Publisher HappyHand announced on March 14th, 2019 that Niplheim’s Hunter: Branded Azel’s DLC, titled Lust Brand Prostitute, was banned from Steam, joining the list of other banned anime and visual games. The reason for the ban was that Valve claimed it featured the “prurient representation or exploitation of minors”. This is despite the fact that the all-ages version of Niplheim’s Hunter: Branded Azel is already available for purchase on the Steam store and the game contains no minors.
The news comes courtesy of a Steam Community post, where HappyHand shared the e-mail from Valve stating that the DLC would not be allowed on the Steam store. A standard denial letter and notice of ban was issued from Valve, which reads…
“After review, we will not be able to ship your DLC Branded Azel – Lust Brand Prostitute on Steam. While we strive to ship most titles submitted to us, we found that this title features themes, imagery or descriptions that we won’t distribute.
“Regardless of a developer’s intentions with their product, we will not distribute content that appears, in our judgment, to trade in the prurient representation or exploitation of minors.
“While every product submitted is unique, if your product features this representation — even in a subtle way that could be defined as a “grey area” — it will be rejected by Steam.
“We are not interested in working with partners that dance around the edges of what’s legal. For instance, setting your game in a high-school but declaring your characters are of legal age would fall into that category and be banned.
“This app has been banned and cannot be reused.”
This is the same letter of rejection that developers have received for a number of other games in recent times, even when they don’t contain underage characters or are set in a school, such as Victory Project, Ayura Crisis! or Domination Quest.
Nevertheless, it fits in line with Valve’s unannounced policy where their staff will review and ban products that they determine to be in a “legally grey” area.
According to HappyHand, they did send in a request from Valve to clarify what parts of the DLC specifically violate the policy so that they can fix it, writing…
“I sent Steam a support ticket asking why they would ban the game when they told me they would give me feedback and guidance about content that they will not allow, hopefully they will reply back soon and I will get the DLC unbanned, but I’m extremely sorry about this, I thought Steam would at least let me know what’s wrong with the game instead of just banning it without any guidance/discussion. Let’s hope this was just a mistake on their part and it will be solved soon. In case I can’t solve the ban in the support ticket, I’ll ask if someone could visit Valve HQ to ask what’s up or I’ll visit them myself if I have to, but let’s hope this will get solved soon.”
This isn’t the first time that HappyHand ran into trouble with Niplheim’s Hunter. Originally Valve denied the release of the all-ages version of the game on Steam until the developer completely removed a character from the game. After a back and forth with Valve, it was later stated that the request for censorship was a“misunderstanding” and Valve let the game onto their storefront without HappyHand having to remove the character.
We’ll see if Valve will hold firm to the ban on the DLC for Niplheim’s Hunter or if they will allow it on the store. HappyHand was intending to give it away for free but that doesn’t look like it’s going to be possible on Steam.
Many requested that they host the DLC on their own website, but HappyHand noted that even so they aren’t allowed to reference, link to, or make any announcements about off-site DLC patches. HappyHand explained in the comment section…
“I will put the DLC on other stores that allow it and I’ll see if I can figure something else out too, but for now, I’ll wait and see how Steam replies. Also Steam does not allow me to advertise/mention other sites, patches, etc. so I can’t post stuff like “Spinoff DLC link here” in Steam, sorry.”
You can still purchase Niplheim’s Hunter from the Steam store, but if you would prefer to support the developers directly, you can do so by picking up a digital copy of the game from the itch.io store page for $19.99.
Alternatively, if you already have the Steam version of the game you can download the free R18+ patch from over on the HappyHand website.
(Thanks for the news tip StarKitsune and Rick)