The entire internet (only a slight exaggeration there) exploded this week over Valve’s decision to work with selected game studios to allow modders to charge for their amateur game plugins on the Steam Workshop, cutting Valve and said studios a huge slice of the profit pie. Regardless of whether you think paid mods are acceptable, most people seem to agree that Valve hasn’t handled it very well at all, given the number of stolen mods and fraudulent DMCA take-downs flying around the Workshop right about now.
I’ve been modding video games a really long time, both creating my own and obsessively downloading, playing, and tweaking mods made by others. Half the reason I still play World of Warcraft is to tinker with UI addons, and I even created some housing retexes for the late great Star Wars Galaxies. I’ve also made money on some of my non-MMO mods — yes, made money on game mods, 15 years ago when it was a broadly accepted thing. Anyone who was gaming back then remembers Sims paysites, the bandwidth bubble, and the Skindex fiasco; in a weird way, this is all just a little bit of history repeatin’.
I’m certain the slapdash and minimally regulated way Valve is going about it is the wrong way and will surely drive some good modders from the hobby, but I’m not wholly against allowing game modders — let’s be real here, they’re amateur game designers — to go pro and profit from their hard work as long as doing so comports with the game’s EULA. I pay for apps that build on Android; I pay for plugins that build on WordPress. I’m happy to pay for professional work.
At the same time, I don’t love watching the global modding community become monetized and polarized all over again. From an MMO perspective, I worry that the industry is beginning its descent down a slippery slope. MMORPG fans are already divided on whether interface plugins make games too easy or too transparent; will we someday soon be embroiled in feuds over whether paid MMORPG interface plugins create haves and have-nots or make content pay-to-win?
What do you think about the Workshop debacle? Would you pay for MMO mods?