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The Steam Skyrim 'paid mods' debacle - any thoughts?

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In case you haven't been following the gaming press, Valve (the company who runs Steam) recently added a marketplace for people to buy payware mods to a game called Skyrim, as well as allowing modders to put their previously freeware mods behind a paywall. The caveat is that the mod creator only receives 25% of the proceeds - Valve and Bethesda (Skyrim's developer) takes 75%. After a huge outcry and protests by the gaming community Valve changed their mind and pulled the plug on the payware mod marketplace, as well as refunding all purchases. The debacle has unfortunately torn the community apart and I'm surprised no one here discussed this event in depth.

 

Here's a good article about this:

http://www.theverge.com/2015/4/27/8502839/valve-gabe-newell-responds-paid-skyrim-workshop-mods

 

What are your thoughts?

Can you imagine Microsoft taking 75% of all FSX addon revenue just for the use of their IP?

Also what do you think will happen with Dovetail and FSX:SE? 

 

 

 

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You didn't mention it was a matter of hours before there were claims of plagiarism and people selling mods which contained content created by others.

 

The whole thing stinks to high heaven - it was a very cynical and greedy way to monetise the modding scene. I'm glad it's gone (for now at least) but the damage done to the Skyrim modding community has now been done.

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It's an interesting situation, and one which was cussed and discussed in great detail some months ago prior to the FSX:SE release vis-a-vis the developer's cut of sales made through the Steam storefront.

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The situation is somewhat different to selling addons for FSX-SE.

 

Games like Skyrim have a huge and very active modding scene. That scene worked on the proviso that modding the game and distributing those mods was fine, as long as they were freely available and nobody was making any money off the back of Bethesda's IP. So you had sites like the Nexus - which were not unlike Avsim - which were built around very large file libraries containing all sorts of user created mods.

 

It's entirely reasonable to say these mods played a big role in ensuring the popularity and sales of an almost four year old game. So a few years ago Steam launched the Workshop - a mod repository integrated into Steam, where users could upload their mods and they could in turn be browsed by other users, downloaded and automatically installed by Steam. This was a welcome development and the Workshop became a very popular and thriving part of Steam.

 

Now all of a sudden Steam and the games publishers try to monetise it. It would be akin to Avsim allowing authors to charge for stuff in the file library here... and it's retrospective so stuff that's been in the library here for years now can now have a $4.99 pricetag slapped on it. What's more the cut of the money was quite interesting. It's basically down to an agreement between Steam and Bethesda, but the mod creator would get 25% of the revenue, and the other 75% would be split betwee Steam and Bethesda. Under the terms a mod would have to make $400 before the creator saw any money.

 

So the first issue is Steam attempted to monetise a modding scene where previously there was no money involved. People were naturally pretty upset that yesterday that mod was freely available, but today it's $1.99

 

The next problem is one that anybody with more than two braincells to rub together could have seen coming a mile off - plagiarism. It was only a matter of hours before the first claims of paid mods on the Steam Workshop containing the work of others without their permission.

 

The next problem is the total lack of any quality control. Steam famously has a strict "no refunds" policy. They've been forced to make some exceptions in the past when games have been released on Steam that were so broken, buggy and dysfunctional the customer outcry resulted in them giving refunds. Steam's Greenlight is also a good example of how their lack of quality control has earned them the ire of users who are fed up being bombarded with reams of shovelware when they browse the Steam Store.

 

The final problem is one of fallout. Once this move to allow charging money for Skyrim mods on Steam Workshop was announced literally overnight hundreds, if not thousands of mods disappeared from the Nexus as their authors sought to make sure they were only available on the Steam Workshop. This resulted in a lot of angst and bad feeling amongst the Skyrim modding community. What's more those mod authors who sought to have their work removed from the Steam Workshop in protest at the move to monetise mods were met with obstructions from Steam who wanted to make it needlessly difficult to have one's work withdrawn from the Workshop.

 

Gabe Newell has gone on the record as saying the move to allow mods authors to charge for their work was meant to facilitate an improvement in the quality of mods available. I think it's quite clear the way this process was implemented was primarily meant to turn the thriving modding scene into another revenue stream for Steam and the game publishers. It was cynical, greedy and quite frankly stupid beyond belief.

 

However, I doubt we've seen the last of it. Steam dipped their toes in the water this time and got them burned. They'll be back to try again with another implementation sooner or later. It's a shame really because I think Steam have done wonders for PC gaming in recent years, but with the mess that is Greenlight and this pretty transparent attempt to create another revenue stream off the back of mods leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

 

 

On a related note, the main reason I am opposed to the charging money for user created mods is down to the changes  have seen in the flightsim community over the years. I was around when payware addons were few and far between. The explosive growth of the flightsim payware addon industry has given us some extraordinary content for our sims, but the price for the community has been a high one, with developer set against developer, developer set against customer, questions over the editorial integrity of many flightsim websites, and a lot of the fun and community spirit being sucked out of the hobby in the pursuit of money.

