Friday, April 24, 2015

On Valve’s Monetization of Steam Workshop

Yesterday, Valve announced that they have set up a pay wall for video game modifications (or mods) on their Steam Workshop service.  What this essentially means is that mod authors can charge money for their work and will receive 25% of the proceeds while Valve and the video game company will receive 75%.  They started this service with Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a popular game for mod authors.

As of right now, there are 18 mods for Skyrim behind the pay wall.  There will probably be more in the future, especially if this service does very well.

When I first found out about this, I was outraged and upset.  Now that I’ve had a night to sleep on it and think it over, I have a different perspective from when I started.

First of all, we have to understand that Skyrim has had three paid DLC packs that were released to PC and console.  Two of them were game expansions with new stories, content, and extra features that expanded the experience of playing the game.  They called Dawnguard and Dragonborn, and both cost $20 on release.  The other one was a simple package that allowed the player to construct custom homes in certain areas of the game title Hearthfire.  This one cost $5.

So, based on the DLC scales, we have a better idea of what a mod might cost for Skyrim.  If the mod adds a ton of new content, it is probably worth at least $10.  There are a good number of mods that are like this, two popular ones being Wyrmstooth and Falskaar.  Both of these mods featured a new land, new characters, new gameplay, and loads of new content.

As a gamer and not a mod author, I would have paid for both mods.  They are fantastic additions to your gaming experience.

There are other mods that add survival to the game, like needing to eat, drink, sleep, or survive the cold harsh climate of Skyrim.  These are immersion mods and they are mods that add a element to gameplay that allows you plan out your adventure rather than a generic go to a location and kill the bandits or monsters.  Many of these are probably work less than $5 if they are good.

I think at the end of the day, I’m not for or against mod authors wanting to monetize their work.  They won’t make a living doing it, if anything they’ll just make some extra cash.  At the same time, though, I understand the desire to get paid for the amount of work you put into something like this, especially if it is a lot of free time away from your regular job.

There has been a lot of angry comments directed at this new service.  I understand where it comes from.  Many of the mods that are posted, especially the more popular ones, are mods that were previously free and now are gamers are being charged for upgraded versions.  I get it.  You have a good mod and the mod author just made it better.  But you have to pay for it.  And that sucks.

But don’t through angry comments around.  There’s no point.  Just remove any endorsement you’ve made and remove that mod from you mod profile (unless you are already playing with it, in which case don’t remove it since it will break your game).

Also, keep in mind that most mod authors who posted paid content did so with many of their mods still available for free.  And those are pretty good mods that these authors could be making money on.

Look, I am not going to buy a whole lot of Skyrim mods.  I will probably just pay for a couple of decent ones and leave the rest alone, considering that my mods have reached an upper limit.  But I am not going to go out and do it right away.  After all, you can add mods to your play through, but you can’t remove them (and upgrading is also risky depending on the changes).

In any case, I do see a positive side to this in that we could see a rise in DLC-sized mods like the official ones released by Bethesda.

In my case, we shall have to wait and see what this new service does to the mod community.  My guess is that it will have little impact overall and may fizzle out within a year.