One month ago, I made an announcement that I was going to Montreal to meet up with Nutaku, to see if we could get some of our questions answered.
It was an interesting trip, to say the least. The conversations on how adult companies generally operate on a corporate level were very informative, and equally eye-opening. While I definitely got a lot of answers from the staff, the big take-away from our conversations was the challenges they face. They’re something most will eventually confront when entering this industry, no matter the niche. I did a lot of research before the trip, and while I was on the mark according to my own beliefs, I was definitely off on others. Going down to their offices definitely helped me further cement things.
To be clear, this is a group of people who really do enjoy the content they work with. Any assumptions that there’s discomfort involved in their process is wrong; it just so happens that this is a rather complicated industry to be in. With that aside, I’m happy to see that there are serious moves to help bring games to the West, in spite of the risks involved. Still, they have a long way to go before I personally deem it a “success”, but I have at least come to understand that this isn’t an easy business outside of Japan.
While I was not allowed to take pictures inside the building, I can say that their work space is pretty colorful. Nice, casual, comfortable, and not as corporate as you might think – especially not with the big drawing of a chibi girl being molested. Oh, and I got to briefly meet their Japanese translator, Yasumitsu, who handles inter-business communication. Great stuff.
The Nutaku office in Montreal is a lot smaller than I initially thought, though they have a few more stations around the world. Regardless, they are still part of a larger corporation (which is no secret), thus the company is not a privately owned organization like JAST. Being in Canada plays little role to their day-to-day decision making, which I’m sure will come as a surprise for many. What does impact their actions is mainly imposed by credit card processing rules for the Americas, such as Visa and Mastercard. As stated to me, these rules are rather nebulous and are made to be purposely vague. Basically, if a problem does persist (public scrutiny, for example), they can enforce them when needed.
Which is pretty terrible, to be honest.
Unbeknownst to most, Nutaku is partnered with DMM.com. When it comes to certain decisions, both Nutaku and DMM have to be in agreement. DMM is also in charge of specific titles on the Free-To-Play portion of the site, particularly when it comes to updates and management. There are certain titles that Nutaku themselves own, however, like Millennium War Aigis, which puts them in control of updates and consumer focus.
Nutaku’s booth at Otakuthon! And no, I’m not the chick with the pink hair sadly.
At the end of the day, Nutaku is a business, and while the staff does show taste in quality material, it’s not their duty to make distinctions (that’s what LewdGamer is for!). Some may argue that they should pursue quality control further, but that’s ultimately their choice to make. As long as I don’t see Meet ‘n’ Fuck-style games sporting stolen assets , they won’t hear too many complaints from me. That said, you could argue low quality content already exists on the site, which I certainly complain about. Extensively.
Their marketing and ability to spread projects is far greater than might be expected for a site barely a year old. In fact, Nutaku already rivals well-established operations like MangaGamer and JAST. Partnerships with those companies have certainly contributed to the strength of their downloadable store, where products from both publishers are now being sold together for the first time. Nutaku’s strength in advertising on adult-friendly platforms, coupled with the sheer number of people visiting the site, does well for developers who put their games on the store front.
Regarding Censorship and Transparency
While I understand that working in the adult scene can definitely lead to potential problems, improving their transparency was one of my biggest complaints in regards to Nutaku’s practices. In the past, they’ve occasionally gone to places like Reddit and other forums to explain their stances, but to be honest, that’s not good enough for me personally. While Nutaku has informed me that they will be trying their best to avoid censored content, I want them to do better in case something happens again. I heavily pushed for them to be more transparent if any changes were to occur in the future. In a previous conversation with the Vice President, I made it abundantly clear that this is something you should improve on. Thankfully, they were receptive to the suggestion and have promised to do better in this regard.
I’ll be watching closely.
Of course, editing of any kind can lead to mistakes and missteps. Assuming malice and dishonesty is rather silly without evidence at hand, and is rather below me and the site as a whole. Like everyone else that I deal with, however, that doesn’t mean Nutaku is above criticism. Regardless, blowing a gasket because something was potentially, mistakenly altered doesn’t help in any way (but it does make for good controversy if you’re irresponsible). They have told me that if you detect any of this in the future, just let the team know and they will address it if further problems persist.
Let me get one thing straight here before continuing: Nutaku does not censor the Free-To-Play side of their business for moral obligations like some other companies, be it in or out of the adult industry. They do it because they have no choice. This isn’t Senran Kagura or Hyperdimension Neptunia. When you have explicit sexual content (a la dicks and pussies) that is clearly evident, or penetration of any kind, rules change and the banks process this material differently.
Games like these can be released on Steam uncensored due to it mostly being suggestive adult content, with steam clouds covering naughty bits.
If you’re an online business that deals with Visa or Mastercard, and you use legitimate credit card processing for online distribution, you will encounter these issues as you grow. This is something I’ll elaborate on in a future series of articles, explaining these complications with more depth. I cannot express how frustrating this is to understand. Assumptions that they censor because they want to are, to be honest, fucking stupid.
