On Thursday, Valve has implemented a new change to Steam Workshop, allowing the modders to sell their creations on an open market.
The new program launches with Bethesda's Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, one of the most modded modern games. As part of the program, anyone can list their mods, from items, characters, mini-quests, storylines, maps - at whatever price they want. The mod-creator can still offer their creations for free, but they can now also add a price-tag to said content.
"We think this is a great opportunity to help support the incredible creative work being done by mod makers in the Steam Workshop," stated Valve's Tom Bui in an official statement. "User generated content is an increasingly significant component of many games, and opening new avenues to help financially support those contributors via Steam Workshop will help drive the level of UGC to new heights."
The first game to have implemented this new option is Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which is an obvious choice, considering the game is one of the most-modded titles on the market today. More than 24.000 free mods are available on the Steam Workshop page, and these have seen more than 170 million downloads, according to Valve. The game has already (or at least had, since one has already been pulled off) 19-paid mods listed, ranging from 30cents to $7. The selection process is akin to the free one, just that now there's a listing under the Workshop tab that allows the selection between paid or free. Paid mods are available after purchase, and creators can charge whatever they want for them.
"We’ve had a long and excellent relationship with our good friends at Valve. We worked together to make the Workshop a huge part of Skyrim, and we’re excited that something we’ve been working together on for a long time is finally happening. You can now charge for the mods you create," Bethesda wrote on its website.
"Unlike other curated games on Steam that allow users to sell their creations, this will be the first game with an open market. It will not be curated by us or Valve. It was essential to us that our fans decide what they want to create, what they want to download, and what they want to charge."
Since there is no actual curation to the entire syste, Valve has implemented a refund-policy that allows requests to be processed within 24-hours of purchase. Refuns will be credited to the Steam Wallet following the original purchase, and every Workshop item will have a post-acquisition timer indicating how much time you have left until the refund-deadline expires.
As anyone who has tried and tested the modding scene, there are some serious concerns this purchase system has, and that mostly relays in the murky waters of what a mod is. Mods often use content from other mods or don't actually agree with them mods, and official patches might actually make them non-functional. Since this isn't official content, and there is no such curation, you could end-up purchasing every-available mod ever, and then discover they are incompatible. If you're out of the 24-hour time-frame, then you're out of luck.
There's also the idea that since some mods work with parts from another, like take animations, textures and such, there is a chance that one modder might sell their creation by using content from a third-party that was ok when it was all free, and not sold for profit. That has actually happened, and the one mod that was pulled off Steam was one such incident.
Lastly, there's the question, if nobody is regulating the new market, what's to stop someone from just picking-up content from a third-party site, modify it, and then sell it for profit via Steam?