Valve kills paid Skyrim mods feature

"It's clear we didn't understand exactly what we were doing"

Just days after introducing it, and following an outcry from the PC gaming community, Valve has removed the payment feature from the Skyrim workshop on Steam.

The feature allowed modders to sell their Skyrim mods. Valve now says despite good intentions it did not fully appreciate the impact the feature would have.

"We've done this because it's clear we didn't understand exactly what we were doing. We've been shipping many features over the years aimed at allowing community creators to receive a share of the rewards, and in the past, they've been received well. It's obvious now that this case is different," it said in a statement.

Valve added that it had Bethesda's support on the decision and those that had already paid for mods would be refunded.

"After discussion with Valve, and listening to our community, paid mods are being removed from Steam Workshop. Even though we had the best intentions, the feedback has been clear - this is not a feature you want. Your support means everything to us, and we hear you," said Bethesda in its own post.

Valve had hoped the paid mods would follow the path travelled by Valve's own games like Team Fortress 2 and mods turned games like Dota, Counter-strike, DayZ, and Killing Floor, but admitted those hopes were a mistake.

"We underestimated the differences between our previously successful revenue sharing models, and the addition of paid mods to Skyrim's workshop," said Valve.

"We understand our own game's communities pretty well, but stepping into an established, years old modding community in Skyrim was probably not the right place to start iterating. We think this made us miss the mark pretty badly, even though we believe there's a useful feature somewhere here."

This weekend Valve boss Gabe Newell took to Reddit this weekend to respond to criticisms of the scheme.

"Let's assume for a second that we are stupidly greedy," Newell said.

"So far the paid mods have generated $10K total. That's like 1 per cent of the cost of the incremental email the program has generated for Valve employees (yes, I mean pissing off the Internet costs you a million bucks in just a couple of days). That's not stupidly greedy, that's stupidly stupid."

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Latest comments (30)

Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 7 years ago
I am a bit shocked they actually backed down. Though I honestly think it's a good thing.

I assume they will try again at some point with a newer game, that does not have an already established modding community. Just hopefully they learned a little from this and do a better job next time. It was a good idea, but implemented bad.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 7 years ago
I'm saddened they backed down, but very hopeful they'll try again. Some incredibly respected modders - Durante, for instance - were very much for the paid system, but it's clear the implementation was not great. I do honestly believe that paid is the way to go - using Durante as an example again, very few people relative to number of downloaders have used the donate button for DSFix - but Valve clearly underestimated what people felt like they were losing.

But, hey, for Valve, it's now win-win. They've got data to iterate the next version of this, and they've backed down, so all the "Valve are evil" whiners can stop... whining. :)
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 7 years ago
It would really, really have made a nice change to get paid for creating content rather than charged for it.

Honestly 30% never felt that unreasonable to me. I didn't spend years making the engine, writing the game, invest in marketing it or develop the toolset I'm using. But even if only my facebook friends looked at it, and only the standard percentage bought it, I'd have enough from a single mod to pay my internet & phone bill. Plus the usual freelance/modder appeals - the ability to work only on projects that have you frothing with excitement, to work your way, at your own pace, and stop when you need to.

When you think about the size of Steam's userbase, 30% of a 5 mod is likely to be a very big box of doughnuts. And with the freelance market still rather shaky, I'm kinda hungry.
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Show all comments (30)
Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany7 years ago
I think the very nature of the MODs is making them due to love for the game, not for profit. If they want to do this, they should call it something like "Fanmade DLC", but don't call them "MODs". Modding has a kinda "philosophical" (let's put it this way) context, asking money for it kinda kills it.
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Tobias Burandt7 years ago
Valve clearly opened pandora's box here. Let's forget about the thousands or even millions of agitated users for a moment. Let's think licenses. I wonder how many payed-dlc-content-creators use software in the creation of pay-to-play-mods that is free to use as long as you create free content with it. I've read about one case where someone actually used parts of another mod. There are quite a few mod-frameworks out there which you can use to build your mod on. Another license dependency. Will we still see 0.99$ mods for an armor that costs the creator a 3D tool license and maybe even a cut for another mod-framework-creator? I think Valve made the best decission to let this dog sleep.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tobias Burandt on 28th April 2015 12:09pm

