Modders backlash supports paid Steam mods (Wired UK)


A week ago, Valve introduced paid mods to its Steam Workshop platform, starting with Skyrim. Four days later, it pulled them after a massive player backlash. The next wrinkle in this tale of corporate back and forth is that — surprise — modders themselves may actually want the potential to be paid for their work.

Writing at ModDB, a central hub for player-made add-ons for PC games, founder Scott “INtense!” Reismanis wrote that paid mods “will have fundamental repercussions that will forever affect how developers approach modding and how players consume mods”.

Reismanis points out that developers at all levels are going to have to look into new ways to monetise their work, but players’ reluctance to pay for digital content is actively harming creators. “In the case of music and movies, they have turned to streaming with ads and subscriptions. In the case of games (especially F2P and mobile) we have tried many ugly ideas such as pay to play, pay to win and ads, but all of these ideas punish the player,” he says. “So in comes DLC and addon packs to the rescue, as a way to generate revenue while giving something back to the player. But even DLC is often viewed as a negative, as content that should have been shipped in the original game… so what’s left? MODS!”

However, while Steam will eventually see a donate button added for players to contribute for mod creators’ work, Reismanis doesn’t think this will be enough, predicting too few people will reach for their wallet. Instead, he favours optional paid mods sitting alongside traditional free ones.

While praising the impact of mods on the wider gaming industry and their role in creating entirely new genres of games, he added that the player community “need[s] to be understanding that growth may come at a cost, and to approach all change with an open mind.”

“We also need to encourage game developers to keep their mod platforms open, and for modders to share their work everywhere they can,” he continued. “In this scenario Valve can experiment and attempt to make installing mods easier and ask users to pay for the convenience, and we can continue to offer an alternative that is free and open forever.”

Reismanis also points out that paid mods are technically nothing new, citing Team Fortress 2’s successful implementation of the concept (hats! So many hats!), and that the possibility of other publishers allowing it in their games has been around for a while; Skyrim’s brief flirtation with the idea was merely the first non-Valve game to do so.

A prominent figure on the modding scene, having founded ModDB in 2002, Reismanis’ words have weight with a huge audience of players. He’s not the only creator to speak out in favour of paid mods though.

Garry Newman, creator of the popular — and paid-for — Garry’s Mod sandbox for the Source engine, also wrote in favour of paid mods. Newman points out the possibility of paid mods doesn’t prevent free ones, nor is anyone forced to buy the optional content.

He even counters one common complaint, that younger players who lack their own money to spend on mods will be driven out, bluntly saying “So find a way to pirate them. That’s what we all did when we were kids with no money. Valve’s job is to make it more convenient for you to not pirate stuff.”

Although Reismanis also cautions that an introduction of paid mods could drastically change the industry, warning of spammy cosmetic mods, the controversial potential for DRM, and the effect working for money could have on mod teams, his ultimate point is that monetisation needs to happen for anyone to make a living from PC games. Valve’s own retraction of the Skyrim mods is carefully worded, not ruling out the reintroduction for other games, in other forms. The question is when, not if that occurs, and how to better present it to the community.

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30 April 2015 | 4:22 pm – Source:


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