Selling mods – an ex-modder’s perspective

A few days ago, Valve announced that users can now sell content on the Steam Workshop, starting with mods for Skyrim.
When I first heard about this, I thought it was an extremely positive move. As an ex-modder (NightFall, Age of Chivalry and many other smaller projects), it would have been amazing if we were able to sell what we were working on, especially because it probably would have meant NightFall in particular might have made more progress.

I would have assumed that everyone else thought similar, but it wasn’t until I saw a petition with 107 THOUSAND SIGNATURES that I decided to put my point forward.

I’m going to start by making a statement: Modding is dying. Developers have moved from modding to developing indie titles. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but as a result, companies have gone from spending time and money developing good tools and support to mod their games to practically not supporting it at all.

We know the benefits that modding has to games – it increases the content base for players, it increases longevity of the game. But the fact that people can generally apply their skills to earn money has driven them towards development of indie games rather than mods.

The biggest issue as a modder is that there’s usually been no way to monetize your mod legally. EULA’s normally prevent you from selling it, and soliciting donations straddles the line a bit. Most people end up being out-of-pocket when you consider development time, money for web hosting and various other expenses (monetary or time) that come with developing a mod.

The reasons for this are completely understandable. Game developers want a cut. Which is totally reasonable – the modders are using their technology, their platform and their IP as well. Game developers deserve a cut. And it’s awfully difficult to police and ensure that they are getting their fair cut, so it’s simpler to just outright disallow it under the EULA.

Having the biggest gaming platform now support a way where developers CAN take a cut is a great result.

And it’s not like modders are asking for a lot – at the time of writing the most expensive Skyrim mod on the workshop is $5.99 and 50% of them are under $1

I’m going to discuss a couple of the key criticisms I’ve seen about this.


Mods have always been free.

So? Fuel was cheaper. Milk was cheaper. Just because something WAS free is not a good reason for it to not be free now. This is the entitlement argument.


This is “Valve’s Way” and “Valve’s Way” is bad

No. This is support that Valve have implemented into the most popular platform for PC games. They’re not forcing it no anyone. They’re not asking for modders and developers to exclusively support it. They’re not forcing modders to sell their creations. It’s simply a tool that allows modders to monetize their work, and for all involved to reap the benefits.


Valve is taking 75%! How is that good for modders?

No. The 75% is split between the Developer and Valve, and is a split that is determined by the developer. And this is good for modders because 25% is still better than 0%, and who’s to say that in the future developers won’t allow modders to take a larger cut?


What about a donation system?

Gabe Newell has already publicly said that a “Pay what you want” system is in the works.

I genuinely don’t understand the anger directed at Valve for this. It’s a massively beneficial system for developers and modders alike – modders can make money from their creations and developers can get fairly compensated for their platform being used. I know as an indie developer, I’m far more inclined to put the time into supporting moddability with a system like this in place.

As we know from Valve, a lot of their creations often receive a lot of criticism early but develop into something beneficial and positive. Allowing mods to be sold may actually re-invigorate modding, as game developers now have a legitimate platform to be compensated and might put more effort into the tools to develop content. And good content deserves to be paid for.

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