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Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 7 years ago
I am surprised you are still on about that crap.
No one used the donate button because the donate button wasn't all that obvious. Nexus mods just recently made it so it's more noticeable. Second, most modder never really pushed to even try to receive donations to begin with. You can't just expect the world to donate to you, when they don't even know you are accepting them.

A Maxis Developer, after the studio closed, is making a living off of donations by modding Cities Skylines.

It irritates me every time someone says the donate button didn't work or donations don't work. Yes they freaking do, and there are countless examples of this being the case.

Many Skyrim modders however, where dissuaded by Bethesda. They where scarred if they accepted donations, they would get in trouble. They have to do it in a round about way to get them. So instead of receiving donations for the mod, they need to receive donations for some other reason. Even the devs at Skywind where talking about this.

So if people really want to complain about not receiving donations, then blame Bethesda for making it so. They are the ones who made it absolutely clear to begin with that you are not allowed to make money off of your mods.

It's not a big deal since it's going to make a return eventually on other games. It's not like they decided to ax the entire idea.
Also ... it wasn't 30% it was 25%.

45% to Bethesda, 30% to Valve and 25% to the mod creator.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Brook Davidson on 28th April 2015 2:14pm

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 7 years ago
Here you go Brook:

0.17% of people using Durante's work donate. Not to be rude, but you have to be blindly optimistic to hold onto the view that the only reason people don't donate is because the button isn't obvious.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 28th April 2015 2:30pm

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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 7 years ago
Valve used to make Half-Life, but these days, their popular games are all former mods; Dota2, Counter Strike and Team Fortress. Clumsy execution and user outrage might have stopped Valve from openly hedging this scene, but this will not be the last attempt of doing something such as this. Remember Second Life.
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Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 7 years ago
Holy crap dude.
So because a damned person says it's so . .you think that is proof? How exactly does this link prove anything to me?
Here I can do it too.

Also yes, it's been talked about at Nexus mods and many people didn't know the damned button was there.

[Rest of comment deleted. Dial it back a bit, Brook.--Brendan]

Edited 2 times. Last edit by a moderator on 29th April 2015 2:34pm

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 7 years ago

That post is by Durante. So, y'know, the guy who did DSFix. And, sure, it's an extreme example. But so is the Cities modder you link to.

Also, Durante has a donate link on his website.

But, yes, obviously I don't know what I'm talking about.
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Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 7 years ago
Look the point I am making is that it most certainly is possible to make money off of donations. A lot of money.
There are even many minecraft modders who earn plenty of donations.

Also, even if he has a button on his site doesn't really mean much. How much traffic goes to his site? Where is his mod downloaded the most? Again .. you can't expect donations from a button a person can not see.

Where ... is the donate button?

Example 2
Where is the donate button?
Hint: It's somewhere in the middle of all that text. At the end of the article itself to be precise. Not in the best place imaginable.

Example 3
I don't even see a way to donate here. Also 24 comments goes to show you how much traffic he gets there in comparison to nexus.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Brook Davidson on 28th April 2015 3:02pm

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 7 years ago
He's posted that official downloads total some 3m... His site is here: Doing this Google search: donate site:

Reveals a lot of "If you like, please donate" A Google for DSFix also puts his site above Nexus in rankings.

And, yes, I concede it's possible to make money off of donations. Just like it's also possible to make peanuts off of something which is a required program (which is why I use DSFix as an example), when you just rely on goodwill donations.

But, anyways, I would say we both have good points. I just think my world-weary nature is more in-keeping with how gamers/consumers react.

