Paid mods on Steam aren’t a good idea, and here’s why

Valve's paid mods initiative already hit a snag, not even a day after its release

Yesterday, Valve announced a brand new initiative for the Steam Workshop, whereas modders were now able to charge for their created pieces of content. Right now, this only applies to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, as this apparently needs to be greenlit by the Publisher/Developer of individual titles. But Valve stated that more games will be supported in the coming weeks.

In under 24 hours, there was already an issue. One that anyone could have easily predicted, if they were savvy with the inner workings of mods on Steam Workshop. According to a post on Destructoid, a mod titled The Art of the Catch went on sale when Valve made the announcement, but had used assets from another mod that were mandatory for the mod to work. Those assets come from a modder named Fore, and as expected, he's not too happy about it. And for good reason. The mod was being sold using assets that the original modder didn't create.

In my news post about the announcement yesterday, I raised a few concerns as to why I think charging for mods might be a bad idea, and it looks like it didn't even take a full 24 hours for issues to arise. Fore responded to a few threads already regarding the fishing mod, expressing his displeasure towards the mod itself, as well as the new movement of paid mods.


And he has a point. Sure, it might seem like getting paid to effectively change the way a game works, or to even add completely new content to it, is a good idea, but there are too many variables and pitfalls when it comes to mods. Too many for one company, like Valve, to sift through.

Since Skyrim is the only enabled game to support paid mods, I'll refer to my mod experiences based on that game alone. Nothing was more fun than browsing the nearly endless list of graphical, weapon, or questline mods that allowed me to continually change up my game in crazy meaningful, or just plain stupid ways. Hell, one of the things that makes the game look continually better and up to date as the years go by, are the various graphical mods. Thinking back to that experience now, I can't imagine dishing out money for most of those things. Mods are supposed to be a fun way to alter your game. Unlike DLC, which goes through rigorous QA testing and has more or less something to do with the game, mods can often crash your games, render them unplayable. The thought of paying $5 for something like that makes me feel uneasy. And knowing that someone can charge for a mod that they stole assets

Sure, Valve has a countermeasure for broken mods by allowing you to get a refund if the mod doesn't work properly, but that shouldn't be the case here. Not having any sort of quality control over what mods can be charged for, and what mods should stay free is a big mistake here.

This actually most reminds me of the Android/Google Play store. It's one of those cases where anyone with even an inkling of developing knowledge can release any piece of trash, and have the audacity to charge for it, no matter how falsely it's advertised. Granted, at least modders do have skill and prowess to craft something meaningful, but that doesn't mean that terrible and broken mods don't make their way to the Workshop. Now those shitty mods can be charged for, and users will have to go through the painful process of requesting a refund on something that should have been free in the first place.

But what's even more relevant to this sort of quality control was Valve's Greenlight initiative. Upon its release, Steam was flooded with terrible games. This forced Valve to change their policies and started charging developers a 100$ fee to submit their games on Greenlight. While this didn't solve the issue 100%, it actually did do a whole lot of good, and filtered out a lot of the feces that was submitted to Greenlight on a daily basis.

It's rather comforting to see backlash not only from the gaming community on this topic, but from the modding community as well. You can find countless threads like this one, where modders express their outrage. Further proving that sometimes modders just mod for fun. Or perhaps use their modding skills to build up their portfolio. There are numerous cases of modders being hired for full time positions at various studios, which sounds certainly way more appealing than earning a few bucks from a mod.

My suggestion and an easier solution? Turn the Buy button into a Donate button. That way, players would still be able to download the mods for free, and have the ability to support the modder voluntarily. After yesterday's debacle, I'm curious to see how Valve handles future problem with this service.