Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods

Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods

Today, Valve changed the mod-making game bigtime: creators can now charge for modifications to pre-existing games on Steam Workshop. Some people are hopeful, others are worried — and even infuriated.

Obviously, paying for mods — even just as an option — is a pretty big change from what people are used to. It's not uncommon for people to ask for donations, a nickel or two going clink in the cup, but charging upfront? Definitely not the standard. Some, however, are worried that it could become the norm, not the exception, which would fundamentally alter the mod scene. Mods, they fear (and have, to a small extent, observed), will stop updating for those who don't pay, will abandon mod-centric services like Nexus for Steam's greener pastures.

From Twitter:

Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods
Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods
Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods

From Steam, which is overflowing with similar threads:

Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods

From Reddit:

Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods

From our own comments:

Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods
Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods

And the comment threads on some Steam Workshop Skyrim mods have gotten downright ugly.

Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods

Meanwhile, Nexus owner and admin Dark0ne, in a prescient post last month, speculated about what would happen if people started charging for mods, adding that he doesn't plan to change a thing about the way Nexus operates. He worries that tossing money into the pot might hurt both modmakers and those who play them:

"How many mods on the Nexus use assets made by other mod authors? How many are made better by this? Such assets are used with the express permission of the creators of those assets. If a mod author came to you and asked if he could use some of your work in their mod that they were planning to sell for $US5, would you feel more or less inclined to give him that permission? Would you, perhaps rightly, ask for a cut of the proceeds, a revenue share of your own? If you're one of those great authors who releases your mods freely for others to make use of in their mods, or a modder's resource developer, are you going to think about revisiting all your permissions in light of money entering the modding community? Are you still thinking about being so generous with your work?"

"The worry is with the introduction of Curated Workshops that free and open modding will be removed entirely, as in, it just won't be possible to do... If you ask me, my main concern now is the DRMification and closing down of free and open modding, the concept that modding can only take place if it's done through one official platform to the detriment of all others. Because up until now that's definitely not what modding has been about at all."

Meanwhile, others are concerned about how little mod creators are actually making off this deal: 25 per cent of revenues in Skyrim's case. They think game publishers might end up taking nearly the entire pie, leaving creators with only rib-sticking slivers. In their eyes, it's a lose-lose situation for everyone — mod creators and players alike — except publishers.

Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods
Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods
Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods

(Note: Valve has confirmed to me that publishers/developers get to decide the amount of revenue they take from mods if they choose to let players sell them. Valve, meanwhile, takes "the same share of sales as any other microtransaction sale.")

Unsurprisingly (given that this is, after all, The Internet), there's already a petition to have the paid portion of Steam Workshop hurled back into the deepest recesses of Valve's mad mod laboratory. As of writing it had over three thousand signatures.

But others see potential in Steam Workshop's megaton bomb of a new feature, even as it leaks radiation everywhere, shows its cracks and flaws. Modders and game developers, especially, seem to be leaning more toward the optimistic side of the spectrum. Creators like Jimo have embraced the system fully, going so far as to collaborate with Valve to help launch the paid-for portion of the Steam Workshop.

Meanwhile, developers like Offworld Trading Company creator (and former Civilisation designer) Soren Johnson being so bold as to say:

Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods

Emerald Kindgom's production director verbalized what many people on the pro-charging-for-mods side of things are feeling: modders are developers too, and they should be afforded similar options and opportunities.

Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods

Campo Santo (Firewatch) creative director Jake Rodkin added that this feels like a continuation of Valve's history of hiring on and otherwise supporting mod teams. Difference is, now everybody gets a chance to benefit instead of only a select few:

Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods
Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods

And modder Giskard chimed in with this particularly poignant snapshot of the longstanding tensions between some Steam community members and modders:

Players have been flaming modders for years, they rarely say thank you and hardly ever use a donate button. So paying for mods offers some compensation for the abuse we get.

I personally could make a million from selling my mods easily. I have about 30 large quest mods for various Bethesda games and 5 top notch ones for Skyrim. Nexus has nothing that comes close to them. So I could become very rich, very quickly because I am one of the most hard working TES modders on this planet.

I would share a link to prove it by Steam consider modders that talk about their work on here to be spammers and suspend our accounts if we do it. So your just going to have to use your imaginations.

Fact is though, Steam has proven time and time again it simply does not understand modders or the modding community. This is just the latest but of proof that the concept of a fun hobbit is beyond them. I removed my work from steam last year because i felt they wanted the benefit of hosting mods without wanting to give modders the support we expect. So I walked away.

