Nutaku: Destigmatising and Democratising Adult Video Games

Nutaku, if you’re unfamiliar, is a Canadian adult gaming website that launched in December of 2014 and quickly racked up a million registered users within its first year of operation.

Over the course of the following five years, that number has exploded to over fifty million — and the platform has big plans for the future.

I had the good fortune to spend some time picking the brain of company representatives (who wished to remain anonymous) on the subject of these plans — and the platform’s place in the growing adult gaming sector. Read on to find out more!

NSFW images ahead. You can also go ahead and assume that all links are NSFW as a pretty safe bet!

Lord of Valkyrie

A little history

Nutaku began by localising a handful of highly popular online, free-to-play adult games including card battler Lord of Valkyrie — a game which the company’s official blog described as a “bizarre little adventure game with fantastic characters, sexy events, and a community-building ‘comrade system’ that would be a template for almost every game to follow.”

Lord of Valkyrie, as the platform’s debut title, both helped Nutaku to get off the ground in the early days. And for those who had never previously spent any time with adult games, online or otherwise, it was a first taste of gaming with explicit, erotic content in the Japanese style.

Lord of Valkyrie is sadly no longer with us, as its player numbers had dwindled by April of 2016 due to players jumping ship to more technologically advanced games. Many of these games, in turn, also ended up discontinued; the world of free-to-play online gaming is a fast-moving and ruthless place.

Project QT

“As the company grew, so did our expectations and willingness to bring the platform somewhere else,” a Nutaku representative told me. “We started looking at other interesting avenues, including distribution and game development funding. We also saw that traditional app stores don’t allow much success unless you’re in the 1%, so this gave us extra motivation to give game developers a second shot at success financially through Nutaku.”

Indeed, Nutaku’s words here are extremely pertinent at the time of writing; with what looks set to be a bloody lawsuit preparing to unfold between Epic Games and Apple over the iOS App Store and visual novel developers, localisers and publishers continuing to struggle with Steam’s amorphous content policies, the time certainly seems ripe for alternative distribution platforms to establish themselves. Particularly if said platforms offer something unique — like Nutaku’s specific focus on 18+ titles featuring explicit sexual content.

One of the biggest challenges in this regard is dealing with payment processors. Some, such as PayPal, will outright refuse to handle transactions that involve the direct purchase of adult content; technically, PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy only prohibits “certain sexually oriented materials or services” (although exactly what “certain” means is anyone’s guess), but most adult platforms simply don’t take the risk these days.

Fap CEO

You’ll notice that you can only use PayPal on Nutaku to purchase the site’s virtual currency, not to purchase downloadable titles directly, for example; this sidesteps the issue neatly by not directly providing sexual content in exchange for PayPal payments, and said virtual currency can then be use to either purchase downloadable premium games from Nutaku, or to power microtransactions in the free-to-play games.

“We did not face much of a hurdle to secure funds for games, as we are part of a big and successful company in the adult entertainment space,” the Nutaku representative told me, referring to the company’s status as a subsidiary of adult entertainment giant MindGeek. “However, when it came to payment processors, we did face challenges because of the space we’re in, but we have an excellent payment processing team who work to secure relationships and ensure we can offer players the most popular payment methods from around the world, which we absolutely do.”

Downloads on Nutaku can either be purchased directly, or with the site’s premium currency.

New blood

Given its strong growth over the course of its five years on the Internet to date, Nutaku certainly hasn’t had a problem picking up new users. I was curious about exactly how that had come about, given that in certain parts of the Web gaming with adult content is still broadly misunderstood and even strongly stigmatised in some instances.

“Like any successful product, the challenge lies in keeping the user base engaged and having them come back for more every day,” the Nutaku representative told me. “The Nutaku team has grown over the years and gathered lots of expertise in diverse marketing fields. Our registration numbers keep going up — we’re about to reach the 55 million milestone — and our community is extremely vocal about the products we offer through the platform.”

Indeed, a brief glance at Nutaku’s portfolio of available titles reveals a broad range of subject matter, business models, price points and even aesthetics; despite being widely known as a “hentai gaming” platform, the company doesn’t exclusively confine itself to titles with a Japanese anime-style aesthetic by any means. This is a deliberate choice in an attempt to please as many players as possible — after all, tastes in adult entertainment are as broad as any other type of media, perhaps even more so; they’re just less commonly talked about across the dinner table.

