Update: Gabe Newell had a long spontaneous AMA about the paid mods for Skyrim yesterday on /r/gaming and in the end decided to remove the feature.
We understand our own game’s communities pretty well, but stepping into an established, years old modding community in Skyrim was probably not the right place to start iterating. We think this made us miss the mark pretty badly, even though we believe there’s a useful feature somewhere here.
Steam rolled out paid mods for games yesterday starting with Skyrim. There has been an extremely loud backlash against this in most gaming communities for several reasons that people feel it will be detrimental to the gaming and modding scene. To start off, the mod creator is getting 25% of profits while the store gets 75%. Steam says they’re splitting the profits from the Skyrim mods with Bethesda but don’t say whether it’s 25/50% of the sale or if it’s an even 37.5/37.5%. Also, developers of mods must earn at least $100 before they ever receive any money from Steam – actually $400 in sales before they get their $100 check.
One problem that may not be evident now is what happens when you buy a mod that doesn’t work with other mods that you’ve purchased and the developer of the mod is either no longer around or doesn’t feel like fixing it. There doesn’t seem to be a way to get a refund or any support from anyone else. Some mods even require other mods to work – this means that if a dependancy mod that you use to get several other mods working goes out of date, it will cause several of your mods to cease working. This isn’t like paid DLC where it’s guaranteed to work with your game and not interfere with other parts. Once people start paying for stuff they are going to feel very entitled to a working version all the time-not to mention help and support.
Then there’s the whole “supporting the modders” line that you really have to be dim to believe. Mods that were available over on Nexus just last week are now up on the Steam Workshop for money. Wet and Cold for instance has been updated to version 2.0 and includes various small “tweaks and fixes” and is no longer available on Nexus and Isoku asks you to uninstall his old version and to purchase the new version for $4.99. Some mods are only 99 cents, and while $1 isn’t a lot, there are people with literally hundreds of mods installed for Skyrim. It’s crowd sourcing microtransactions and the modders only get a 25% cut. You can go right now on Steam and buy a sword model for a single player game for $1 or you can go to Nexus and get mods that add 30+ hours of gameplay and overhaul the graphics entirely.
As hard as it is to believe – Steam isn’t the same as it was 5-10 years ago. They couldn’t get games on their store fast enough so instead of expanding their employee base to compensate, they introduce Greenlight to have us vote which games should be on Steam for them. Then when that failed they introduced Steam Curators that is basically another way for other people to do their work of identifying poorly made games, scams, and other trash. They are notorious for having some of the worst customer service on the internet and they have a monopoly on PC gaming and have made no real improvements to improve their customer service. It’s a sad day when it’s easier to get refunds and to pick up freebies that you missed by a couple days from EA’s Origin than it is on Steam.