Sadly this charging for mods opens the door to flaming, court cases, fraud and reasons to steal mods to make a buck. But it is also an opportunity, your going to find out who the real modders are, your going consider it a badge of honour to be a free mod maker. And hopefully your going to treat us better than you have been because if you dont, we can always sell our mods and become rich at your expense. This could be thing that makes modding communities friendly again..... lets hope so.

Others voiced more general support, accepting that any launch will be rocky, but solid fundamental ideas will (hopefully) win the day.

Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods
Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods
Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods
Steam Users See Big Problems With Charging For Mods

For now, we'll just have to wait and see exactly what comes of this. There are still tons of unanswered questions, but one thing's for sure: this is big. The risks are big, the potential rewards are big. The highs are stratospheric, the lows are apocalyptic. In an ideal world, mods will function like smaller games: some will cost a little money, others will be free. By and large, everything will settle out to a happy midpoint. It's tough to say, though. Mods are a different animal with extremely different DNA, different culture, different baggage, and Valve's system certainly isn't perfect yet (see: people trying to sell other people's stuff, etc). What do you think? Are we on the cusp of something great, or terrible?


    I think creators being able to charge for mods is a great way for budding devs to get some recognition and reward for their hard work.

    But I think it has a huge potential to backfire, much like many Steam Greenlight projects did.

    Approach with caution.

      Yeah, having thought about it some more I think the principal is a good one but this is the wrong way to go about it.

      There should be a way for major modders to get paid for their work, but one with oversight and quality control.
      This free for all approach will probably prove the naysayers right.

      My thoughts, entirely. I am also of the opinion that things will end up streamlining themselves out. There will be good content created and maintained, there will also be complete and utter sh*t which will also be weeded out because people won't pay for poorly built mods.

      It's a key move to another platform which opens the world to a new world for indie developers and I really hope it ends up working.

    I find it reprehensible that mods created for a game 5-10 years ago would provide the developer with a larger cut of income than the person who created the mod. With this system DotA would never have gotten off the ground.

    Edit: Also if modders want to charge for a mod they should be willing to provide the same support and updates that games of equivalent value do. The whole concept of modding is players have the freedom to create an idea and share it with others and leave it at that; charging for a product creates a legal obligation which modders traditionally don't have the resources to see through.

    Last edited 24/04/15 11:47 am

      Sorry, that isn't true. When DotA got off the ground, it was a WC3 mod - as in, you had to own your own copy of WC3. Blizzard got 100% of the profits of people buying WC3 to play DotA, and the DotA team got nothing. DotA itself was completely free.

      In the end, you had servers like BoredAussie that let you play without your own unique CD key, but DotA was always a 100% free add on to an existing game and didn't create any revenue.

      Last edited 24/04/15 12:09 pm

        ...... Yes that is exactly what I've said. You've read my statement correctly and come to completely right conclusion and haven't wasted a post at all. Thank you for your time and effort in debating a statement that is clearly and concisely written.

        *takes a deep breath* OK that's the sarcasm out of my system. Read my comment again. The flow of statements clearly implies that if DotA followed what Steam are looking to implement now the mod would have never gotten off the ground. Skyrim much like Warcraft 3 is a game you buy and then have access to free community driven mods. If you had to pay for an un-tested unproven and at its inception a very glitchy and unbalanced mod like DotA on top of WC3 the mod would've never become what it is today. Thank you for making me elaborate what I thought was fairly self-explanatory.

          My apologies for thinking that your first sentence would in some way relate to your second sentence.

          I find it reprehensible that mods created for a game 5-10 years ago would provide the developer with a larger cut of income than the person who created the mod. With this system DotA would never have gotten off the ground.

          *takes a deep breath*

          Your criticism of the system reads as 'If this system was adopted (the system being the publisher getting a higher proportion of the revenue than the dev), DotA would never have taken off'. Flowing from your first sentence to the second, it appears that your criticism isn't of the pay-to-play model, but rather of the profit sharing between devs and modders. I, in turn, replied that there was 0% profit for the DotA modders, so your statement wasn't actually correct. Yes, perhaps I misinterpreted it, but you weren't nearly as clear-cut as you thought.

            Yes you're right my first sentence while only referring to the break up of payments could not possibly have anything to do with the article I've commented on. Ergo when I stated "This system" I was clearly only referring to this completely insulated comment. You should also apologize for thinking my comment would have anything to do with this article in general; because clearly I haven't written it with that in mind.

