It’s just typical that, when I take a week off from writing articles (thank you, aabicus!) and just post the backlog of stuff that I already have (again, thank you aabicus), that everything starts blowing up. Big time. Now I’m sitting here, writing this article and being massively late on everything that’s happened. On the plus side, I can sit here all smug and go over it all with you.
On the 23rd of April, Valve announced a new way to support modders. This was the brand spanking new Paid Mods for the Skyrim Workshop. Basically, some mods now required you to purchase them, rather than mods always being free with an optional donate button. The idea sounded fine – let’s be frank, modders can spend a HUGE amount of work on their mods, particularly on beauties such as Wyrmstooth. So letting them get more money sounded fine.
The problem was how Valve had done it. There was no way to rate mods without buying them. There was nothing stopping anyone from buying a mod and releasing it for free. There was no way of stopping someone making a non-functional mod and selling it for money. There was nothing stopping someone from taking someone else’s mod and selling that. And the money that mods made was pitiful – for every copy of a mod sold, the mod maker(s) would only get 25% of the money;the rest went into Valve and Bethesda’s pockets. People were fearing that paid for mods would stifle the community, making people reluctant to share their resources, or people having to constantly buy mods, because so many mods relied on the work of other mods. On top of all this, there were rumors that people with donation buttons on their Steam Workshop pages were getting their links removed.
The internet, or at least a small part of it, exploded. There was so much uproar that the Skyrim Nexus, probably THE biggest place to get mods, had their forum server break down.
Within the first 24 hours of this new system being released, one mod was already removed, for containing ‘stolen’ resources. One of the people who Valve and Bethesda had contacted before the release of the new Workshop to provide some paid for mods. The guy ended up losing not only the first paid mod, but also other mods that he’d made on his own.
In some vague attempt at damage control, Gabe Newell did an AMA on Reddit. Questions were asked and answered, but by then the anger was already spreading like wildfire. The worst hit were the poor folks who’d been approached by Valve and Bethesda and gone on to add price tags to their mods. They were attacked ruthlessly via their comments, being called sellouts and worse.
There was little light in the situation. While SKSE promised they’d remain free forever, SkyUI were pondering about a paid version. Then it all blew up again when people realised that if you refunded a mod, whether it was because you didn’t like it or some other reason, you’d be banned from using the Steam Workshop for 7 days. Why? Apparently to stop people pirating mods, but as if that would be of any use.
In the end, Valve and Bethesda gave up, ended the new Workshop and gave everyone refunds. Everyone was happy, but a huge amount of trust had been lost. They’d picked entirely the wrong modding community to try this experiment on and underestimated the backlash. Perhaps if Valve had tried this with Garry’s Mod, where most addons are standalone and there’s already an existing paid-for mod market, the results may have been better. But the whole scenario was a total mess.
It’s sad really, because the idea had great intentions, it was just so poorly implemented.
And honestly? Just adding a Donate button would have been so much easier.