Peace yo. :)

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 28th April 2015 3:08pm

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Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 7 years ago
So you are telling me, I need to search specifically for " donate site:" in order for me to notably find it?

And you don't see any problem with that? I could hardly even find it by myself, and you think others can? You think people are going to take their time to actively search google like this?

I am sorry .. that isn't how these things work and you are clearly wrong.

Also .. it doesn't matter where his site is in the rankings on google. It isn't simply based around which site gets more views. It has to do with tags and properly optimizing your website for search engines. When you search for something specific as that, you will always come to his site first. That doesn't mean that is where it's mostly downloaded. Especially considering the Nexus itself is one of the most popular sites for mods on the internet.

The reason Nexus does not appear first is because they don't deal specifically to his mod.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 7 years ago
Ahhh, right. Well, if you think I'm clearly wrong, then fine. This is less a debate and more you trying to convince me, I feel, since you could easily have backed out in a courteous manner, like I did above. :) So, I shall leave this thread, with this final remark:
The reason Nexus does not appear first is because they don't deal specifically to his mod.
You know, there's people who don't mod lots of games, but play Dark Souls, and know how important it is, right? The same with Geodasato. I'm one of them. People like me Google for specific mods. We don't spend ages searching the Nexus.

And now I wash my hands of this thread. :)
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Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 7 years ago
Assuming everyone is like you seems to be your problem then. I have no doubt there are plenty of people who don't mod lots of game .. doesn't change the facts that Nexus has more traffic.

Also .. doesn't change the fact, his donate buttons are not exactly easy to find regardless.
But .. yes you are right, no point in continuing to argue about this since you don't want to actually accept the facts.

Edit: Oh btw, the nexus has different areas for each game and a search function. So your point is pretty moot. I only mod skyrim, and don't use any of the other sections at all and have absolutely no problems finding mods.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Brook Davidson on 28th April 2015 3:34pm

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Robert Mac-Donald Game Designer, Lethe Games7 years ago
Good thing.

Now Valve, please do the same but with a donation option instead. It's about getting it right, making it a success like Patreon and Kickstarter where people actually use it. In their official statement they have said that "we believe there's a useful feature somewhere in here", and there is, but they have to maintain the best of both worlds.

I'm glad they made this decision, it renewed my faith in steamOS being an option for the future backed by a company trying to do the right thing, entirely replacing windows for most gamers.
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Lucas Seuren Freelance, Only Network7 years ago
I can understand that to support the modders, Valve wants to design a system where those modders get paid for the work they do. But interestingly, that might not even be a useful way to go about it. For one, because opening the option (or obligation) of payment will make the issue of findability a major one; try to find the good mods in the huge load of cheap crap. Second, and far more important, there is plenty of research out there that shows that because we are dealing with people who do it voluntarily, i.e. as a hobby, they deliver the best possible quality. Modders don't work for the mone (although possibly for the recognition of people using their mods) but for the fun they have modding games. They have a passion and deliver great quality because of it. As soon as you start putting the carrot on the stick, you introduce extra motivations that have been shown to work counterproductive.

Look at a semi-related example: the humble bundle and all the bundles that followed from it. While it is true that most people pay very little for these games, which is an option, they still make millions. And a lot of it goes to charity. Similar tactics are done in restaurants (where the norm is even stronger); even when people are free to pay what they want, they still give people a decent wage. Every situation is different, but there is no reason why a donation option cannot work for mods.