Despite this, I mentioned to them that if you’re going to censor material, at least do a good job doing it, since they have had questionable methods of doing so in the past. I’ve previously thought the way they changed the art in their early days was rather silly, so I’m happy to hear they will be doing their best to avoid it altogether. Their translations in the past have also been poor, but I was told that they have fixed this issue and will have proper translations for the foreseeable future.
Dealing with the Banks
Credit Card processing for adult online distribution is a damn headache. You haveno idea.
To briefly put things into perspective, when banks started making rules, they didn’t expect people to get off on art. Processors pretty much lumped everything together so that if your favorite 2D waifu is being banged by a dog, it is still a no go whether it’s real or not. Fucking a tentacle can be considered bestiality, as an example. Tentacles. While personal morals are indeed involved, the actual issue is much sadder than you think (but we’ll get to that another time).
Nutaku has a compliance department that deals with other adult related companies, which they have to comply with in order for games to be processed through their system. Really, this exists to minimize potential risk factors and fines. The compliance department plays an important role in the games (free or otherwise) that go through the system. Communication between Nutaku and this department has been improving over the past few months. This means we might be in for a few surprises down the line as Nutaku pushes their stance, because honestly, at the end of the day…
It’s not real. No real man or woman of any kind is indulging in any of this.
As mentioned earlier regarding compliance, fines can be a huge problem. Nutaku serves as a good example for a company in the west that must obey the rules set by banks and processors, or face repercussions. Being higher in profile also adds to this. What this means is that every character, scene, or event that breaks the rules can lead to major fines. Oh, and the fines stack. Thus, something like Starless being on their store system uncensored (scat, bestiality, and all) would tank the company if banks felt like perusing the matter.
There are million dollar fines at stake here just from one game with scat in it. Now that’s some crazy shit.
Even with these risks at play, Nutaku pushes as hard as possible for a greater range of content. Porn is a “High Risk” business, with even more processing fees on top of the rules. This is not an easy place to operate in and, as a community, we should begin to understand these hardships as we move forward. Like with everything in this world, there are loopholes to everything.
Downloadable Store Front
Nutaku’s recently released downloadable storefront is arguably a different system than their Free-To-Play side, although there can be some exceptions, such as with Harem Heroes. Nutaku staffer Tom is the guy in charge of putting third-party titles on the store and communicating with adult developers. Honestly, I previously had some doubts about him, but he has history in mainstream gaming development, and has told me that he was interested in tackling this new industry due to the challenges involved. The enthusiasm is definitely there, and all things considered, that’s all you really need.
The storefront itself still needs a ton of work. At present, when compared to other digital downloadable systems, their front page is a disaster and I would like to see it greatly improved. I had also previously taken issue with the premature launching of their downloadable client when it was first pushed. There were games on it like Breeding Season, which was canceled prior to the public release of the refurbished client, known prior as Kimochi. Not only were there purchasing issues on launch, but some devs weren’t informed that their games would still be on the store. I was rather unhappy about this and expected better from them, doubly so after my meeting. Regardless of my thoughts, the announcement went well and Nutaku got a lot of positive feedback. Good for them, but they’d best not pull that again.
Nutaku has made a strict promise that they wouldn’t censor content on their store, though this may lead to problems if the material is too fetishistic for the compliance department. Allow me to clarify that they will not touch third-party games that go on their store. They have no control over what third-party developers do with their projects, be they western or Japanese in origin.
It’s also important to note that, even though this can be confusing at times (especially with their recent offer to devs) Nutaku is not a publisher. Their intention is to be a neutral store for anyone to sell their games on, similar to Steam and GOG. Despite this, they have funds to help third-party devs get their projects finished if need be. As it was told to me by the Vice President, even if the game fails, there would be no need to pay them back.
Of course, this is with the intention of getting the industry off the ground. Nutaku is a business, and more successful devs means more money for them in the long run.
The best way to describe my feelings? They are trying.
Really, that’s all anyone can do when you want to sell hentai material online. Nutaku is constantly in a weird internal fight when it comes to this kind of content. Unlike the rest of the adult industry, they understand this scene operates under different rules when it comes to approaching their audience. This makes communicating with their “superiors” difficult at times, since they are under the impression that this niche operates like everything else. This isn’t necessarily an excuse, but I can assure you that no decision is made lightly.
Some may have noticed that there are pieces missing from this, but it’s for good reason. There are bigger forces at play here that make things very complicated to address. Sadly, this is all I can say when it comes to them. All will make sense in the following days, and I’ll expand further on the elephants (yes, more than one) in the room that plays foundation to most of these issues.
If it is even possible, I’d love to visit again next year to discuss things further, especially as the scene continues to rapidly expand. I’m sure new challenges and questions will crop up as we both continue. Next time, I just hope they pick me up from the airport instead of letting me wander in the strange, forbidden land that is Quebec.