Gabe Newell Optimistic Paid Mods Will Be A Win For Everybody

Gabe Newell Optimistic Paid Mods Will Be A Win For Everybody

Addressing the ongoing furor surrounding the monetisation of mods on Steam, Valve boss Gabe Newell took to Reddit earlier today to defend his company's controversial new initiative.

Following a day of travel and another dealing with medical issues, Newell spent a couple of hours today on a laptop in a coffee shop to host a Reddit AMA. "On Thursday I was flying back from LA. When I landed, I had 3500 new messages. Hmmm. Looks like we did something to piss off the Internet."

What Valve did was launch a program allowing people in the PC modding scene, beginning with Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, one of the most heavily-modded games going, to charge for creations they would normally make available for free. Valve gets a cut, publisher Bethesda gets a cut and the modder gets cut.

Problems arose as soon as the program went live. Players are upset at the prospect of being forced to pay for mods that have traditionally been freely distributed. Mod communities outside of Steam are concerned the program will result in Steam-dominated mod ecosystem. Then there's the fact that the modding scene feeds on itself, with one creator's work depending on another's, leading to complicated ownership issues that have caused at least one prominent mod artist to consider giving up the scene altogether.

There's a strong poison-y scent wafting from the well, but Newell isn't ready to pull the plug on the program yet, as evidenced by his response to one Redditor's concerns.

Our goal is to make modding better for the authors and gamers. If something doesn't help with that, it will get dumped. Right now I'm more optimistic that this will be a win for authors and gamers, but we are always going to be data driven.

Reactions to the comment include pleading for Newell to "do the right thing", concerns over Valve screwing over customers by putting free content behind a paywall and accusations of corporate greed tempered by crystals of unwelcome reason.

Yes! It's like saying, "Tom used to give me his apples for free. Now he's selling them at the grocery store for $USX.XX. The grocery store is a greedy monster!"

Newell addressed the greed accusations more directly, granting interesting insight into some of the less documented issues with making an entire community angry.

Let's assume for a second that we are stupidly greedy. So far the paid mods have generated $US10K total. That's like 1% of the cost of the incremental email the program has generated for Valve employees (yes, I mean pissing off the Internet costs you a million bucks in just a couple of days). That's not stupidly greedy, that's stupidly stupid.

Other topics remarked upon by Newell during the AMA include...

Unscrupulous folks trying to sell other people's work:

This is a straight-forward problem. Between ours and the community's policing, I'm confident that the authors will have control over their creations, not someone trying to rip them off.

Valve's commitment to the modding community:

About half of Valve came straight out of the MOD world. John Cook and Robin Walker made Team Fortress as a Quake mod. Ice frog made DOTA as a Warcraft 3 mod. Dave Riller and Dario Casali we Doom and Quake mappers. John Guthrie and Steve Bond came to Valve because John Carmack thought they were doing the best Quake C development. All of them were liberated to just do game development once they started getting paid. Working at Waffle House does not help you make a better game.

The goal of the paid mods initiative:

The goal is to increase the total investment the community makes in extending its games. We thought we were missing some plumbing that was hampering that.

On the idea of Valve keeping publishers from making mods Steam exclusive:

In general we are pretty reluctant to tell any developer that they have to do something or they can't do something. It just goes against our philosophy to be dictatorial. With that caveat, we'd be happy to tell developers that we think they are being dumb, and that will sometimes help them reflect on it a bit.

On Valve's intentions for the paid mod service:

A lot of comments are about Valve's motivations and intentions. The only way to credibly demonstrate those are through long-run actions towards the community. There is no shortcut to not being evil. However I didn't resist pointing out when someone's theory of Valve being evil is internally inconsistent or easily falsified, when I probably should.

On the possibility of a donate button for mod creators:

We are adding a pay what you want button where the mod author can set the starting amount wherever they want.

From what I'm reading from Newell's AMA comments it doesn't look like Valve plans to abandon the paid mod system any time soon. Right now the company's boss seems content to ride out the ire and see where the program takes the Steam modding community long-term. He wants to see where this goes, and he's hoping it's going somewhere good.


    There's some solid, common-sense answers to address some of the concerns. There's a few completely dodged entirely, like how anyone thinks getting 25% cut for their work is in any way fair, when they're the only ones who've actually done any work on the product being sold.

    And there's some which are weak as shit and haven't been called out for it. Eg:
    This is a straight-forward problem. Between ours and the community’s policing, I’m confident that the authors will have control over their creations, not someone trying to rip them off.

    Oh, sure, and I'M confident it's going to be the kind of clusterfuck that sees YouTube driven to ban by default first, with people using DMCA takedowns aggressively in error, designing fucking ROBOTS to do the detection for them as their FULL-TIME JOB because a human can't keep up.

