Despite the initial setbacks Valve’s Steam paid mod program encountered when it released a couple years ago, Valve still wants to bring back paid modding for developers.
The original plan focused on introducing a pay-to-play model for various mods for Skyrim, Bethesda’s hit fantasy game. However, it met powerful resistance within the community, and the payment model for mods was canceled after a mere four days.
There were a couple of issues with the way Valve implemented the payment scheme for Skyrim mods. At the time the plan was introduced, Skyrim had already been out for quite a while. As such, the modding community developed many high quality mods which many players already were using. Adding the kink of paying for content (especially after dropping plenty of cash on the official game and DLC), the backlash was not surprising.
Valve even admitted as much. According to PC Gamer, “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.”
On the other hand, Gabe Newell, head honcho at Valve, remains confident there is money to be made off mods. Of course, his phrasing was much more… user friendly.
“Mod people create a lot of value, and we think that absolutely they need to be compensated,” Newell told GamesBeat. “They’re creating value, and the degree to which they are not being accurately compensated is a bug in the system.”
Pro’s And Con’s Of Adding Paid-For Mods To Steam
On the plus side, content creators will receive monetary reimbursement for their time. Many of these mods take months or even years to create, sometimes even overhauling the game to such a degree it holds little resemblance to the original. One of the best examples of this is the Long War mod set for the XCOM series (both Enemy Uknown and XCOM 2). Long War received high praise from virtually all critics, and it remains one of the most popular mods for the game. The original Long War was so well done and received, Pavonis Interactive received official pre-launch support to add mods to XCOM 2 before anyone else. They even have plans to create their own game in the style of XCOM and Long War.
But what would have happened if players had been required to pay for the mod? To be perfectly honest, there is no hard data. It might have boosted Pavonis in such a way they could have had the revenue needed to create their own game. On the other hand, the cost barrier might have prohibited the mod’s enthusiastic reception.
Still, official payment options for modders might attract greater talent to the field, allowing for even more incredible mod creation. Valve already has a program in place for paying modders, map designers, etc. for the use of their work in some of Valve’s official games, like DOTA 2, CS:GO, and Team Fortress 2. Rust is yet another game that allows modders to receive payment for the various skins produced and included in the official game. The result has been many high-quality inclusions in popular games.
Yet another point to keep in mind is the limited funds available for gaming. While some gamers may plop a few hundred or thousand dollars a year on games, the amount spent is still finite. If mods, something the gaming community has expected to be free, suddenly start costing money, who loses out in the end? Less money will be spent on new titles, and such a result might even see larger companies getting involved in the creation of mods rather than new titles. And not to forget, Valve will be turning a profit of mods sold on Steam should the program start.
Even so, Valve does appear to be working hard to improve the gaming community’s options. With the upcoming demise of Steam Greenlight and the rise of its replacement, Steam Direct, more developers should have the option to get their games on Steam.
So what are your thoughts on Valve’s plan for paid-for modding on Steam? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!