Death of the Critic

Paid Mods and Giving Creators Their Due

Written by: Tom Blaich


Bethesda just cannot catch a break. This year at the
Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), along with announcing yet another version of Skyrim, they stated that they would be implementing a system whereby they would be able to begin charging for select modifications for their games.
This has made a lot of people very angry, and been widely regarded as a bad move.

Almost immediately, the collective game community had a conniption, with resurfacing memories of the Valve paid mod debacle of 2015. Part of this is probably due to broad opinions about and distrust of Bethesda, but another part of it is due to a general unwillingness to pay for things within the games community. Especially things that were once available for free.

I am (understandably) apprehensive of Bethesda being the one to implement this system, but I do like the idea at its core. Mod creators put in dozens, if not hundreds of hours of work to create improvements and enhancements for games, and rely almost entirely on pitiably small donations to keep going.

It is why so many creators are moving towards platforms like Patreon in order to secure their own well being as they create content for us. SO allowing them to not only receive fair pair for their work, but also giving them access to the resources of the company that created the original game seems like it would be a recipe for high quality content. A recipe only improved by the idea that there may be some quality assurance (or however much QA that Bethesda actually has) involved as well.

The barrier to entry to this would ideally ensure that we aren’t paying five dollars for a reskin of a basic weapon or some sort of armor for your equine companion, and that instead we would be paying good money to good creators in a way that easily integrates with both the game and with other mods that are a part of this program, without any of the hassle of the more more traditional methods of installing entirely too many mods, and trying to figure out the best order to load them from a third party mod manager without breaking the game.

It is a sort of natural extension of the Steam workshop, with more moderation than you might find out in the wild on places like ModDB or the mod Nexus, and more control than there was in the more lax implementation that Valve tried a few years ago.

Yet even with that being said, I don’t know if this will be successful or not. It is the perfect storm of things that the game community does not like: Bethesda, game companies encroaching on independent creative spaces, and paying for things that used to be free.

There is a very prevalent attitude in the games community that the cedar that something is, the better it is. When games aren’t even considered as an option to purchase at full price (even though the $60 price tag has been a constant for decades) and Steam sales reign supreme. The only company that’s really managed to escape this attitude is Nintendo, with their general unwillingness to even consider lowering the price of one of their titles.

Especially on PC, the attitude towards “normal price” is one of derision at best, and many of the arguments against the new system of paid mods that can be found online have to dow with why we should have to pay for something that we normally get for free.

But I would invert the question: why shouldn’t content creators be paid for the work that they are doing? We can look at Skyrim, which has so many mods that add new stories, content, locations, weapons, characters, or enemies that would easily qualify as paid DLC if they were put out by Bethesda.
And we’d happily pay a few dollars here or there for content like this (see:
Fallout 4: Automatron, horse armor, Minecraft skin packs, voice packs, etc.) but the second that this content is made by an independent creator and not by a publisher, we clam up and our wallets close. So why should the creators continue to put in the hard work for this (apparently) unthankful audience?

It remains to be seen if this will be a success or not, but with the proper direction, this could be an avenue for so many creators to help themselves earn a living doing something they love, and break into a field that they are passionate about. Every struggling writer or artist is always told to never do work for free or for “Exposure” because you can’t eat exposure.

If you always work for free, you’ll never be able to survive, and it’s time for this attitude to come into games development.



Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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Images courtesy of the Electronic Entertainment Expo

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