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The implementation of that idea was indeed a huge failure, I saw someone selling a virtual axe for two dollars or so in the steam page.  :lol:

 

I really don't have anything against the core idea itself, however there should be a strict quality control. Tiny mods that add little new content to the game definitely don't deserve to be sold on Steam, however I don't see why large scale DLC (for example large new areas, like Falskaar mod) couldn't be sold on Steam store. Obviously the developer should receive a fair cut, not something pathetic like 25%. 

 

I think that kind of a model would definitely allow developers to create some more absolutely amazing mods that could very well offer many more gameplay hours than the core game itself, just like payware in FS community has brought us some extremely detailed scenery and aircraft addons.

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The situation is somewhat different to selling addons for FSX-SE.

On the whole, it is a very different situation. In one aspect, and the sole one I was making comment on, is the ludicrous percentage offered to the content creator.

 

I'm not saying that both Valve and Bethesda shouldn't have a 'cut of the action,' but not that much!

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I would respond to this the same way i respond to in-app purchases on phones and tablets, which is to say once the monetizers go down that path, I simply completely ignore anything they have to offer.

 

Period.

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The bigger problem with the mod scene would have been on going support.  I download and pay for a new village say for Skyrim, works perfectly i am very happy with my $1.99 purchase.  The developer (or for that matter another mod) releases a patch that breaks my new village, i have ever right to demand that the developer fixes my mod, i paid for it, i want it working.

It breeds a sense of entitlement, if i pay for something i have every right to expect it to work and be updated to work with other mods and patches.

 

There is also an issue surrounding IP, what about all the Star Trek mods for space games, because they are currently free nobody pays much attention to them, if these suddenly become payware...well i imagine that not going down well.

 

I don't see how this would have ever worked, financially i am better off producing cheap rubbish en-mass in the hope that a few sales of many items breeds more money, it leads to the situation now evident in mobile games, quantity over quality.   

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I am glad they reversed this mess.  It was unfair to everyone involved except Valve and Bethesda but even with the reversal it has caused a massive amount of damage to the modding community.  I am active on The Nexus and there were many heated debates and many of the more popular mod authors have now vowed to never release their work again because of us 'entitled' people screaming at them.   That didn't sit well with many and they got the "don't let the door hit your&%* on the way out' cold shoulder.   No one asked you to make the MOD or release it in the first place.  You did so out of your generosity and the money returned to you should be in the same type of willing generosity, not forced upon us by AAA gaming Big Brother.  I would much rather Donate 100% to the author then let some big corp suck off the fat and leave the gristle behind for them anyway.

 

My big problem being nickle and dimed for MODS is I don't feel like paying money for what is essentially Alpha Ware products that can and will break your core game while the community provides free tech support and the mod author has to do little but see the fix someone else comes up with then do it and claim how awesome they are at fixing their own product.   Doesn't happen alot but it does.   I don't contribute to Steam's mostly garbage Greenlight system for this reason and I NEVER EVER PRE-ORDER.   I got burned already several times.  No more.   I am through paying for Beta software at full price so I can test it for you at my expense until you fix all your bugs.  And before someone opens their mouth to suggest P3D is Beta software and I am in fact playing it to beta test it for Lockheed; I am referring to games on Steam that blatantly shout  "PAY ME $69.99 TO GET IN ON THE BETA EARLY ACCESS BECAUSE WE ARE AWESOME LIKE THAT AND OUR GAME DOESN'T SUCK.. HONEST!".

 

Good riddance to the Paywall system.   May they have learned their lesson and hopefully the wounds caused by this stupidity can be healed in time.   

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There is also an issue surrounding IP, what about all the Star Trek mods for space games, because they are currently free nobody pays much attention to them, if these suddenly become payware...well i imagine that not going down well.

 

It's potentially a can of worms.

 

There was a mod in development for Skyrim (or possibly Oblivion) that transformed the whole game into a Lord of the Rings setting. Warner Brothers lawyers put a stop to it - because they have plans for their own very similar LOTR video games.

 

Conversely, there is a very popular mod for Medieval 2 Total War which turns the game into a LOTR setting, and actually uses a lot of the artwork, imagery and sounds from the movies. The mod creators got permission from Warner Brothers, and permission was granted as long as the mod remained freely distributed, and we can also infer Warner Brothers have no plans for a LOTR strategy game.

 

If you look at the game "Sins of a Solar Empire" there are mods out there that convert them into Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, etc. Again we can infer they are permitted because the IP owners have no plans for similar games. However, you can bet if the creators started charging for the mods the lawyers would be all over it.

 

 

You're also correct to point out once money starts changing hands the user - who is now a customer - expects a lot more and the mod creator maybe doesn't factor this into their equation. This is partly how the whole dynamic of the flightsim community changed over the last 15 years or so when freeware began to give way to payware.

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