Paid DLC and community modding are often at odds with each other, and the gaming industry could face several challenges in the next few years over the future of extra content for games.
While that does sound a bit weird, perhaps the recent comments by Valve co-founder and president Gabe Newell will shed some light on the matter. PC Gamer reports Newell believes that when it comes to modders, "absolutely they need to be compensated, they're creating value and the degree to which they're not being accurately compensated is a bug in the system, right?" Such a statement is key to the future of the gaming industry for a few reasons.
The first being the concept of modding. For many years, players have created free content for games, either individually or as teams, which has enhanced gaming experiences for millions of players who want more from the games they purchase. Whether it be an ancient Star Trek vs. Star Wars mod for the venerable Star Trek: Armada, the Total War: Medieval II mod bringing Middle Earth to life, or hundreds of other mods for games like Skyrim, modding has been a way for the community to give back and make what they love even better.
Another important point regarding modding, especially the idea of paid modding, relates to the much-maligned concept of DLC. Paid DLC has been around for quite a while, and the Call of Duty franchise is infamous for its constant expansion packs focusing almost entirely just on new maps (with the occasional new weapon). Other games, like Total War: Warhammer or Evolve, garnered major negative feedback for their use of paid DLC even at launch. A significant amount of content for these games is locked behind a payment wall. What makes things worse is when a game releases with major DLC right at launch.
When Steam attempted to provide income for modders by allowing them to sell Skyrim mods on Steam, the negative community reaction was so severe, the distribution plan was pulled after only four days. While Valve is planning on bringing back paid modding, the way they do so will be crucial, as the future of modding will be affected.
If paid modding becomes the norm, what will happen to official paid DLC? What's more is what will happen to game sales? Gamers, despite spending sometimes enormous sums on games over the course of the year, do have limitations on how much they have to proffer the gods of gaming. If mods, a free source of game improvement, suddenly start hitting their wallet, fewer games will be sold.
For example, if a player really likes game A, which has a lot of free mods, and game B, whose mods are primarily paid for/DLC, which game is more likely to sell, all things considered. What about a scenario where both games have paid for mods, and the gamer (who likes mods a lot) like A more than B? Instead of buying both games, that person may just purchase the one game and spend other money on mods for it because they can't afford to customize both games to the degree they want.
A personal example for me was the Elder Scrolls series. I own both Oblivion and Skyrim, but the only reason I purchased Skyrim was that there were several modders from Oblivion who also did stuff on Skyrim. The fact that there were mods I liked caused me to spend money on another game in the series rather than something else. However, if I had to pay money for those mods on Skyrim, as Steam tried for that brief period, I would never have purchased Skyrim, thus costing the developers my money.
The future of modding and DLC, especially if paid modding becomes a major thing, is going to be fascinating to watch. Tell us what you think of it in the comments section below!