Remember when you were able to buy mods for Skyrim through Steam? That was an odd two days. I am sure anyone who cares about this topic already knows at least somewhat what went down, so I don’t think I am going to get into the particulars here. Instead I want to just kind of share what I think about the mods, someone from the outside. I don’t make mods, nor am I a huge PC player who uses mods. I tend to just play the base game and be done with it.
Personally, I think mod developers have every right to make money for the work they put in. The people who do these mods put in countless hours, and do so out of the goodness of their hearts and love for whatever game they’re busy modding away on. If their skill has reached a certain level, and the product is of a certain quality, asking for money to me is a no-brainer. However, the way Steam handled that whole process can be taught as a class of what not to do in your digital distribution service. When you’re introducing a system where people can pay for user-created content in your game, don’t do it in a title that already has something like 25,000 mods that are up for free. It’s going to do nothing but anger the user-base, a base that probably feels pretty entitled to begin with.
Also, have a system that provides oversight. Despite some people touting the free-market fixes all, it doesn’t. They’re wrong. Especially when you have asses out there who have no problem charging 20 dollars for a digital sword, or even worse, someone who steals the work of another, selling it off as their own. If paid mods are going to be a thing going forward for Steam, there needs to be both Steam-side and publisher-side oversight. It sounds redundant, but people will rebel against a system they feel is unfair, and as we see on the internet, try their best, while maybe succeeding to tear it down.
Lastly, being able to collect money and make more mods for work is something that will create better modders, and with that, better game developers. Working a full-time job on top of making mods is not the best way to train the next crop of full-time game developers. If even a fraction of the more talented people out there can lower some of their day job hours to devote more time to working on their mods, we as a video game playing community will benefit from it in the long run.
While people may not like paying for things, especially things they were getting for free for so long, it cannot stay the case forever. As the complexity of tools goes up in the game-making space, so too will the complexity of making mods. Putting so much time into a project should come with the chance of some form of recompense, if the designer so chooses. However, there needs to be a cutoff for this, a starting point. Going back to 2011’s game of the year to do that was not the best move. However, expect Elder Scrolls 6 to have paid mods in it right from the start. As long as systems are in place to protect both the creator and consumer, there is really nothing to be done, or should be done to stop the idea of paid mods. As a consumer who bought a game, I am not entitled to anything, except what is on the disc, and sometimes, not even then. It’s the world we live in, time to accept that these people deserve a piece of that pie.