            But please do continue to argue on the semantics or why my comment isn't true based on how it was structured in an article that it doesn't relate to.

              I just think it's funny that you assume every reader would interpret every individual sentence in a vacuum, completely independent of the preceding sentence, and then get upset when someone thought that one sentence might flow on to another. I'm not saying your point is wrong (although I do have my doubts), but getting upset that someone might think your second sentence might be a continuation of the idea in your first sentence when there isn't a paragraph break or any indication to the reader that you are moving to a slightly different supposition strikes me as being ever so slightly uptight.

              You should relax, guy. Have you considered yoga?

              Sarcasm aside, I actually disagree that DotA wouldn't have worked in this model. Imagine the possibility - devs partner with modders, who can create new and unique mods (which, in the case of DotA, might even be considered an entirely different game) by using the original games assets. You could release the mod as an independent download, without access to the rest of the game, at a lower price point than the original game and thus open the mod to a wider audience than just those that have paid full price for the original game. I reckon (BoredAussie aside) this would have made DotA catch on much more quickly than it did, which was really only after MOBAs went F2P.

              I think this opens up a world of possibilities, without many real downsides to the gaming community.

                Normally through any articles in Kotaku I'm usually happy to engage in rational well thought out debate; however I have little to no patience with someone starting their response with "sorry that isn't true" when referring to a subjective comment followed by a rationalization that was akin to the original comment.

                On a separate note you do realize the comment you just replied to was complete sarcasm right?

                Look feel free to argue your point as you see fit; I have little desire to respond out of fear I'll then spend the next 5 comments explaining my response. What I will say is my original comment is perfectly legible when taken into the context of the article; I raise my first issue with the payment system followed by an example of a game that would've never happened if the whole system had been implemented.

                  ...And I replied with a counter-argument on how the payment system actually would have enhanced the DotA scene early in its development, and how it might benefit modders into the future. You probably wouldn't have had such a lot of handovers in the modder (From Eul to Ragn0r to Guinsoo to Neichus to IceFrog) if they'd had more incentive to remain involved in the project, which would give a greater amount of continuity. One of the strengths of Dota 2 is that IceFrog has remained at the helm the whole time, and so you have a good sense of continuity in terms of game updates. Having one modder who gets paid to do update and develop the mod (which is basically what happened with Dota 2, engine update aside) has been wonderful for the game.

                  Anyhow, ignoring my point and focusing on semantics seems a little hypocritical, since you belittled me for doing the same a few comments ago. But that's none of my business...

        Yep. Same situation as a lot of games. DayZ started this way (started mind you, things changed soon after) and so did Counterstrike and Team Fortress. Be interesting to see how this eventually works out.

    The open source side of me says "fuck no, bitches" the capitalist in me says "maybe people have more incentive to create great mods now". The hippy in me also says "stop trying to monetise everything ffs."

    I'm torn.

    Last edited 24/04/15 11:52 am
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    I'm seeing a "pay what you want" price picker. So it's not that bad, looks like the mod creator can pick a default price but I can pick the 99c option.

      It looks like the modders set a floor or minimum price for the mod, so you can throw more money at them if you want.

        The ones I've looked at have 99c to $99.99 as the option and the modder has picked a default amount.

    How will this work with mods that are based on other mods? How's IP being protected? Will there be a warranty on a product, since you're now paying for it? What's stopping someone from releasing a dead mod and calling it their own? Just curious.

      Try any mod, Risk Free
      It's still important to spend a little time learning about any product you are about to purchase. But, if after purchase you find that a mod is broken or doesn’t work as promised, you can easily get a refund of that mod within 24 hours of your purchase. View the full refund policy here:

      More info here:

      Last edited 24/04/15 12:10 pm

      I'm wondering all of those things as well. Modding can be a very grey area when it comes to ownership, so it's hard to see how this is going to work legally. I mean, there are mods for Skyrim that turn dragons into My Little Ponies, or mudcrabs into Zoidberg or Spiderman. Technically stuff like that is already breaking the Steam Subscriber Agreement that states you own the rights to the content you submit. Selling something like that is actually, technically, fraud. Could be interesting to see if and how THAT is dealt with.

      Last edited 24/04/15 2:49 pm

    I can see this being an absolute shitstorm initially, with everyone fighting one another over who owns all the mods currently in existence.

