, so much as he’s deliberately targeting some publishers of ecchi and R18+ anime games and visual novels.
The Nukige Steam group spotted the updates posted on February 26th, 2019 by Jason Ruymen, who explained why both publisher PurpleAir and R’lyeh Game were permanently banned from Steam, along with all of their games.
In the posts, Ruymen uses the same language to explain why both publishers have been banned, writing…
“We have recently received reports that the publisher, [PurpleAir/R‘lyeh Game], have been attempting to manipulate the user review score for their titles on Steam. We have investigated these claims, and have identified unacceptable behavior involving multiple Steam accounts controlled by the publisher of this game. The publisher appears to have used multiple Steam accounts to post positive reviews for their own games. This is a clear violation of our review policy and something we take very seriously.
“For these reasons, we are ending our business relationship with [PurpleAir/R‘lyeh Game], and removing their games from our store. If you have previously purchased this game, it will remain accessible in your Steam library.”
Ruymen doesn’t provide any evidence of the review manipulation, which he gets called out for in the comment section. When you check the review page there aren’t many reviews in the database for the games that are in English since the publishers who have been banned are Chinese.
If you attempt to access games from either publisher, like PaPaPub, the store page is gone. However, there are still Google cache archives that give you a look at the page, and it reveals that they were not the R18+ versions of the game.
After Valve silently changed their polices, publishers like R’yleh Game changed their policies, too. The company updated their games to remove any lewd content and instead included the R18+ content in an off-site patch.
R’yleh Game, a Chinese publisher, explained on the Steam page…
“Due to the new rules of the harmonious policy, discordant content will be intercepted by the store in some regions. In desperation, we can only temporarily adjust the release version, I hope you will forgive me. To fully experience the game, please download the corresponding supplemental content patch. Please check the other players in the community to share or download to our official website, please forgive us for the inconvenience caused by the players.”
The developer did, however, offer the R18+ patch for PapaPub via the forums, which some gamers think is what actually got them in trouble.
PapaPub was still in Early Access and had mixed reviews in total since releasing on November 5th, 2018, but the more recent reviews were mostly positive after the developer fixed a number of bugs, added trading cards on January 30th, and then later made the R18+ patch available on February 10th, 2019 via an announcement on the Steam community threads.
Most of the reviews and the community chatter was in Chinese. It’s possible that R’yleh Game did engage in review manipulation, but again, no proof was provided by Ruymen. What we do know is that the ban came just two weeks after the R18+ patch became available.
R’lyeh Game also provided a patch for their game Love Shoot, which is a mixed genre game that combines RPG elements with dating simulation and anime-style visual novel romance. According to the Google web cache archive, the game launched on January 17th, 2019 along with the R18+ patch, which was made available off-site. Love Shoot also had mixed review scores.
PurpleAir was in a similar situation with their games. Erolyn Chan Fight, for instance, launched on December 18th, 2018 to mostly mixed to negative reviews, according to the Google cache archive. A day after the game’s launch the developer made a pinned post on the Steam forums advertising that the R18+ patch was available for download.
What’s interesting here is that PurpleAir’s games either didn’t have many reviews or had negative reviews. So I’m not sure how review manipulation helped in their case, especially since for Doujin Jigsaw the game only had six reviews on hand.
The quality of PurpleAir’s titles were definitely much lower than the games offered by R’yleh Game, but both publishers got banned from Steam, regardless of the quality of the titles.
As some gamers pointed out in the Nukige group, they don’t believe that the bans were due to review manipulation, but that this is Ruymen and Sudangnoi’s attempts to keep banning visual novels and anime games from Steam.
“As you can see, it’s always the same person banning adult games with anime characters.
Both of those games had external patches that were linked in their reviews, so it seems that Steam came up with a new excuse to ban anime games.
“Games having reviews with patches are now considered “Review Manipulation”?”
We don’t know for sure if it was actually due to review manipulation or due to Ruymen’s continued crusade against visual novels and anime games.
Ruymen first gained notoriety in mid-2018 when he banned Gay Nation developer Dank Boi Games from Steam, after Dank Boi questioned Ruymen on Valve’s inconsistent policies of allowing some uncensored games on the platform while banning others. Both Ruymen and Sudangnoi were also responsible for banning Imolicious and the ‘Teen’ rated visual novel, The Key To Home, among many others.
We’ve cataloged a complete list of the games that have been banned.
Unfortunately, Ruymen has been unwillingly to further discuss the bans and has not returned any e-mail inquiries. I did reach out to one of the developers regarding the bans, and if they respond the article will be updated with their response.
In the meantime you can still purchase PaPaPub from over on the DLSite store for $9.76.
(Thanks for the news tip Minuteworld)