"The future of adult entertainment is photo-realistic adult stars in virtual reality" according to the developer of Holodexxx, which takes scanned 3D models based on adult film stars "and brings them to life using the latest in chatbot technology." As Holodexxx's developer explained in a recent blog post, after being rejected three times over the last year they have given up on trying to sell their vision of the "future of adult entertainment" on Steam.
First, Holodexxx submitted a nudity-free "PG-13 experience” in which a virtual model of actor Riley Reid "performs a sensual dance" while a video of other scanned models dancing played in the background. It was rejected with "a boiler-plate explanation that video pornography was not allowed on Steam". Next, Holodexxx submitted Meet Marley, which gave users the opportunity to inspect a naked 3D model based on adult performer Marley Brinx. After that was rejected, they asked Valve's submissions team for further explanation, requesting "a brief outline of what would be allowed on Steam, considering our content". They did not receive one, instead being told that Valve "will judge our next app when they receive it."
Finally, Holodexxx submitted Holodexxx Home. Reasoning that perhaps the problem was that "adult content on Steam requires story/gameplay", Holodexx Home included interactive elements. The player talks to a character named Lady Euphoria, played by Marley Brinx, using a chatbot dialogue system, eventually leading to a demonstration of Holodexxx's sexual content: "Euphoria is undressed by the Player through a series of VR interactions, and teases herself to a climax."
After waiting several weeks, and submitting multiple help tickets, Holodexxx's latest bid was also rejected, once again with the explanation "Steam does not allow ‘pornography’ on their platform."
Earlier this year, Valve rejected an application for pickup-artist training tool Super Seducer 3 to be sold on Steam, telling its creator "Steam does not ship sexually explicit images of real people". Holodexxx's developer has assumed their products fell foul of the same rule, saying, "Our hunch is that Steam does not like the idea of nude models based on photogrammetry scans, but for their own reasons, are not willing to declare it."
However, games like House Party have added real people without being removed. YouTuber and model LetyDoesStuff was added to the cast of House Party two years ago, and it remains available for sale on Steam today.
Sex games, in short, are complicated. Valve has avoided nailing down or explaining its decisions with regards to adult content, which has resulted in confusion among developers. Games like Memoirs of a Battle Brothel, an RPG that contains sex scenes, make it onto Steam without complaint, as do a legion of hentai puzzle games, but Holodexxx's virtual sex apparently go too far.
Steam's official rules and guidelines do contain a list of things that shouldn't be published on the storefront. That list currently includes "Sexually explicit images of real people" as well as "Video content not directly related to a product that has shipped on Steam" and "Non-interactive 360 VR Videos". A look at the same page using the Wayback Machine shows these rules were added last year. They appear in a snapshot of the page from November, but the same page in October mentioned none of those things, though it did list the one-word entry "Pornography".
As Holodexxx's developer explains, "After another back and forth with the review team, we were no closer to understanding what Steam’s policy was when it came to ‘pornography’ or even how they define pornography. The gist of it was that reviewers ‘knew pornography when they saw it,’ and would not further define the nature of their decision making process."
Holodexxx software remains available for sale on itch.io, along with plenty of other products of the kind that saw it recently referred to as being filled with "offensive and sexualized content" by a lawyer representing Apple.
We've reached out to Valve for a clarification on Holodexxx's rejection, and will update if we receive a reply.