How Valve nearly ruined everything with paid mods
Valve Corporation has had an excellent reputation amongst gamers for a very long time. Their bibliography of titles includes some of the most ground-breaking and critically acclaimed games of the past 20 years, most notably Half-Life and its sequels. Steam, a major Valve project for over ten years, is the number one gaming platform for PC with frequent heavy discounts on great games, not to mention free multiplayer and social networking features. They have done so many great things for PC gaming over the years that the company’s co-founder, Gabe “Gaben” Newell, has been turned into a (tongue-in-cheek) deity to the gaming community. The people love Valve and want it to continue to thrive.
And yet, in just a matter of days, and with one single action, they nearly ruined all of that.
Valve has long been friendly to modders: members of the gaming community who create third-party content that can enhance or change aspects of games. Many of Valve’s early staff were modders and many of their games began as mods for Half-Life. The Steam Workshop provides a platform for modders to offer their work to the public in a way that anyone can easily grasp. Traditionally, mods have been given away for free, with little compensation available to modders, but Valve attempted to change that by introducing paid mods, starting with Skyrim. They thought they were doing modders a great service by allowing them to profit from their hard work.
Well, they fucked it up. Big time.
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The majority of modders are NOT looking to make money off their work. To them, it is a hobby, and sometimes even a public service if they create patches for horribly buggy games. Even if they did want to make money from modding (with someone taking this opportunity to charge $100 for a mod that enhances horse genitalia, not kidding), they still do it as a labour of love, not only for the game but for the community that has grown around their work. They’d appreciate a donation, but forcing us to cough up cash for something that may heavily affect gameplay is not really the way to go. Valve essentially decided that they were going to put mods behind a paywall, and I’ve been on the Internet long enough to know that this is a very bad idea.
Gaben somehow got the idea into his head that “money is how the community steers work”, a quote direct from an impromptu AMA on Reddit after all this blew up. Gaben is wrong. It doesn’t happen often, but he’s wrong. Besides, the revenue from paid mods was to be split 3:1—Valve and the original game’s developer (Bethesda, in the case of Skyrim) would get 75 per cent, while the modder would get the rest. That is incredibly dodgy. 25 per cent isn’t much, and the idea that a modder would be able to make a living is pretty much bullshit.
To many members of the gaming community, Valve’s introduction of paid mods made them look like EA, a company obsessed with squeezing every penny out of its customers while giving them very little in return. EA’s reputation earned it the title of Worst Company in America twice in a row.
Thankfully, Valve have since backpedalled on the whole plan. The company was inundated with constant negative feedback about paid mods, including on the Steam forums. A Change.org petition to convince Valve to reconsider got a whopping 133,013 signatures and was able to declare victory in just four days. That is the power of community. Gamers spoke out unequivocally against a stupid idea and were able to kill it before any major damage could be done.
Does this mean, though, that Valve is the bad guy here? Well, not really; if anything, it shows that they care about what gamers want and will listen. Most companies would just push ahead even if their idiocy was staring them right in the face. Gaben and Valve took the time to hear what we had to say, and took action. The paid mods are gone. Thank fuck for that.
And while Valve are still listening, I’d like to tell them a few things: overhaul Steam Greenlight so shit can’t get through, moderate Early Access so games actually get finished, finish Half-Life 3, and, most importantly, ༼つ ◕_◕ ༽つ VOLVO GIVE DIRETIDE.