As quick as it started, it ended. Late last week, Valve announced it had found a new way to make money, by allowing home developers to charge for some of the more popular mods available for Bethesda Game’s Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Despite micro-transactions for hats and swords all over the marketplace already, there was swift and violent outrage to the idea that some people would charge for their mods. Now, in response to user feedback, Valve has turned the feature off, issuing a refund to anyone who purchased a mod, and assuaging the anger of the community at the very idea they might allow people to charge for their work.
The company’s intentions setting out were noble. Valve has a long history of supporting modders, which is why we now have popular games like Defense of the Ancients 2, DayZ, and even the Counter-Strike games, all of which started as mods for popular games like Warcraft and Half-Life. As the Valve employee Alden Kroll put it in the announcement today, “We thought this would result in better mods for everyone, both free & paid” which would “allow mod makers the opportunity to work on their mods full time if they wanted to, and to encourage developers to provide better support to their mod communities.”
But that wasn’t how the community saw it. Users from all over the net found their way to the message boards to complain that this was just another example of hats for Team Fortress 2, an opportunity for Valve to line its pockets with revenue from content it hadn’t produced. In response, developers sold mods for lofty prices that did little to nothing in the game, like giving the player a chicken familiar, or putting extra fruit in random places.
It’s always refreshing to see a company respond so nimbly to user feedback, even if its also in their own self-interest to continue selling games and bringing modders into their community. A number of commenters on the post are hoping that Valve will bring a “Donate” button to the Steam Workshop, allowing users who enjoy content to contribute to the people who made it directly. Modding has long been a staple of PC gaming for its ability to bring together gamers, as well as add value to a game long after its done updating. If that’s the sort of community Valve and Bethesda are looking to build, then making all mods free from the Workshop was the right choice.
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