You may have read our piece about Steam Workshop Allowing Mod Creators to Charge for Mods & Why It’s A Good Thing yesterday, and you may have felt one way or the other about it as this is a widely polarizing issue. Polarizing meaning that you either agree or not, there’s not many folks falling into the middle ground right now. At the time of writing this piece, and still now, I feel that what’s going on with the backlash against this move by Valve is part of a larger issue going on as they take steps to embrace a free market. The messiness that often comes with that free market approach, and the growing pains of the consumers using their wallets to vote but seemingly being afraid or unprepared for the responsibility to do so has become a large issue with Early Access and now will be for Paid Mods.
However, that being said it is a bit worse of a situation than Early Access at this current time. Now that Paid Mods are possible with Skyrim it has become the situation that many false listings are being thrown up by users who did not create the mods they are uploading and charging money for. This is abuse of the system and not what Steam Paid Mods was intended for. And in this exact situation Valve’s approach of letting the free market sort itself out is taking the “messy, growing pains” factor to an all-time high where it resembles something more like “wild, wild west” or “lawless” proportions of literally theft and highway robbery.
I still stand by what I said about Paid Mods being a good thing. One interesting point brought up was the fact that an ex-employee of MAXIS who made some of the best SimCity games of yester-year now makes a living due to donations he receives to make mods to Cities: Skylines with the developer’s permission. Both getting paid for his hard work and expertise and giving birth to city building game experience enhancements that otherwise the industry would be less of a quality industry without.
But at this time I cannot recommend that anybody partake in paying for the mods being sold until they can very clearly verify (double check, triple check, quadruple check) that the mod creators are in control of their own content and not just having their work stolen for profit. In regards to the 75% Valve is taking for each mod sale, it is widely assumed that part of that amount is being given to the game in question’s publisher (in Skyrim’s case Bethesda / Zenimax) at a negotiable rate (hence why we are not told how much of that percent, Valve wants to give what they feel is fair and judge that on a case by case basis understandably).
What needs to be understood here is that Steam’s future, whether you choose to be a part of it or not, is all about opening the floodgates of content creators large or small, independently funded or billion dollar backed, film or games, apps or micro-transactions, user-generated content or full blown expansion, linux or windows, social justice or lawlessly indulgent, straight or gay, trans or lesbian, consequences be damned. They are trying to do big things. Exactly what they are trying to accomplish with each of their moves will not always be clear and often times the policies of Steam will be shaped by the journey they took to reach their final destinations. The bigger point of all this is that their solutions once eventually achieved are solutions that fit the market at large rather than swoop in to regulate smaller situations.
In order for them to continue exacting this methodology there will be a giant train wreck of feature roll-outs that happen such as Paid Mods every so often. Their PR speak today on this matter is not just to quell the masses, they literally believe the free market and PC Gaming consumer will ultimately end up shaping the way Steam’s Paid Mods system works and so they are giving the power to the users to inevitably decide with their actions which mods deserve to be paid for and which don’t. Unfortunately, this grand plan is getting sloppy and messy and approaching an unacceptable level of collateral damage.
It is very likely that GOG and services like it will begin to roll out more advanced software for their marketplaces taking advantage of this growing distaste for Steam’s disregard for users who fall through the cracks and can’t resist falling into the pit of mistakes that can be made in a system allowing such a free market that even illegal transactions and fool’s errand projects are occurring daily. That will be a good thing for us as gamers, but it’s sad to see Valve stumble when their overall grand idea is actually a good one. Time will tell if they will learn how to express these concepts to their mainstream audience in a better way and if they’ll figure out how to continue expanding their free market approach without allowing such rampant abuse to go on. One thing’s for sure, there will be competition emerging to challenge their position now that a pocket of resistance has formed against Valve’s philosophic ideas within their customer-base.
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