    This is not a fucking SOLVED PROBLEM. One look at any given day's headlines for a mention of copyright infringement is all the proof you need there.

    'Confident'? I guess being Gabe Newell can let your 'confidence' buy a little cred, but is he seriously relying on user policing?

    This is EXACTLY the problem that paid-modding introduces into what should - and may no longer be for much longer - a primarily creative, collaborative community. People stop thinking about what they can share, borrow, improve upon, and instead spend all their energy on working out how to keep people from fucking them. You thought modders got shitty about uncredited work before? You ain't seen nothing yet.

    'I'm confident that the authors will have control over their creations'... sure. EVENTUALLY, and with significant effort, IF it's brought to their attention after someone's already made money of it. And how much time was Valve hoping to devote in its customer service and/or dev/modder liaison units to processing this constant flow of reports?

    That is such a weak answer and to my mind, it's the primary point (of MANY points) of concern.

    Last edited 26/04/15 3:07 pm

      It's a weak answer because it translates to "It'll all work out in the end, don't worry about it!" with no mention of the mechanism involved in getting to that point from where we are now

      I'd you had your own website and YouTube channel, I'd follow you religiously!

      The 25% cut is pretty generous when looked at from a business perspective. Dean Hall (DayZ) did a good write up of it in a Forbes article recently.

      Ah actually in one of the reddit commens he answers this thing about the 25%. That was set by Bethesda. It is up to the game publisher. Valve just takes a 30% cut no matter what.

        My criticism is not JUST for Valve, it's for everyone involved who decided creators of a mod should only get 25%. That's a pittance and in no way at all reflective of the division of labour involved in creating the mod.

        (Also, I haven't seen any confirmation of the 30% yet, just speculation. Gabe didn't talk numbers, just that their cut is fixed and the publisher controls the rest of the split. I suspect it might actually be 15% for Valve, in line with their DLC cut? I read they take 30% of game sales and 15% of DLC sales and that mods are falling in line with their DLC cut. This would make more sense, it'll be interesting to see some actual facts on that from a good source. Edit: Forbes say 30% to Valve without quoting a source, but they typically seem pretty legit.)

        Last edited 26/04/15 9:54 pm

          Doug Lombardi is quoted as saying Valve's cut is the same as for other microtransaction sales. He didn't explicitly say 15%, but that's their standard microtransaction cut for market sales and I believe for in-game purchases.

          I would like to know from Gabe whether he thinks the revenue split was fair.

          Last edited 03/03/17 9:36 am

          Gabe addressed that. I believe the developer sets that rate. Valve gets 25% on everything. Not just mods. So no change. In the case of 25% with skyrim, Bethesda set that.

          I think paid mods are no different to any other developer driven dlc. All I want is that if they exist and you pay, they work. Currently a lot of "free" mods break games. Let's hope they aren't the ones we are paying for.

          My overall issue in particular with reddit is that they want mods to be free. Ultimately I believe is someone is willing to develop a mod and spend hundreds of hours supporting it they should get paid. Especially if say Bethesda has stopped creating content for the game.

            Gabe placing the blame somewhere else doesn't 'address' the issue, it just passes it on. I don't think he was telling us something we didn't already know with that point - I'm pretty sure the Valve/Beth split was made pretty well public early on in the piece. It doesn't matter who's responsible for the split being so atrocious and unconscionable, what matters is that it's a terrible split.

              What do you guys think of Bethesdas justification of the 25% for modders?
              Bethesda say 25% is the 'industry standard'. They give one example - Amazon Kindle Worlds.
              They seem to suggest 25% is the norm for modders on Steam.
              If I read it right they are suggesting the revenue from the mods should be more than the cost of developing the mod tools?

    yeah sure, whole genres come out of mods
    and sure percentages come out to the respective Intellectual Property right holders as a split, from source to distribution.

    and sure its good for everyone, and gabe seems optimistic

    but I am sick of people believing Valve and co is a untouchable god of the gamer world.

    they hold the majority of game throughput and they are a far cry from half life days. And they could fall from grace.

    Horse armour! Gabe just being greedy!

      He probably couldn't spend what he already has. I doubt it's about the money.

    I'm heavily into modding for a hobby. All my friends and people online are constantly messaging me or coming up to me. They're telling me absolutely everything new that happens and want my opinion on it all.

    It's all I've talked about for two days. Make it stop. *rolls over and cries*

      Hey, what's your opinion on all of this? :P

      Pokes you with a stick while you're on the ground crying.

      Last edited 26/04/15 5:06 pm


      Seriously, what's your opinion on mod.........ifying this pepperoni pizza I've got here and adding hotsauce???

        *goes catatonic*

          *breaks his poking stick*

          Sooooooo... About that modding thing...

    It sounds to me like Gabe really does want to help modders get paid for their work.

    Last edited 03/03/17 9:38 am

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