Just like excellent reviews and high sales numbers, a good modding community is something every game creator dreams of having. In fact, many developers openly promote modding for their game, rather than seeing it as a violation of their work. They know that modding can serve to attract a larger audience to their game, which in turn will boost their image, and even bring in more sales.
One of the best examples where modding helped increase sales of the original work is Counter-Strike. Since it was a mod of Half-Life, gamers had to purchase Valve’s title to play the incredibly popular first-person shooter. This led to Valve, themselves, making sequels for this series, which as of 2011, has resulted in over 25 million copies sold (you can only imagine the total a few years since).
Knowing full well the benefits of a healthy community, Valve has been one of the most supportive developers when it comes to modding. Due to this, they have amassed a large fan base of gamers with incredible faith in the acclaimed company. However, a decision by Valve in April 2015 was met so negatively that even the beloved Gabe Newell began receiving what no one thought possible: downvotes on Reddit.
The Short-Lived Mod Experiment…
We are, of course, talking about paid mods.
On April 23rd Valve released a new feature for Steam Workshop that allowed modders to charge for their creations. This new feature was introduced with Bethesda’s popular Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and would eventually make its way to other titles in the following weeks. Thus, Skyrim would be the first third-party title to allow creators to pay for their mods.
What’s interesting is that Valve has allowed this for years, but only for their own titles. With first-party games like DOTA 2 and Team Fortress 2, modders have made plenty of cash since 2011; more than $60 million to be exact. So why has there been such an uproar toward the new Steam Workshop feature that allows modders on non-Valve games to sell content?
Most fans argue that it serves as an attack on the long-standing tradition of never having to pay for mods since they already had to purchase the original software. Others see it as Valve going down the same road as other gaming companies always looking for new ways to squeeze cash out of their audience. With Valve and Bethesda taking 75% of the cut of all paid mods, it’s not hard to see why they feel this way.
Amidst heavy backlash, Valve did their best to convince their angered fan base that it was all for the good of the community:
“By paying for mods and supporting the people that made them, you enable those artists and creators to continue working on their mods and inspire new modders to try their hand in creating new, higher quality items and experiences.”
Their efforts failed, leading to Valve and Bethesda pulling the plug on the paid mods feature less than a week after it released. The two developers also provided lengthy statements detailing what their intentions were with the new system and why they decided to remove it. Despite a positive reaction about the cancellation from most gamers, it isn’t unlikely that we see a similar program come up again at some point in the future.
When that time comes, perhaps reactions will be different. But developers will have to do a better job of convincing gamers why it will help bring game modding to a whole new level.