Sunday 26 April 2015

Commercial mods

Wouldn't it be great if there was some way for mod teams who make expansive mods to get paid for their significant work, maybe on Steam. Shame they can't and PC gaming is dead according to the backlash to the backlash about Skyrim mods.

The actual implementation chosen for the paid mod marketplace may have been one of those exceptional times when every group loses. It's not easy to build systems that fail all.

Game players now have a search issue that has financial costs rather than just being a "grab and see" process. You now have to possibly buy into some mods to get the game you want; this is a massive barrier that it's easy to understate. Especially due to "value" (games are (for the content) cheap, DLC is generally far less cheap, mods appear to be coming in at DLC or worse value levels) concerns.

Valve, who have spent forever locking down their system to avoid having too much DMCA takedown and other copyright infringement work, are now getting financial gain from an unmoderated store. Their earlier UGC stuff was all carefully crafted to avoid this issue (at the cost of making each piece expensive to put up) and a small curated store meant every item could be popular.

The publisher now has competition for the commercial DLC they put out in the form of commercial mods. This was always what "no you can't sell it" stipulations were about - it means you could sell your expansion pack. Yes, their cut doesn't have the costs associate with Valve's work (although they probably need those lawyers to be primed for the copyright infringement claims they'll be co-defendant on if Valve don't take down content fast enough and hand over any money). Their game can also lose value by perception (game players now see the PC release as worth less due to increased "cost" to find the mods they want to play with).

And modders now have the same commercial "app store" myth to push them to try and make money when 99% of people just make something no one will play. The few success stories push everyone to try and charge and find out that no one is buying their small mod (that can't compete with the value of Skyrim being $5 for the base game, which took 100+ people several years to make - your solo mod would take you literally hundreds of years to get the same work done so you're always going to be offering something like 1% of the "value" of the $5 game - so a fair price is 5 cents, or nothing when rounding). A few individual modders will get to do it for a living but as a group, modders now have a more volatile group of consumers who are expected to provide more search labour to avoid being scammed. Those who will make money this way, if they did work that wasn't incremental, could be making those mods into commercial indie releases. Those who do incremental work may well be better served working as a contractor or inside the studio system making those assets for the next game. The ideas of open collaboration and remix culture are destroyed by commercial concerns while the extrinsic motivators suppress the intrinsic ones.