Paid Steam Mods for Skyrim: Is It So Bad That Modding Could be a Job?

The Skyrim Steam Workshop page has recently been updated to allow for paid mods. Let's look at the many viewpoints there are.

Bethesda Softworks games biggest selling points are their massive open worlds and incredibly expansive and open mod support. This is especially true with the 5th game in massively popular The Elder Scrolls series, titled Skyrim

The two main places to find mods for Skyrim are the Skyrim Nexus and Steam Workshop; recently the Steam Workshop introduced a new system whereby modders can choose to sell their mods. This, naturally has made a large proportion of the modding community rather... let's keep it civil and say they are rather angry.

I want to take a step back, and look at this news from all perspectives. I want to put forward any positives, negatives and in betweens. I want address any issues I see in it, and that many others do also. And now before jumping in I want to ask for one thing from you, make sure you read the whole article and take your time when commenting.

Priced at £1.99/$3.00 with a Pay What You Want option

Valve let off some Steam with this announcement; many gamers are enraged
Valve see this as allowing creators to get paid for their  hard work...

Valve has already allowed us to sell content for a while now. Users can sell items for Team Fortress 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive on the Steam Market, with community members creating some of this content. Valve wanted to take this one step further and allow the sale of full user-created mods, without having to use an in-game tool. What other game to turn to than the flagship of modding, Skyrim.

Valve see this as allowing creators to get paid for their hard work, and why shouldn't someone get paid for the work they do?

The revenue from the mod doesn't all go to the creator; there is a 3-way asymmetrical split. 25% of each sale goes to the mod creator, and then the remaining 75% of this revenue gets shared between the developers and Valve. However, of that 75% it is not known how much the developers or Valve get.

Publishers want money, and they need gamers on their side
...screw over your customers and it makes it harder to get money.

The easiest thing to say is that publishers and developers do nothing and get paid for it, but remember they have created the game and the modding tools.

Publishers call the shots for developers when it comes to pricing, as they are the ones who have given the money to the developers they, of course, want to make as much back as possible. Making money and making customers happy are linked, screw over your customers and it makes it harder to get money.

This mod selling system might bring more modding powerful tools for creators.

With a paid mods system in place, it gives mod creators even more incentive to create mods for the games. It also gives publishers/developers more incentives to create modding tools in their games, as not only do they get a cut of each mod sale, they also get a lot of good will from players for opening their games to modding.

Battlefield 3 comes from a series that was well-known for its mods, so when EA announced that the game wasn't moddable there was a massive uproar. On the other hand, everyone praised Dying Light when it received its own modding tools.

This mod selling system might not only bring modding tools to more games, but more powerful tools also.

 The Developer Tools for Dying Light.

The modding community is upset with a change, without thinking hard about the good it can bring
Allowing modders to effectively mod as their day job can only give players more and higher quality mods.

Some modders have categorically refused to charge for their mods. Gopher is one of them -- if you know about modding BethSoft games you most likely have heard his name crop up. This is because he believes that his mods should be free.

But Gopher doesn't make massive expansive new lands mods that add 15 hours or more of content, chief among them is Falskaar. Huge content-adding modders may sing another tune. Many mods take 100s of hours to create, and most modders have day jobs to pay rent.

Velicky, the creator of Falskaar, was lucky enough to have the ability to live rent-free at his dad's house, but most modders don't have this luxury. It is undeniable that getting money for mods could allow modders to have more development time. More time to make bigger mods, start out smaller, sell, profit and expand. Modders could now effectively mod as their day job and strive to give players more and higher quality mods that are worth the expense.

One large problem...is the "buyer beware" issue...

One large problem I can see with paid mods is the "buyer beware" issue, as Valve are not regulating any mods sold on the Workshop how do you know if you actually like the mod?

What if I download a mod and it's not compatible with other mods?