It's good that Valve looked for a way to integrate that into Steam. But their approach was just really bad, and I'm surprised that they did in this way. Hopefully they learn from it and their next attempt will be better thought out.
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Francis Elphick Game Design, Ludia7 years ago
The donation model is interesting within a certain niche, but just casual observation suggests to me that the reason major content creators (such as bethesda) charge a fixed price is because it is more reliable and profitable. No numbers or anything here, just my 2 cents while eating lunch :D

If it did work, wouldn't a paid model have more rewarding potential for content creators in the mod community? Does improving the lifecycle of the game not have monetary merit, like any DLC,
MMO or F2P? You can make money doing let's plays on youtube. Why not this? Would this drain or promote consumption/creation? Am I way off the mark here?
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Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 7 years ago
A see a lot of people like to compare this to youtube. There is a huge difference. Youtubers are making money off ad revenue, not off of those who watch their videos. Also, not many people are even suggesting that you can't make money off of this. They are simply suggesting there are better ways to go about it then the method chosen.

I personally don't see why donations would not work when it has shown in proven to work with so many things. I also wouldn't consider it a niche thing either. Not sure how you came to that conclusion with sites like patreon.
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Anthony Chan7 years ago
@Alfonso Sexto TBH I believe this is just playing with semantics - Mod or DLC, the end is the same, they are additions that build on the existing game. The bigger problem is the whole socio-economical-cultural aspect of this whole debacle. I to this point in time do not understand why mod creators cannot charge for their work? Does their love of the game mean they cannot profit from their hard work? Steam is a well accepted, wide reaching, safe to use, efficient platform of distribution for most regular end user/gamers.

I may be reaching, but has the whole F2P revolution killed gamer brain cells? They don't want to pay for games. They want to try before they buy. They don't like advertisements mucking up their GUI. But, they think microtransactions are greedy. Then they say the would rather pay money if it meant doing away with microtransactions. BUT they are only willing to pay 10 bucks. Seriously?

This really has to stop. I have always felt strongly against listening to the gamers when it becomes an outcry only worthy of a crappy Reddit rant. I know a lot of people here feel gamers have been stomped on, disrespected, and then stomped on again. But really there is push and pull going on here - and while developers are not innocent, these types of gamer united outcries is just short of hooliganism and quite toxic. Unfortunately now, gamer outcry is enough to change business decisions - even ones that make sense. These mod creators, could potentially be the next great developer. Taking away their ability to profit (and taste the success from the fruits their hard labor) only would detract them from really pursuing a career (and seriously a career in game development is taking on some significant life risk) in this field.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Anthony Chan on 28th April 2015 5:52pm

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Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 7 years ago
I am sorry, but I entirely disagree. When you have a situation where even the people you are trying to benefit don't agree with you, then you are doing something wrong.

Many, many, many of the mod authors disagreed with the way this was done. This wasn't your general gamer out cry for no reason, and there where plenty of legitimate concerns.

Also, many of the out cry was absolutely not about modders being able to profit from their work. It was an issue with the system itself and the problems it could bring about. I see so many people constantly asking why modders can't make money, as if that is what the out cry was about. If that is what you think, you clearly where not paying attention to the reasoning behind the complaints.

Most people would gladly pay modders if it was done in a manner that benefited everyone.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Brook Davidson on 28th April 2015 6:00pm

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Anthony Chan7 years ago
@Brook Sorry I edited this because I notice you responded to my first post (not expected!). I agree it may sound like I "don't understand the issue", but again I am looking at a specific source to draft my own rant. I used Reddit posts and forum rants on this issue, and while it may not be the best source of true valuable debate, the comments and rants are representative of the "afflicted" sentiment which I so hate.

And, although you try to carve away at the real issue (going with your response) which I appreciate, the truth is judging by the passion and dedication in those rants, many people made it about paying vs not paying giving this whole debate traction, and potentially exacting the desired response from Valve - which I liken to negotiating with terrorists. Maybe I am just focusing on the bad apples. Unfortunately, there really are A LOT of posts (and bad apples), with a lot of likes and +1 that indicate the anti-paying sentiment and supporting the concept that mods should be free - that I can help but feel Valve just gave into loud and raucous anger which they should not. Maybe I am feeling "butt hurt" about gamers taking to social media, and forums and such to complain about stuff they have no right to complain about (i.e. Hearthstone rewards are not enough, Blizzard is greedy; Microtransactions suck and only support the man, game publishers are greedy soul sucking vampires, etc). The sentiment across many many games is the same. Gamers want more but don't want to pay - that is what the redditers say. Honestly, I am really making a point about these people (who I feel are quite numerous, and honestly quite toxic in large packs).

