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Bethesda’s Todd Howard responds to Starfield paid mods controversy

A player character in third person looking out over a snowy planet in Starfield
Bethesda Softworks

Bethesda Game Studios director Todd Howard has addressed recent concerns about Starfield‘s paid mods, which echo long-standing issues between the company and its modding community.

This debacle began with the launch of the Creation Kit, which dropped on Steam following the Xbox Games Showcase last week. This allows people to make new additions to the game — including Bethesda, which used it to market some new Trackers Alliance bounty-hunting missions. While the first one in the pack was offered for free, many fans expressed disappointment that the second mission was locked behind a $7 paywall in Creations.

In a video interview with YouTuber MrMattyPlays, Howard says that the company has heard the community feedback and will adjust how it does these paid mods in the future.

“First of all I’ll say that stuff gets priced based on things that we’ve done before both in Creation Club and then Fallout 76, and we’re always trying to be looking at what else is out there, really make sure we’re giving value to everybody and where we’re not, hey you know, we definitely will adjust,” Howard says.

“The one thing I want to say on The Trackers Alliance, that was really an attempt to something we did in Creation Club where we’d say, hey you get this special outfit and you get this special weapon, we wanted to put them together, and then thought, let’s go the extra mile and wrap those around a quest,” he continues. “But now we definitely see the feedback right? And that’s not what we want at all in terms of, oh no, this looks like a faction that we’re chopping up and then selling for 700 credits at a time. And so I do think we are going to take a look at that and how we deliver content like that, and whether we’re changing pricing or breaking it up or what we should do there.”

“We need Creation Kit along with Steam Workshop support would be nice (but no paid mods),” one user said on Steam. At the time of this writing, recent reviews are “Mostly Negative,” with many players noting that Bethesda’s history with the modding community and its apparent reliance on it to improve the game (their words) as a bad sign for Starfield‘s future.

The company has provided numerous resources for modders in the past, but has previously come under fire for supporting paid mods in games like Skyrim. While Bethesda backed down on that decision in 2015, it recently released an update for The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim Anniversary Edition that put paid and free mods under its Creations banner. Not only did this break a lot of established mods, but it brought up debates about whether this content, which is often created as a hobby and for free, should benefit Bethesda.

“A lot of [creators] have gone from hobbyists to professionals, and it’s part of our job to make sure they can do that and that they do get paid and they see the monetary rewards from if they make awesome content,” Howard said in the interview, adding that there are still a lot of free mods people can download and use.

The interview is around an hour long, and Howard addresses a lot of other questions about the future of Bethesda’s franchises, including the long wait between mainline series releases. The Elder Scrolls 6 was announced in 2018, and there have been very few updates since then.

“I totally get the desire for a new kind of mainline single-player game and — look, those things take time,” Howard says. “I don’t think it’s bad for people to miss things, right? So we just want to get it right and make sure that everything we’re doing in a franchise, whether it’s Elders Scrolls or Fallout or now Starfield, that those become, you know, meaningful moments for everybody who loved these franchises as much as we do.”
Carli Velocci
Carli is a technology, culture, and games editor and journalist. They were the Gaming Lead and Copy Chief at Windows Central…
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