Booty Farm

“Growing comes with its challenges and things to learn,” continued the representative, “but that won’t stop the average consumer from searching for satisfaction in the adult entertainment sphere. That being said, our commitment towards destigmatising adult video games — while educating mainstream audiences about its continuous growth — is unfazed and continues to be strong.”

This latter point is a crucial one. Adult gaming has existed for a long time — a lot longer than many people might realise, in fact — but for many members of the mainstream audience it is seen as the seedy underbelly of the medium, and something a lot of people don’t talk about. This is kind of sad, since there are numerous examples of the adult sector’s overall importance to worldwide gaming history — and many visual novels that can legitimately be referred to as all-time classics are already available via Nutaku’s digital storefront.

Custom Order Maid 3D 2

Broadening the market

“The anime/hentai globalisation — and the existence of a unique platform like Nutaku — has allowed developers from across the globe to feel safe releasing games destined for an adult audience,” Nutaku’s representative told me, and I thought this was a really interesting choice of words.

We’ve unfortunately seen on a number of occasions over the course of the last few years that the mainstream media is not good at talking about games featuring sexual or even provocative content. We’ve had accusations of series like Senran Kagura “damaging the industry” or even pandering to “aspiring paedophiles”; we’ve had beautifully presented stories about unconventional relationships dismissed as “anime sex games”. Hell, in a past life I even came into contact with someone who thought Atelier was “creepy”. Atelier. But I digress.

With this in mind, it’s understandable that developers, publishers and localisers would be keen for somewhere that it would be “safe” to release their adult-oriented games without censure. And while eschewing large platforms like Steam means missing out on a huge potential audience, MangaGamer’s unfortunate experiences with the company over Bokuten are just the latest of many examples of how Steam is not a “safe” platform for those involved with visual novels in particular.

Hilzartov Fairy

“As the growth went on, developers from different parts of the world wanted to take this hentai inspiration to market games that would resonate globally,” Nutaku’s representative continued. “From a platform perspective, we definitely love the idea of product diversification within the genre, which correlates with our success. And to be honest, talking to the community, getting their feedback and being consumer-friendly allow us to better understand the types of products we want to distribute on Nutaku.”

This comment refers to the fact that Nutaku’s portfolio isn’t restricted to gacha RPGs in the free-to-play space and premium downloadable visual novels. Indeed, the platform plays host to a wide variety of game types, ranging from legendary management sim, sex simulator and creative tool Custom Order Maid 3D 2 to action games with specialised fetish content such as Hilzartov Fairy.

“While dating sims and role-playing games lead the way, we show no restriction or preference towards one specific genre,” the representative told me. “As previously mentioned, our player data plays a key role in our discussions with potential developers. But for the majority of them, they already have a pretty solid idea of what the Nutaku audience might like to see when they come to us. In the end, it will always be about bringing high quality, titillating and engaging experiences to the platform.”

My Neighbour is a Yandere

Is there a line, though? Outside of anything outright illegal, I was curious as to whether or not there was any kind of subject matter Nutaku would never, ever touch in the games found on its platform.

“That’s a great question,” the representative said. “We can confirm there is more than just one piece of subject matter we won’t delve in. We have a compliance team that evaluates and monitors each game submission to ensure content deemed controversial doesn’t get to the consumer. Navigating through sexual content isn’t an easy thing, but we have the tools, knowledge and resources to ensure the product offered remains within the limits of acceptance. Just because our games have sexual content, it doesn’t mean that everything and anything goes.”

The representative wasn’t specific about exactly what kind of content crossed that line, but based on what is already available on the platform one would assume that it’s fairly extreme in nature, and more to do with the violent side of things than all things sexual. Probably don’t expect to see Euphoria on there any time soon, in other words.

Shards of Eradine

According to a developer who reached out to me (who understandably wished to remain anonymous), Nutaku’s specific list of prohibited content includes non-consensual sex, bestiality (implied or explicit), underaged characters/loli, scat, real world-inspired religion or political figures, and copyrighted content. It seems that the company comes down particularly hard on anything even vaguely non-consensual, and incestuous content seems to skirt the line somewhat — some titles already available on the platform feature imouto routes, while others have been rejected with incest cited as one of the reasons they failed the compliance checks.

Greatest hits

We’ve previously talked about how Nutaku established itself on the back of some popular, successful games — and how many of those titles naturally found themselves coming to the end of their life as newer, technologically superior games came to market. I was curious as to what games had proven the most successful for the platform over time, and what the company felt that success could be attributed to.

