Will the current model for mods pay out like companies want them to?

The Internet has gone a bit loco with the whole Steam and mods thing going on. For those who have happened to miss what’s going on, Steam has mods for sale.

For a long line PC gamer, that may sound absolutely horrible.

While I agree with that notion, it’s never that simple when it comes to money. Mods have been more often than not been there from the community for the community. In some cases a mod or similar has been deemed good enough by the original product owner to see the day of light in commercial form, and it’s not too rare to see unlicensed mods to see the day of light on disc. Sometimes from Chinese selling free mods, but that’s another matter as a whole.

However, I also agree that a provider has the right to apply a price to their product, and thus request a payment in exchange for their effort. As an idea, Steam allowing or encouraging the sales of mods doesn’t sound too bad. Enforcing however is laughable at best, and seeing how the modder doesn’t actually benefit from the mods to the same degree as Valve and the original product owners do. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

This, however, is nothing new when it comes to Steam and Valve runs it. All the sales and such have been degrading the small developers position for some time, indie or not. People buy hundreds upon hundreds of games for just few dollars from various sales and bundles, making the games’ value essentially worthless. A developer has little to no control over the pricetag of their product. For a small developer, getting a dollar from a game that should sell at least at twenty dollars is not a punch to the gut, it’s knife stab with some skewing to go with it.

Steam at one point seemed to get every single console game ported to it. Big companies with large libraries from their almost thirty years of existence, or more, can do quick and cheap conversions to Steam and have that low price. The occasional big name then will rake in some bucks at the full price, and then it’ll go into sale. After this the company barely will even note the revenue it might bring in. Much like how children are criticised to want instant gratification nowadays, it could be argued that these companies are the exact same. Only the first few weeks matter, then forget it. Wait for the next five years or more until you get a new game for the series. Push out some DLC that was made during the production and all that, so you can rake in some more money, perhaps put a microtransaction element to fully abuse the consumer’s enthusiasm.

There is a group of people who have seen this as a last straw and are quitting Steam. All I really want to know is why are they quitting at this point, as this is the environment they helped to built.

Steam, as a whole, is unnecessary. Has always been, more or less. Why do we have Steam, the digital video game console on PC? PC used to be a free platform in the sense that anyone could produce something and put it on sale. Now it seems it has to be on Steam, or otherwise it will be doomed. Or at least that’s what the company and the most fanatic users want you to believe. In reality, Steam did nothing to make Minecraft a success it is. In Japan, where PC market is more or less solely for the otaku pandering porn games and visual novels, some franchises have stricken gold outside Steam, both before and after its arrival.

The whole selling mods thing seems more like a way to outsource actual content of a game like Skyrim to the consumers themselves. If a game sees high amounts of mods that add content to the game, why should the developer do any additional content themselves? The modders at Steam also need to make hundreds of dollars before they see any money from their work, and it seems it is Bethesda that rakes in the bucks.

Another issue is that mods are not the most reliable thing in the world. They will be broken by other mods, they will be broken by game updates and simple incompatible details in folders or other trivial things. What then when a game gets updated and a mod you purchased doesn’t work anymore? The modder is not liable to update the mod in any way, even if it would be decent ethics. Now that the mod is tied to a shop system like Steam, no other party can just take it and make it work with or without the original modder. I’m sure there is some sort of unwritten code with PC modders, something like honour among thieves sort of thing.

While I missed the whole golden age of modding scenes with consoles and arcade games, I’m no stranger in scrounging the Internet for rumoured mods and applying them. I remember the small crusade I had to do for a total conversion UC Gundam mod for Homeworld 2. I doubt there exists any downloads for that anymore, unless they actually managed to roll out that 3.0 or similar version. That poses another issue for the mod store; you are unable to get any license contradicting mods there of any kind. I doubt you could beforehand, but the point stands. You wouldn’t find something like that UC Gundam conversion on Steam, because the modder didn’t own any legal rights. But then again, it’s not uncommon to hear Cease and Desists letters arriving to modders’ mail boxes. It seems that current license holders are far too eager to protect their IP

It’s a harsh reality, but companies have rights to their products and they will take any chance to maximise their profits even when it is at the expense of the more enthusiastic consumers. While I can understand that, this really is a short term thing and will only create revenue on the short term, if at all, the real question is if they should do things like this at all. On the long run it is better to keep your customers happy and have a steady stream rather than sudden arguable spikes and then low income when the hype is gone and people have gone. Satisfied customer is returning customer, and lately it seems less and less customers come out satisfied.

The dynamics between the consumer and modder will decide whether or not the current situation is acceptable.

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