Valve wasn’t wrong, mods are important to communities.
While many gamers and modders alike reacted hyperbolically to Valve’s proposed paid mod experiment with Skyrim, the central idea is still absolutely sound: modders should have the option to make money off their hard work.
Sadly, the merits of the initial idea were ill-presented, and a writhing mass of quick-to-demonize-change gamers shouted down the concept with gusto. Valve has backpedaled, Bethesda nearly had a heart attack, and even Killing Floor 2‘s TripWire changed their End User License Agreement (EULA) to hellishly rebuke the concept of paid mods.
You don’t have to pay for mods, but you SHOULD support modders.
Mod creators put in a hell of a lot of work, mostly in their spare time, to bring gamers enormous amounts of high-quality game enhancements. And modders think of everything. Skyrim, for example, has everything from massive story-expanding mods to nearly (and not-so-nearly) pornographic NSFW sex and gore mods.
Valve’s proposal for paid mods was an imperfect solution. It probably won’t be the last imperfect solution, but at least they’re trying.
There are, currently, over 25,000 mods listed across 52 categories on the Skyrim Community Hub in Steam. Are all of them winners? No, not all. Some are terrible, some are incredible; some are too weird to live, some too rare to die.
Regardless, much of this work is impressive and well-deserving of praise, support, and money. No one should be forced to pay for mods, but it should be easy to support and reward deserving modders.
If we aren’t going to support these modders with paid mod prices, and then we should think of alternative ways to support them financially.
1. There should be a tip jar
The first and most obvious option for supporting mod developers would be a tip jar. Not only do many high-profile modders already accept tips and donations for their hard work, but now many content creators are doing the same on both YouTube and Twitch streams.
YouTube already promotes donations.
Not every single download of every single mod is going to earn tips, but if this pay-what-you-want mentality were supported by Valve in-Steam, then there would be a greater opportunity for gamers to show their appreciation for specific mods.
Notably, a donation system was included as a proposed alternative in Cyand Wondel’s 133,008-signature petition that urged Valve to remove paid mods.
Also of note: Valve’s paid mod experiment did include “pay what you want” as an option that modders could select when setting prices.
2. Patreon could support on-going mod projects
If there is a modder, or group of modders, who regularly make great mods, then why not regularly support them via Patreon? Recently there has been a string of successful Patreon users in gaming culture including Jim Sterling and ex-WoW Insider’s BlizzardWatch.
With Patreon, mod users would have the opportunity to support their modders, support updates, and support a predictable supply of quality mods.
XCompWiz uses Patreon to fund Minecraft mod development.
While Patreon is a little scarce on the Skyrim side, there are quite a few Minecraft modders who currently turn to patron-fanbases for financial backing. GameSkinny has reached out to a few of these modders for future comments.
3. Kickstart mods you want
Recently, the tabletop world has been yearning for more and more 5th Edition D&D modules and adventures since Wizards of the Coast has been rolling out a fairly slow release schedule. Solution? Talented dungeon masters and world-builders have taken to Kickstarter to produce and distribute their home-made adventures, just as long as they don’t use from WotC trademarks.
Wizards has actually given several of these projects an unofficial blessing by proactively reaching out to these creators and preemptively discussing potential legal complications. Most of these campaigns do not ask for much after Dan Hass set precedent with his $30 campaigns.
As far as I can tell, there’s no reason modders can’t follow suit and pitch mods as Kickstarter campaigns, especially if a game follows the same sort of EULA as Minecraft:
“Modifications to the Game (“Mods”) (including pre-run Mods and in-memory Mods) and plugins for the Game also belong to you and you can do whatever you want with them, as long as you don‘t sell them for money / try to make money from them. We have the final say on what constitutes a tool/mod/plugin and what doesn‘t.”
(Bold added for emphasis)
With the exception of some game developers and publishers potentially getting queasy at the thought of crowd-funding, a “Game Mods” Kickstarter category could be a well-received way to get modders the financial support they need. And gamers would have the chance to encourage modders from day-one, giving feedback and helping a mod come alive.
Several small Minecraft mods have already turned to Kickstarter with varying degrees of success. These modders are not using Kickstarter to sell mods; rather, they are using the platform to financially support themselves during development time.
Mods are important for communities
While I think these suggestions might the best we can do for now, both Kickstarter and Patreon are imperfect solutions. Tip jars and donations are good starts, but those are also imperfect solutions. We’ll have a great solution eventually.. hopefully..
Regardless of what happens, remember that mods are vital for thriving communities and, hey, maybe a couple of bucks for a mod here and there is worth keeping those communities alive. Also, please remember: both Valve and game developers have a lot to gain from healthy game communities. Avid gamers and avid modders are treasured.
As Bethesda mentioned in their statement about paid Skyrim mods:
Original Post: We believe mod developers are just that: developers. We love that Valve has given new choice to the community in how they reward them, and want to pass that choice along to our players. We are listening and will make changes as necessary.
Valve’s proposal for paid mods was an imperfect solution. It probably won’t be the last imperfect solution, but at least they are trying.