Steam charging for mods: for and against

It used to be that the only way to make money from a mod was a) make a standalone sequel or remake b) use it as a portfolio to get hired by a studio or c) back in the pre-broadband days, shovel it onto a dodgy CD-ROM (and even then, it almost certainly wasn’t the devs who profited). As of last night, that changed. Mod-makers can now charge for their work, via Steam.

It’s far too soon to know the long-term outcome of Valve offering the option for mod creators to charge for their work, which went live yesterday using Skyrim as a test case. Everyone has an opinion, and I’ll try to cover the main angles below, but first I simply want to express simple sadness. Not fatalistic sadness – I’m genuinely curious as to how this will play out, and there’s high potential for excitement – but End Of An Era sadness.

The backlash Valve is facing over this whole thing is immense. Every gaming website, and sites like Reddit, are swamped with people lashing out against this new Valve policy. This kind of universal backlash is incredibly rare, and it’s kind of interesting to see it unfold. Whatever goodwill Valve had with PC gamer – they managed to throw it all away in a day. Absolutely amazing.

As for my personal opinion on this matter – I’m used to mods being free, but considering some of the insane amounts of work people have put into incredibly complex, vast, and terrific mods for games like Skyrim, it does seem more than reasonable to give mod makers the possibility to charge for their work. And let’s be absolutely clear here: Valve is forcing nobody to charge for their mods – mod makers choose to make their mods for-pay themselves.

That being said, introducing money into an previously pretty much money-less scene is bound to have a lot of negative results – for instance, free mods from Nexus are being offered for sale on Steam; not by their authors, but by pirates. As a result, mod makers are removing their content from Nexus to prevent others from profiting off their work.

It’s a huge mess right now, and it’ll be hard for Valve to regain all the goodwill they threw away in just a day.


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