    However, going forward, I think this is going to be amazing. At the moment, mods are a labour of love - you don't make them to get rich, so the scope for modding is limited to diehard enthusiasts. Once this system is established, modders are going to submit directly to Steam, so the issue of copyright or IP will be much easier to overcome. You will give talented developers a reason to produce high-quality mods for existing games, which you will get for a fraction of the price of a new game.

    I don't see a downside here. No one is forcing modders to charge for the mods. Likewise, no one is forcing you to buy mods to keep playing games. The outrage over Steam giving modders the opportunity to be rewarded for their hard work just screams of selfish entitlement.

      Downside? Lots of quickly done, crappy mods being thrown on the store for cheap prices that barely work in the hopes of sales.

      So, modding as usual lol

        It looks like people are already throwing other people's mods onto the workshop and charging for them, like the Midas mod.

          Like I said, this is only an issue for existing content. New mods will be released straight to Steam, which won't give people an opportunity to pass it off as their own.

        I reckon you give people a 48 hour grace period. Give them a chance to try out the mod, and if it's shit they can delete it and get their money back. Lets people keep the good mods and get rid of the shitty ones. Eventually people will get the hint that they won't make money off crap mods, and you will only get quality content... in theory.

        Alternatively, modders can make the first version of a mod free, and charge people for subsequent updates (or you get a basic version free, and can decide whether to pay for the full version).

        I'm sure there are a heap of other systems that could be used, but the point is that this can definitely work, and in the long run I can definitely see it being worth ironing out the flaws in the system.

          Indeed, the 24 hour refund period is good, but it just feels I dunno... there's something still not right about all this.

        I think there needs to be more control than that. If Steam are going to take a 25% cut, they need to be more than a storefront here. They need to vet submissions, check them thoroughly for malware and security holes, and possibly even verify that the mod works properly in the relevant game.

        Accountability is going to be a big deal with this new thing, and if the entire process isn't safe (in terms of both investment and security) and transparent, it's gonna be too risky for folks to jump on board and shop the way Steam hopes they'll shop.

          Agreed 110%. When you take money you're a stakeholder of a higher degree so Steam do need to take a much larger presence in this issue than they're willing to or have in the past.

            What if you had a volunteer vetting process for paid mods? People that own the game get offered the mod for free, on the condition that once they've played a certain number of hours they have to review it. Only those that score above a certain threshold make it to wider release.

            It removes the problem greenlight had, since the invites can be randomized among game owners so you can't add a flood of fake positive reviews, Steam gets some vetting, players get quality mods... everyone wins! Combine that with the 24-48hr refund grace period, and I think you've got a quality vetting process that will lead to some great output.

            Seriously, there is so much potential here. Devs basically get free development to inject life into dying titles, modders will get paid for their efforts, and players will get so much more bang for their buck. What a time to be alive!

              Possibly. This is one of the bugbears of the whole situation, the reliability factor. Mods have a notorious history of just stopping working thanks to an official patch then never being updated because the dev simply 'cant be ****ed'. (It's happened soooooooo many times with Kerbal and Skyrim for me :( ). I guess I worry about that happening here, after you've paid for it.

                I'm guessing that, since the devs need to authorize the mods, they will include some sort of assurances in the terms and conditions. Here's hoping, anyway.

                Besides, if they have a vested interest in the mod (namely, money!), they should continue with the updates to maintain the revenue stream.

                Last edited 24/04/15 4:54 pm

                  Honestly, I do hope if this does go ahead permanently (it will we all know it will) that it raises the general standards of mods. It really has been a free for all and I guess one upside, is that it may raise the general standard potentially?

            I have to disagree with you there. Taking money doesn't make you a stakeholder. That has even been legally tested in Australia with the iiNet piracy case. Just because the ISP took users' money in exchange for a service doesn't mean they're in any way responsible for users' behaviour while using that service. Same with any other service. Valve takes a percentage cut for providing the service of making games and mods available online for easy purchase. What the devs do with their games or mods once on the service isn't Valve's responsibility.

            Valve may have an interest in avoiding badly behaved devs in the same way iiNet may have an interest in avoiding badly behaved users (eg. acquiring a negative reputation) but the idea that there's some kind of required behaviour doesn't really fly.

              Theyre not just taking money. Theyre the host for the item ans the supplier essentially of a full service to acquire said item so yes they are a stakeholder.

