Analysis, Gaming

The Problem With Paying For Steam Workshop Mods

“With paid mods and items becoming available for sale on the Workshop itself, it means more high quality items, mods, and experiences can be made available for your favorite games.”

By turning Steam Workshop into a digital marketplace for game mods, Valve has just opened a brand new Pandora’s box. Much of the PC gaming community is up in arms over the new move, leading to sweltering debate and controversy. Bethesda has wholeheartedly supported the move, and delivered their own announcement on Steam.

At its core, Valve’s new decision is aimed at giving back to content creators who work hard at creating quality mods. It all sounds good in theory. Take some time to make a mod, list it on the Workshop, and get some extra cash for “doing what you love”.

What could go wrong?

But the move has a lot of sinister implications–some of which might fracture the entire modding community as a whole and ultimately lock every quality add-on behind a paygate. This would effectively turn what was once a beloved past-time into a competitive career of sorts, and jeopardize the future of modding as we know it.

Modders are now becoming merchants, and gamers are once again put into a position where they’re expected to pay out for goods.

Skyrim Mod Marketplace

Currently the mods range from $0.25 to $5 price points, but even that could be a faction of the game’s whole price tag during a sale.

And it all starts with a little game called Skyrim, which is one of the most heavily-modded games of our generation. What better place to start cashing in, right?

Steam makes it clear that users can try paid mods “risk free” and they can get their money back within a 24 hour period. Regardless of how good the risk-free promise sounds, some gamers have already found holes in this refund policy.

Plus some content creators let users pay what they want for the add-on. Right now the Skyrim mod marketplace is filled with $0.25 piecemeal swords and $3.49 weapon packs–nothing too crazy, but it’s still reminiscent of a free-to-play game’s micro-transaction listings.

So what’s the big deal? Why are people arguing about $0.50 swords and items?

Skyrim Dragon Mods

Modders have created such impressive additions to Skyrim that most PC gamers agree that a modded Skyrim is the best game of all time.

Valve might have just killed Nexus

The Nexus is a pillar of the modding community, and has major content portals for popular games like Skyrim, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, Oblivion, Pillars of Eternity, and many, many more. The forums are packed with eager content creators and gamers, all of which convene to share ideas, find fixes, and actively contribute to the community.

The whole idea behind the Nexus–and modding by extension–is creating free tidbits of content that exist outside of the game. The past-time is a way for programmers to sharpen their skills and provide amazing goods for people to enjoy, free of charge. And it’s been this way for quite some time.

Along comes Steam with their Workshop plan, and suddenly those same content creators start to think twice about the Nexus. Why give away something for free when you could potentially make a quick buck–or maybe fifty–off of a hobby?

Dwemer Airship

Mods are about quirky inventions and celebrating innovation, not about making money.

We’ll likely start to see a huge paradigm shift towards this microtransaction-style piecemeal mod-selling practice. Modders might start to leave the Nexus in droves, opting for the opportunity to make cash instead of contribute to the community.

Valve looks as if they’ve just perverted the very nature of mods. What was once one of the major benefits of PC games has now been locked behind a paygate. Valve has effectively turned mods into paid DLC.

Also some modders are only uploading new updates of popular mods on the Workshop instead of the Nexus, ensuring you’ll have to pay to get the latest goods.

Let’s look at the Skyrim mod “Wet and Cold”, for example. The mod is v 2.0 on the Workshop and sells for $5, whereas the free version of Wet and Cold on TES Nexus is v 1.422. So despite being downloaded almost 2 million times on The Elder Scrolls Nexus, the developer wants you to pay up $5 to get the latest version.

That certainly has to sting, and a lot of PC gamers are starting to feel quite jaded.

(Cont’d. on Page 2)

  • obarthelemy

    That’s a weird stance to take. Sure, a free lunch is great. About as great as FreeCiv is compared to Civilization, ie, not *that* great. For-pay stuff has a tendency to be better, and to… actually exist. Can you imagine how sad our PCs and phones would be if all the for-pay stuff disappeared ?
    I know having to pay for stuff hurts, especially when that stuff used to be free. But maybe devs deserve a shot a making a living ?

  • UpTide

    How can this possibly be allowed by the terms of service for these games? It is almost piracy, using their game as a platform to make money. Do the original game developers get any piece of the ‘modding’ pie made in their oven?

  • Wow. I haven’t played Skyrim in ages… can’t believe that of all titles they’re monetizing THAT title… at least try something current… I understand it’s heavily modded but WOW.

    I see SO many issues with monetizing mods at all to be honest. Who’s to say someone doesn’t steal somebody else’s free mod, and repost as their own… they could easily dig through the web to find some other person’s free mod… open it up in the editor, easily drop a couple new bits of data into it, and then claim it as theirs. Or what about the chance of someone paying, hypothetically, $5 for what’s supposed to be a kick@$$ sword mod… to find out it was some shmoe the made a block of wood stick to your arm instead; sure there’s the refund process… but one of the most painful things about Steam is trying to get ANY sort of refund… at least from my own experience… often times they want to credit your account and make it virtual money… getting money put back onto your debit/credit card is like pulling teeth!