Home / Modding / Paid Mods Are a Good Thing (but don’t worry, my mods will always be free)

Paid Mods Are a Good Thing (but don’t worry, my mods will always be free)


In the wake of Steam’s announcement yesterday that they would allow modders to sell mods, there has been a huge uproar over what this means for the modding community. There is even a petition to get rid of Steam’s paywall that has been signed by over 40,000 people already. As an active game modder, I feel like I need to explain why I support paid mods as an important step in the right direction for intellectual property (IP) owners and fans.

Modding is my hobby. I’ve created dozens of mods for Mass Effect and the only reward I need is seeing other people enjoying my creations – I will never charge for my mods or expect to make money off them. That being said, I’ve only created simple texture and mesh mods – I’ve never done anything close to DLC-scale modding content like you see in Skyrim. If I had put the man-hours and effort into doing something that complex, would I feel differently about charging for my mods? Definitely.

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Paid mods allow modders to make money from their creations, closing the gap between amateur and professional developer. It’s an opportunity for talented modders to be rewarded monetarily. And, because talented modders will be able to make money from their hobby, they will be inspired to create bigger and better mods.

This is important – the fact that IP restrictions kept the modding market free for so long doesn’t mean that “free” is its natural or efficient state. If there is a supply and demand, money is going to be exchanged. And that’s not a bad thing. Think of your favorite mods – would you have paid any amount of money for them? I would have. For the makers of Falskaar and Wyrmstooth, I would have shelled out DLC-money and not begrudged them one cent, because those mods are so freaking good.

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Paid mods are great for creators, but we as a gaming community have to make sure that the creators are the ones benefiting most, not the middlemen (like Steam).

There are so many problems inherent in Steam’s modding revenue split model. First, the question of who should be making money off mods is pretty complex. Should the modder get paid? Most would probably say “yes” but many mods use elements of other pre-existing models that probably belong to either another game franchise or another modder. Should those people from whom a mod is derived get paid? Or ultimately, since the mods are intended for use in a certain game environment (like Skyrim), should the game company (like Bethesda) be paid? How many ways should the pie be split, and what should each piece look like? Certainly, not the paltry 25% split for modders as in the case of Steam’s deal with Skyrim/Bethesda.

Regardless of how you feel about IP and derivative work, I think we can all pretty much agree that Steam shouldn’t be getting ANY percentage of mod sales.

(I wouldn’t begrudge Steam a flat fee for brokering the deal. But really, they’re middlemen, not content or value creators, and they should be rewarded as such.)

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Overall, I think Steam’s move to help creators monetize mods is a step in the right direction, though I find their implementation wonting.

Modding is only a small part of the puzzle. My hope for the future is that IP owners open up this business model to all avenues of creativity. What if amateur fanfic writers had a platform to make money from their fics? What if amateur artists had a platform to sell their fandom-inspired work? What if amateur musicians had a platform to sell their derivative songs? What if companies stopped serving DMCA takedown notices and instead settled for a small cut of the profit? As a creator, I fervently hope this will be the ultimate evolution of IP ownership.

What are your thoughts on the issue? Let me know in comments!

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  1. I also quite agree with your view.

    Paid mods aren’t a new thing either and some people are totally unaware that in simulations such as Microsoft Flight Simulator paid mods exist and some of them are also quite expensive. There is also no guarantee that such mods will work with your current mod set up, and trying to prevent conflicts with so many variables is just not possible.

    However they decide to split the revenue, I think modders should be allowed to get some revenue and I also think that enough time for a refund should be granted so that people can return mods that conflict with their set up.

  2. I’d like modders to get the lion’s share for sure. And there are certainly ways to pay modders when their work is used as part of another modders work. You don’t want a modder making minor change to another moddder’s work and making 100% of the revenue most of the time, so it’s essentially a licensing agreement wherein the original modder gets a percentage of another modder’s sale based on the degree to which the derivative work is comprised of another developer’s mod.

