The hurdles of marketing a game with adult content
When I started this project, I didn’t think that much about how it would be received. That is a necessary starting point for me to be able to create things straight from my heart, saying exactly what I want to say, not thinking about how people will react. So I’ve been telling the story I wanted to tell, in the way I wanted to – and that means it has explicit sexual content in written form, it has some strong themes, and a little nudity here and there. The players who have tested the game have not had any complaints about that though! 🙂 I wasn’t totally naïve – I knew from the start that I might not be able to sell the game on the biggest platforms such as the App Store and Steam. But I didn’t want those kinds of things to stop me from doing what I wanted.
I’ve always been interested in challenging norms, but maybe my being from Sweden (which is a pretty progressive country when it comes to how sexuality is viewed), made me not fully understand how different the view on sex is in other parts of the world. I’ve published four fiction novels, some of which are targeted towards young adults and include sexual content and no one have had any complaints. I’ve written erotic short stories aimed at teens and young adults, that will be published in an anthology by RFSU Malmö (an organization that engage in sexual politics) and those stories are just as explicit as anything in Knife Sisters. In Sweden it’s totally fine to write serious stories about sex. I’ve now understood how privileged we are to be able to do this.
Since the development process of Knife Sisters is coming to a close in a couple of months, I’ve since autumn started to reach out a bit more with the project. About that time, Steam changed their policy to allow for adult content, which I of course think is a good thing – but they’ve made it very hard for people to actually find that content. If users haven’t checked the box for wanting to see adult content, the game doesn’t show up in search results – even if the users themselves were looking for it. It’s as if the game doesn’t exist. (Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad that I can sell it on Steam at all.)
Friends of mine who’ve tested the game and who I’ve told about this get rather surprised. They don’t view the game as porn. But right now it feels like everyone else does. No, there’s one exception: Kickstarter doesn’t! They’re allowing me to do this campaign and I’m very happy about that. The problems arise when trying to market it. Facebook and Instagram doesn’t allow for marketing posts that refer to the game, since it includes adult content. It doesn’t matter if the post itself is super clean. Twitter takes it even further, not allowing my account to market any posts at all, since the account is associated with content that goes against their marketing policies. Anyone who’s seen my Twitter account I think can verify that there’s not much porn going on there … but that doesn’t seem to matter.
After trying to market posts on Instagram a few times, to see where the limits are, they’ve now blocked me from following people. I don’t know if that block will last, but if it does, I think I can see that Instagram account as pretty much dead. It doesn’t matter that much, because I haven’t got many followers, but I’ve been posting there since I started the project, so it has some sentimental value to me.
I understand that platforms want to have rules, I understand that they don’t want their users to get explicit sexual content and porn shoved in their faces … but this is far from that.
In a way all of this makes me feel that what I’m trying to do is more important than I originally thought, and that this is much more of a political thing than I thought – and that’s spurring me in a way. But in another way, I just want the people who might like my game to be able to find it. And that seems like a big challenge right now.