Let’s Have a Discussion on Paid Mods
Valve added a new Steam feature during early April which made it possible to sell mods on Steam workshop. While it had its supporters, the change was hit by heavy backlash from the gaming community for a variety of different reasons. I was one of those people against paid mods, however, I would like to explain my arguments. I have no problem with mod creators being paid. In fact, to an extent, I think Valve could explore this more (hopefully through an optional method like encouraged donations or a patreon-like program), but for the time being, I don’t think anyone is ready. And I think Valve tried to execute this feature in a terrible manner and on a game with an already well-established modding community.
As of April 27th, Valve removed paid mod functionality from the Steam workshop. Valve employee Alden Kroll confirmed via a Steam community post that paid mods would be removed and that anyone who bought them would be refunded. Kroll also stated that Steam was given permission from Bethesda before removing the function.
In Valve’s defense, Kroll explained, “To help you understand why we thought this was a good idea, our main goals were to allow mod makers the opportunity to work on their mods full time if they wanted to, and to encourage developers to provide better support to their mod communities. We thought this would result in better mods for everyone, both free and paid. We wanted more great mods becoming great products, like Dota, Counter-strike, DayZ, and Killing Floor, and we wanted that to happen organically for any mod maker who wanted to take a shot at it.”
While I admire Kroll’s statement in defense of Valve, I feel he also pinpoints exactly where Valve went wrong. Let’s take a look at a certain line from Kroll’s statement, specifically “We wanted more great mods becoming great products, like Dota, Counter-strike, DayZ, and Killing Floor, and we wanted that to happen organically for any mod maker who wanted to take a shot at it.” Valve failed to realize that every mod they named has been a total conversion mod that severely changed the original game. Most of the mods being sold on the Steam Workshop were minimal content-adding or content-changing mods, not total conversion mods. I have absolutely no problem paying for total conversion mods because, in their own right, they are a separate game. However, I do not feel comfortable paying for tiny mods that give me a fancier weapon or house. Also, let’s not forget that many players of Skyrim have the maximum limit of 250 mods, and mods ranged in price from $1 to whatever the creator feels like charging. Let’s just assume that every mod only cost $1, that means a $60 game would have cost us modders over $300, which is absolutely ridiculous.
Kroll also unofficially and possibly unintentionally opened the possibility of future paid mods in newer games by stating this; “We underestimated the differences between our previously successful revenue sharing models, and the addition of paid mods to Skyrim‘s workshop. We understand our own game’s communities pretty well, but stepping into an established, years old modding community in Skyrim was probably not the right place to start iterating. We think this made us miss the mark pretty badly, even though we believe there’s a useful feature somewhere here.”
As an experienced modder, let me remind everyone of two issues inherent to modding; compatibility and stability. Mods can have undesirable effects through interactions with other mods, incorrect installation procedures, or even flaws on the part of the creator. Let me remind you that Valve and Bethesda wanted you to pay for a product that you had absolutely no guarantee would work (early access, anyone?). You are probably thinking that you can read the comments and find out if they work by other players, however, this logic is severely flawed. Most comments on paid mods had been disabled because too many people are using them to complain about cost and spread hatred towards authors who sell mods. The second flaw in this logic is that because it works for Bob, doesn’t mean it will necessarily work for you! Bob could have two mods installed that don’t cause issues, while your mods could be causing issues left and right. While Valve has stated that you can get a refund within 24 hours, any modder knows that 24 hours is nothing! You could have a mod for a year and then it could stop working. That, my friends, is the sad truth about modding.
If Valve and Bethesda do bring back this feature for new games like the upcoming Fallout 4, I will continue to fight it and I hope all of you do the same. I strongly urge Valve to add a donation button if they truly want to support mod authors. Steam would be the perfect platform for a donation button because people who buy Steam cards generally have a small amount of money left over and, I may not speak for everyone, but I know I would rather spend that tiny amount I have left over on supporting mod authors as opposed to saving it or spending it on Steam trading cards.
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