                If you want to use that definition of stakeholder, everyone involved in the process from the mod developer to Steam to the customer to the customer's bank and credit card provider is a stakeholder. I'm sure you'd be pretty upset if your credit card provider called you up and said they won't let you buy a Skoda because they're shit quality. I think you're thinking of liability, not stake. Providing a service doesn't create liability for the service provider to the activities undertaken by the customers of that service.

                Quality is irrelevant, laissez-faire markets are free to sell items of any quality as long as deception isn't involved. If the product isn't sold as advertised or isn't fit for purpose you can get a refund, but that's the limit of extent to which any retailer is obliged to act. As I said, it may be a good idea for them to do so for reputation reasons, but it's not a requirement.

                Last edited 25/04/15 4:14 pm

                  A stakeholder is anybody who can affect or is affected by an organisation, strategy or project. They can be internal or external and they can be at senior or junior levels. Some definitions suggest that stakeholders are those who have the power to impact an organisation or project in some way.

                  Nope, I'm thinking of Valve. They're stakeholders. Sorry.

                  @weresmurf Yeah, just like everyone else, using your broad definition. And most of them have no liability at all.

                  Hey sorry you get pissy when someone doesn't agree with you. But, deal with it.

                  @weresmurf Who's getting pissy? I'm just saying you're selectively applying your definition here. It either applies to all stakeholders or it doesn't. In this case it doesn't.

    It seems with a plethora of strong cases against the issue and almost nothing for it but naive appeals for sympathy for modern, the argument is pretty clear. Nice try again attempting to model a reasonable approach, it's just unreasonable when it's done with no empathy for the reader.

    Taking money for a product means supporting it, will modders being supporting their products? I'm sure there's a good core of people who will use this system perfectly and make some great stuff for great rewards but I fear most mods will be people just looking for a quick buck with a bad product

    Last edited 24/04/15 12:45 pm

      This will 100% happen. It already happens now with people trying out their 'first mods' on the stores, it'll just get worse when money is involved.

        I think refunds are going to be the fallback solution to problems the mod developer is unable or unwilling to fix. Too many refunds and they may have their selling privileges revoked.

    I think it's cool people who mod can make some money back for their efforts. The issue may be the quality of the product produced. Who can govern how much a mod is worth? Would it be supply and demand? Some kind of auction to gauge how much people think something is worth? The Black Mesa mod for example, I'd happily pay like $20 for that. A new skin for Skyrim, though? Not so much.

    Last edited 24/04/15 1:30 pm

    I have no problem with this, but won't they start to bump up against the line companies have drawn in the sand before, free is fine but the second you start making money off of our product we'll get lawyers involved? Valve can do whatever it want's with it's own games but Zenimax gets bitchy fast at times.

      It sounds like the dev/publisher needs to sign off on people having the right to charge for mods. They also seem to get the rights to set the % of profit they want.

    I think one of the more interesting things will be how some of these Mods will compete for consumers $$$ against actual publisher DLC.

    Last edited 24/04/15 1:59 pm

      That actually will be interesting. I think at first there will be no competition as the speed money and resources of the games devs will mean official DLC will probably be released long before any unofficial Mods. However if this new scheme does spawn some professional Modding studio's, then we could see this unofficial vs official DLC becoming a thing.

      Pessimistically however, I can't see any studio's forming for a 25% slice of a small pie, plus it sounds like the Publishers hold all the cards, so they will simply not allow modding, or Mod sales until long after DLC and game is on the decline. There is no doubt Skyrim is on it's last legs, perhaps this was a way to encourage Modders to create new content to help tie ES fans over for what could be another 2-3 years before ES VI

    The potential problem I see, is that developers just have another excuse to release half baked games. Why release a well made game, when you can release a half arsed attempt, then have modders fix the crap for you and bring in money for you, at no extra cost?

    But I guess I'm just cynical. I'll have to see what happens.

    I don't know... in my rather limited experience with mods (most of them for Civilization games), mods not always improve gameplay. On paper they look great, but once you play with them, they are lacking, either technically or at the concept core and the whole thing is actually inferior than the original game. So there's some fun trying mods around and basically seeing what sticks. Which will no longer be possible if they are paid. I certainly do not want to spend money on a mod that I will uninstall a few minutes after playing with it.

    Another worrying issue is that greedy, lazy people will start inundating the workshop with what basically amounts to shovelware mods to make a quick buck. Finding a mod worth your time (and now, money!) may very well signify wading through a mire of crap and maybe making a few mistaken purchases, until people entirely loses enthusiasm and the whole modding community suffer.

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