Well, there are two ways I see to fix this, the first being to allow for refunds, which Valve has already thought of. You can get a full refund within the first 24 hours of purchasing, but be sure to read the full refund policy.

The second way to deal with this is to have more of a donation or tip-jar system, where the user can download the mod for free, and then pick an amount they are willing to spend on that mod after using it. By chance, the Nexus has a system similar to this. Dark0ne, the owner of the Nexus Sites, has made a blog post detailing how he will be bringing this system more into the public eye.

Again, Valve has already partially implemented this with the optional Pay What You Want pricing model. Modders may allow users to choose their own price.

Paid Mods Provide a Lot of Opportunities
Modding gives them a chance to try an idea on a smaller scale...

Modding is often a stepping stone towards full-time games development, but how can someone learn what experiences work without first trying them? Modding gives creators a chance to try out an idea, on a smaller scale and discover if it works.

Change can be a bad thing, but is mostly a great thing. Change allows us to open our eyes to new things, and improve who we are by allowing us to grow. Growing pains always happen, one mod has already been pulled from the Workshop, proof that nothing is ever perfect at first.

This system may mean that some modders choose to take advantage of it, meaning they won't work with other modders, but they will always be the minority.

Optimistic me
...you get to reward the hard work someone has put in with more than just positive comments, you can give them money.

I may simply be over-optimistic about the paid mod system, and I see that modders genuinely love what they do, and they would never jeopardise the integrity and good will of the community at large.

The modding community is far larger that I could have ever expected after getting more involved with it, the sheer amount of experiences and the vast collective knowledge of the community will never disappear. There will always be places where mods are free, and there will always be free mods.

With the ability to charge for mods will not only bring the modder profit, but also bring gamers larger and grander experiences to our favourite games. In the process, you get to reward the hard work someone has put in with more than just positive comments, you can also give them money. Isn't that simply great?

The final question I am going to ask is, are you still 100% against this change? Or are you going to hold final judgement just a bit longer?

**UPDATE**

And now paid mods have been removed due to Valve not implementing the system correctly. Yes, I didn't like the system. Mostly as modders were only getting 25% of each sale, but the idea of selling mods is still something I want to see explored.

Published Apr. 27th 2015
  • The Slow Gamer
    Contributor
    I think Valve was overly ambitious giving themselves 75% of the paid price, when all they're doing is hosting the mod and processing the transaction. I guess a lot of YouTubers make a living of getting peanuts per video, but it's a lot easier to make a let's play video than a working mod.

    I'd like to see modders paid for their work, through systems like Patreon and Nexus' donation system. But the Valve approach seemed a little borked.
  • Pierre Fouquet
    Featured Correspondent
    I agree... well Valve didn't get 75%, I think it was 45% then 35% to the developer... but the 25% should have been split between Valve and the developer. The mod creator should have gotten 75%.
  • Si_W
    I see this as being a good thing.

    I'm hoping it will encourage modders new or experienced to think big and look at creating something like Falskaar, which to me is the gold standard of mods. I've used a couple of the smaller mods such as followers, dogs, houses, etc but I'm more interested in large quests that extend game time rather than just change the appearance of the base game.

    I'm also for anything that could encourage the Beyond Skyrim team to just bloody release something. I'm getting a bit fed up of the umpteenth update on one of the several map areas they're working on but no one ever mentions when it's going to be released and I'm baffled as to why they're focusing on what appears to be a huge mod rather than several smaller ones. Just get on with it, ffs...
  • Pierre Fouquet
    Featured Correspondent
    Well modders do work in their spare time... so give em A LOT of it.
    And yep, I now just want games which will give me gameplay time, not make my game look different. I've done all that to death now.
    And it's a shame Valve removed it instead of fixing the system. :( Ah well.
  • StayNoLonger
    Featured Contributor
    If Valve had just changed it from Pay what you want to Donate I think people wouldn't look at it as paid for mods like they do at the moment, also, people people hate that Valve are taking a cut too.

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