As of April 22nd, the Steam Workshop store is now selling Skyrim mods. Yes — you read that right. Selling mods. Inclusion within the Steam store is voluntary and, so far, the contributions have been priced between $0.25 and $5.99, making this entire enterprise essentially crowd-sourced DLC.
Isn’t Selling Mods Illegal?
Usually, but Bethesda is allowing sales specifically through the Steam infrastructure. They have updated their Terms of Service to specify this. So this can’t be done for any games that aren’t publisher-approved. If, for instance, Bioware allowed the selling of mods, Dragon Age: Inquisition mods could potentially be sold*. But if Bioware doesn’t allow this, they can’t. Mods can still be distributed free through services such as Nexus.
Why Is Steam Selling Mods Bad?
What has the gaming community in such an uproar? There are a few negative issues with this new system:
- Modders may pull their mods from the Nexus, no longer offering them for free.
- Support for mods (and inter-mod compatibility) has always been iffy at best, so players may pay for mods that are poorly supported or glitchy.
- Steam’s cut is 75%, which is significant; modders likely make more money through donations than they would here.
- Mods-for-profit may dampen the spirit of the community, creating revenue-focused rather than creativity-focused mods.
Some gamers are concerned that this could kill the modding community entirely, by slowly whittling away support for Nexus. If nothing else, it will almost definitely fragment the community, which was mostly centralized.
Why Is Steam Selling Mods Good?
There’s really not much to be said for this. Modders may be more inclined to produce and support higher quality mods if they know that they can profit — but this has been attempted before and never really been successful, due to pirating and free alternatives.
Interestingly, this addition to the Steam store was barely publicized and seemingly appeared overnight, already stocked with about a dozen popular mods. Steam has had to stop accepting comments on the paid for mods because the backlash against the system was so significant.
It remains to be seen what impact this will have on the Nexus community — or which other games will become involved.
* It’s very unlikely Bioware will be involved in this new development, as their games are no longer really modding friendly.