Steam announcement: http://steamcommunity.com/workshop/aboutpaidcontent
Steam announced today that they now support mod authors charging for content. They can set the price to whatever they want, including free and ‘pay what you want’ and I’m absolutely for this. The idea that mods should be free is a strong one, as a lot of games continue for years down the line. Strong communities for good games thrive on free mods but there are lots of games that are new and have fantastic mods. Skyrim is notable as the first game to have paid content like this, but also as being a relatively modern game that would really have died a long time ago without mods.
But it is a double edge sword. Why would mod creators release free content ever? After all, if no content is free then everyone makes money. And then there is the piracy issue. People will take these files, decrypt them, refund them and then publish the free versions themselves. Or people will be greedy and take free content created by others and make money off of it themselves, without really doing any work. While these are potential problems, they are examples of people doing things that, really, are bad.
As far as the ‘mods should always be free’ argument, that’s a problem in and of itself. Lots of mods never get finished because those modders determined that their free time was more valuable to them, which leads to disappointments. Being monetized means that modders can support their mods for a longer time (potentially, although lots of modders do this already). Games have long had both free and paid content, so there’s no reason to believe mods will be any different. Also, it should be mentioned that paid modded content has existed before. DOOM, Quake and Duke Nukem used to feature ‘community packs’, total conversions and multiplayer maps on CD-ROMS in collections for people to buy (this was before high-speed internet made such things trivial). I have a link here for those who had never seen such things: https://archive.org/details/doom-cds
Now firstly, I should hope this means mod creators will fairly justify when it’s right to charge. Is a simple weapon worth paying for? Probably not. A reskin of armour? Nope. But a 3 hour quest line? Sure, especially if it has high production values. The reason is, these people put a lot of their spare time and effort into doing something and getting next to no recognition for it and all for free. So first, let’s hope that they don’t charge money for really poor content. Valve has put a refund process into place, so bad mods will probably be notable right away.
Some have suggested Valve add a “Donate” button as a payment choice and I think this would be an excellent decision but I think it should be available as an option if the mod Author wants to add it so no matter what price they choose, they can have donations as well. Valve also has DMCA takedown notices for people who steal content. Hopefully these files will be encrypted (although early experimentation points to a solid no on that) so that authors cannot be ripped off but mostly I think this is good for the community because it’s change. Things don’t have to be done the way they always have been. Maybe this experiment will fail or maybe it will show us a new age where modders and game developers aren’t so different.
Finally, if you are upset over this I ask you: Do you have a problem paying developers money for their product, if that product is something you want for a fair price? Then should modders be any different?