As most of you are likely already aware, Valve’s Steam service is now allowing the sale of user created modifications for select Steam Workshop titles. Currently, this is limited to just Skyrim, though the list is expected to expand as time moves on, and more developers / publishers join the fray.
Of course, this created quite a bit of controversy within the modding community. Traditionally, modding has always been a way to expand upon and share new gaming experiences by adding features that didn’t previously exist to already purchased video games. Mod databases have existed for many years, and the entire community is centred around a simple yet elegant concept; create, share, play. Never has there been a successful mod marketplace, as the landscape is constantly changing. Buying modifications outright with real money brings about new risks, as what would happen if the game developers broke something that the modification required? This in turn would force the mod to stop working, potentially crashing the game, or creating unwanted side effects until the mod is uninstalled.
When the modification is freely distributed, it’s just a matter of uninstalling the mod, and possibly reporting it as broken from the download website. There’s no real harm done, and you move on with your day as if nothing had ever happened. Sure, you may be a tad disappointed that your super awesome nude mod didn’t work, but at least you didn’t pay for it.
Except, what happens if you paid for it? What would happen if you purchased this broken mod, only for it to not function on your system? The mod is entirely broken and unusable. The modder isn’t responding to your comments, and you’re left with less money, and nothing to show for it.
You were ripped off.
Sadly, this is a scenario that is very likely to happen, now that Steam is selling user created modifications. The modders have no obligations to continue development of the mod that you purchased with real money. There’s no safety net to fall back to. You’re out of luck.
Though, let me play devils advocate for a moment. What if you’ve got a respectable and trustworthy modder, and he sells his content for $1.00. You’d want to support this modder for all of his hard work, wouldn’t you? Surely he put a lot of effort into designing this masterpiece of a mod, so it’s only fair for him to receive some level of compensation… right?
Well, that’s all well and good, until you realize that for every $1.00 mod sold, Steam takes 75% of the total earnings, leaving the actual modder with a mere 25% take. That means, for every $1.00, Steam takes $0.75 and the modder gets $0.25. Kinda doesn’t seem worth it, does it?
A better way to support this particular modder, would be to donate directly to his PayPal account. If you donated $0.75, the PayPal transaction fee is $0.32. That leaves the modder with $0.43 in net profit. Meaning, you’d pay less for his mod, and he’s get more in return.
Honestly, I don’t like this new system. Valve is monetizing what has always been freely available, and they’re doing so with no shame or remorse. They take a huge cut of the profit, leaving little to no real benefit for ever selling any kind of modification on Steam. It just isn’t worth it.
What are your thoughts on Steam’s new modding practices? Let me know in the comments.