“We are lucky to have several ‘hits’ on Nutaku,” the representative told me. “Among them, Project QT, Booty Calls, Crush Crush, Fap CEO and Booty Farm are the most notable. Their success can easily be attributed to their quality, art direction and storytelling, but mostly because each developer puts a lot of effort into ensuring their games receive outstanding post-launch support. These factors have, in turn, resulted in a strong sense of community among our players. High interactivity and enthusiasm from a consumer will always have an incredible impact on a game, or any product.”

This is an important part of Nutaku’s strategy to destigmatise adult gaming. If you get people talking unashamedly about the games they are enjoying — and those games happen to be adult games — that’s a big step in the right direction. That’s why Nutaku has a strong and interactive social media presence on platforms such as Twitter — and, of course, why the company reaches out to folks like me to talk in a bit more detail about what they’re up to.

Booty Calls

I found it particularly interesting to see the company collaborating with Projekt Melody, the virtual camgirl/streamer/YouTuber who first appeared in July of 2019, so I decided to ask a little more about how that came about and whether there were plans to take that partnership any further.

“Melody is one of the several hundreds of content creators Nutaku has relationships with,” the representative responded, “but she definitely hits on the resonance and relevance chords within our target audience. Teaming up with her has been a positive and fun experience, and she enjoys the games available on our platform. We look forward to expanding our collaboration with her in the future.”

For those who haven’t encountered Melody before, she provides an oddly intoxicating mix of exceedingly sexy content on the appropriate platforms, while offering wholesome honesty and Dad jokes when it’s time for her to keep her clothes on. This has made her a popular online entertainer, regardless of your own personal reasons for checking out her work — and crucially, the more wholesome aspects of her personality have actually helped a lot of people feel more comfortable in expressing and communicating about their sexual interests and desires openly.

This is something that is of increasing importance, particularly in a world where cisgender male heterosexuality finds itself downplayed or even outright demonised by some online commentators — but it also struck me as something that Nutaku appeared to very much be on board with. So I probed a little further.

“We strongly believe in the concept of building emotional ties between the Nutaku user and the product fantasy,” the representative explained. “Tapping into fetishes and desires while collecting their feedback and showcasing it on our platform accentuates the consumer empowerment and opens up the discussion further. We are privileged to have an extremely open and diverse community of players whom we support, and in return support each other.”

In other words, don’t be too shy to shout about what you’re enjoying. The folks at Nutaku are listening, and feedback is helpful!

Magicami DX

Dawn of a new age

At the time of writing, Nutaku is presently working on a significant revamp of its website to better cater to the needs of those 55 million users — and to better showcase the 450+ games that are presently available on the platform. The new-look site will include a prominent sexual preference selector, providing a more inclusive environment for those outside the cisgender male heterosexual demographic, as well as community-requested features such as a dynamic search bar, improved game filtering, dark mode, a favourites tab and a quick access sidebar.

“We believe that a platform like Nutaku needs to adapt itself to the digital consumer landscape,” the rep explained, “and constant communication with our community will help us achieve our goals.”

One thing I was curious about in this regard was the fact that, at present, the downloadable premium titles in Nutaku’s catalogue can only be filtered by broad mechanical genre (visual novel, action game, RPG and the like) and specific sexual content or fetishes. This means that, when looking at visual novels in particular, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between narrative-centric eroge and sex-centric nukige, particularly as the virtual cover art for all titles tends to focus on naked characters.

Devious

Given that visual novel enthusiasts often come to a platform with specific requirements and tastes, I was interested to hear whether the new-look Nutaku would provide a more granular degree of control over how these games would be classified in the future. The audience for Customer Cums First is probably not exactly the same as that for Aokana: Four Rhythms Across the Blue, after all.

“Based on community feedback and with the never-ending intention of bringing mainstream attention to adult video games, this platform redesign will tackle these ‘tagging’ issues and allow us to present all of the games in a much more thorough and meaningful way,” the representative explained.

It sounds promising, for sure, and this side of things will doubtless be an area that those producing or localising adult games will be wanting to keep an eye on over time alongside those who have particular tastes in their media. And all this is of considerable importance to those who have found themselves struggling on Steam — sometimes years after a title’s initial release. So I asked about what might make Nutaku a more appealing storefront for companies like this.