    I’m going to change your mind on Valve/Steam getting a cut because it is they who provide the service, handle the payments and customer service, including what to do when a modder falls off the face of the planet and their mod breaks, crediting refunds, and, of course, maintaining a popular site which improves sales. They’re not really middlemen, but service providers and system managers.

    But I can’t see them raking in such a large percentage, either. Maybe 10% of a sale. Maybe 20% if their splitting that with the game publisher

  3. Steam isn’t just a middleman though, are they?
    Aren’t they the ones hosting all the data for the mods and providing the method to download it all?
    From what I know I don’t think they’re any more a middleman than my local supermarket is for me and the farmers.

  4. I don’t believe paid mods would lead to better mods. As you’ve said, mods like Falskaar came out before this debacle. Not to mention all the mods the use modder’s resources. Resources that could now very well dry up because people don’t want others profiting off of their work. And what of joint projects? How would those be handled? Paid mods would just destroy that. Now take Sky UI and it going paid only. Now how many Skyrim mods depend on that mod to work? How many people are going to find their mods depending on it in the future break because of this? Suddenly you have a situation where you have to pay money for these key mods. What if SKSE went money only? Seems almost every big mod uses that one. All this will do, and already has done, is create another piracy market. All the while destroying the good will the community has built up over the years. Along with mods that shouldn’t be charged for like a simple re-skin going for five dollars. These are the types of things that will happen. It’s not a matter of it but when. Now donations would be fine. The Nexus does this and it’s commendable. Heck, you ask for donations so you can appreciate that much. A straight up pay wall is not. Especially when you’ll have people selling mods for indie developer prices. Games that took a lot more effort to make then a re-skinned sword. There’s just no way to police this kind of thing and it’ll devolve into chaos.

    • I Agree with GameGeeks. if essential mods which is used for almost every all other mods like SKSE, SkyUI, FNIS, SexLab Framework, and some others are have to be paid, i can’t even imagine that i can continue to mod skyrim anymore. For example : SKSE’s price is $100, if we can’t afford that, then we have no future in playing skyrim with mods, if that happen, pay $100 or bear with playing skyrim w/o mods. And if they sell it for $400 then…….!!!!! Not to mention other essential mods like SkyUI, FNIS, SexLab Framework, SFO, SMIM, CoT, ELFX, etc. As for me myself, i can’t play skyrim w/o mods, it just sucks.
      Well we can always use the simplest and best method to avoid paying, uninstall skyrim.

      • I know this is old but I’d like to address this (especially since this system is still a hot topic to consider, especially with Fallout 4 coming out), as someone that would rather see free mods overall but still try to flesh out the idea of paid mods. See, the thing is that in a market economy, competition would more or less sort this out, eventually. But that’s exactly the problem, there is no traditional market economy, so to speak and there is already a huge and established “open-source” system. The introduction of a market system would destroy this, even if it does come back to “fix it”. SKSE would not able to keep a price of $100 (unless there is intervention by Bethesda) since, I’m sure, there would be others that would sell a competing product for much less. I mean there are already people that put their products over paywalls, hell there are those that people OTHER peoples mods over paywalls.

        Still if you look at it, games like Second Life have been quite successful using such a system, relatively and arguably of course. The problem here, as the above have said, is that many mods depend on other mods and this would create a further stalled system. Overall, a paid mod system would not work out if it formatted in a similar manner as the previous one. I’m also sure that many modders will group together (or get taken advantage of) by “corporate groups”. Look at TSR (The Sims Resource), their paywall system didn’t really work out as many of their “VIP” mods got pirated and they eventually switched to a pure ad system (not to mention their illegal actions).

        I personally think that a donate and ad-based system for modders would work the best. It seems to be working for the Nexus, TSR, Curse, etc. There are just too many issues with direct-paid mods. There’s a market and it could be achieved but as we have noticed, the backlash from it wouldn’t bold well for the community, not to mention all the other issues that come from it.

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