My Neighbour is a Yandere, Chapter 2

“Having strict compliance guidelines doesn’t mean a visual novel — or any other game with adult content — can’t find a home, because there’s always a consumer somewhere craving that content,” Nutaku’s representative explained to me. “A developer will always have the choice of where they want to sell their games. Nutaku provides an excellent platform where developers, not just of visual novels but of any game genre, can flaunt their talent and their creativity without feeling their creations are drowned by thousands of games releasing every day.”

This is a particularly key issue when considering Steam; one of the most common criticisms levelled at Valve’s platform when an adult game developer runs into difficulties is how the company appears to be fine with hundreds of “Hentai Puzzle” games featuring unattributed artwork, inevitably used without permission, yet the moment there’s a hint of a school uniform anywhere in a visual novel the emergency warning sirens appear to start going off. In other words, even if you do manage to find your way through the mists of Valve’s supposed content policies, there’s no guarantee your game will even get seen among all the noise.

“We’ve been leveraging an emerging, non-saturated game market since 2015, and we aren’t going anywhere,” the rep added. “Fuelling these creative minds through meaningful partnerships is a prime concept that our business development team strives for every day.”

Magicami DX

The future

Aside from the impending website revamp, Nutaku also has a new game on the way, known as Magicami DX. At the time of writing, you can preregister for this “city pop magic girls” RPG and help to unlock rewards for the community, including premium currency and rare dresses for the heroines to wear into battle.

“We cannot contain our excitement towards Magicami DX,” Nutaku’s representative told me. “The game’s RPG mechanics are fun and familiar to our audience, but it is all powered by a visual aesthetic that we’ve never seen on the platform until now.”

Notably, the game will offer cross-progression between a “safe-for-work” version available on Nutaku.com, and the full 18+ experience on Nutaku.net. This means you’ll be able to play and enjoy the game without accidental hentai when you’re in circumstances where hentai would probably not be appropriate, and simply pick up where you left off with the complete package when you’re enjoying some special alone gaming time. Everyone wins.

Magicami DX

“As the world’s largest adult video game platform, and armed with a strong, consumer-first approach, we pride ourselves on delivering an unobtrusive, friendly and authentic adult gaming experience for years to come,” Nutaku’s representative concluded. “Our 50+ million registered users solidify the trust consumers put towards our brand and in return, we want to consistently enhance the player experience via our platform redesign, and the continuous flow of high-quality games, all the while keeping the focus on destigmatising and democratising adult video games.”

In other words, Nutaku isn’t going anywhere, so keep enjoying their games — and be proud to shout about the games you love, regardless of how lewd they might be!


Thanks to the representatives from Nutaku for their help in preparing this article. This is not a sponsored post!

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4 thoughts on “Nutaku: Destigmatising and Democratising Adult Video Games”

  1. Very interesting. I’d never heard of this platform and yet they have 55 million users? In five years? That’s big. That’s big big. I can’t imagine them getting a mention on any mainstream website (not without a lot of hand wringing moral panic), so their growth is impressive. I wonder what these marketing techniques were that they allude to. They certainly seem to have worked!

    I’ve more interest in the principle of game developers having freedom to include mature content in their games than I have in pursuing that content for its own sake, although of course the two things go hand in hand.

    It seems to me society is in a weird place when media can be so blase about routine depictions of hyper-graphic violence, but completely freak out at the idea of depicting consensual sex. Liberalism and puritanism seemed to have gotten weirdly intertwined in our current cultural mores. So this aim of ‘destigmatising’ sexual content gets a big thumbs up from me.

    I also applaud their efforts to serve content for a variety of sexual preferences. It’s always struck me rather than being prudish about fan service targeted at straight men, and campaigning to get it taken out of games, it would be better if the market expanded so that people of every demographic and persuasion could enjoy it, and feel like they weren’t getting ‘left out’.

    Regarding MCGM – wow, those production values are a lot higher than I’d expect from an adult game. It looks like it could go toe to toe with mainstream releases. I’m curious, do you know anything about the nationality of the developer? The art-style seems to be a blend of Western and anime aethestics.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Magicami? It’s fully Japanese, as far as I’m aware. It originally came out on PC last year via DMM. It apparently cost 1.2 billion yen for production and development (about £8.5 million/$11.4 million) which is pretty substantial for a free-to-play/mobile game. Not sure how that compares to your average Japanese console game, but that would probably account for the strong production values.

      I don’t normally spend a lot of time with F2P games, but I’ll be giving this one a look when it launches. The style and the subject matter definitely appeal!

      Like

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