To say it's GENERAL sentiment amongst gamers is incorrect, and if you felt my post was attacking (personally) ALL those who disagree with Steam's approach, I apologize. However I can't help but feel strongly after sifting through so many Reddit rants and forum posts but to think there are really a lot of people out there who think mods are really for the gamers and should be free or at most voluntary pay, With that, I had to speak out.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Anthony Chan on 28th April 2015 6:30pm

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Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 7 years ago
Well something I have to correct you on is this
Maybe I am feeling "butt hurt" about gamers taking to social media, and forums and such to complain about stuff they have no right to complain about
Technically they have every right to complain about what ever reason it is they so wish to complain about. It doesn't mean they should, but they certainly are entitled to do so because they are the customers. It doesn't really matter if you like it or not. There wouldn't even be a business without them. You can't decide what they can and can't complain about.

Even if the entire argument was that no one wants paid mods, then a company is obligated to listen to them. If your customers do not want something, it really doesn't matter what you think. If you ignore them, especially after such a huge negative response, that is simply bad business practice.

I do agree with you, that modders by all means should be able to decide if they want to be paid or not. However, that is also largely to due with companies themselves not allowing it to begin with. Which mind you, they have every right to do so since it's their IP.

However, that is what made the modding scene as it is today and makes people expect it to be free. You can't blame them for that. It sucks to have something free taken away from you, and then having to pay for it. you really need to step in their shoes to understand it isn't something people like to happen. Let's also not forget that when someone decide to mod, they decide to do so because they want to. It's never about money because you usually can't make money from it. You do it because it's fun and you want to share with the community.

This is why people generally say if you give something or do something for someone, don't expect anything in return. It's nice to get something back, but if you do something for free and give it away, that doesn't mean people owe you anything. If you don't like it, stop giving it away or stop making it entirely. Don't blame the people who you decided to give it away to. They didn't make that decision for you.
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Francis Elphick Game Design, Ludia7 years ago
I hope I don't sound like a luddite but I attributed it to being niche cause neither I, or the people sitting next to me, have heard of it. Not exactly a good scientific method! But I have no data whatsoever on this. Modding for skyrim, on the other hand, is pretty common knowledge (though each mod taken individually probably gets very poor visibility). If I had to gamble on it, the traffic and awareness for the donation site you mentioned, and I assume it is a site, is probably not drawing the staggering numbers that bring developper groups to their knees. Why doesn't everyone do it if it works that well? Can't image it would be a money making secret. Maybe it is viable for an individual on a case by case basis, but I don't know.

I certainly conceed the youtube model is very different. Maybe revenue that is generated by ad traffic rather than sales would be a good way forward? Though streaming and modding has other fundamental differences as well. I do get the sense the barrier to entry of ad revenue compared to a straight up pay wall would have two very different user loss rates, and two different revenue potentials.

Cool debate all in all though. I'm curious to see where this goes.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Francis Elphick on 28th April 2015 8:21pm

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Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 7 years ago
Well, I don't know if that is a good argument. The "Why isn't everyone doing it if it works that well?"
I would imagine the reason why not everyone is doing it is because you need something that people want. In a modders case, that would be mods. As for why the modders are not doing it, it's because they are not allowed to accept donations specifically for modding.Assuming we are still talking about Bethesda.

If we are talking about other games like, Minecraft or Cities Skylines, plenty of people use patreon. how much each person earns though is up to that particular individual and the quality of their work. also not everyone is going to do it, because not everyone cares about earning money from modding.

Skyrim however is a bit harder to get donations for. Because you can't actually just ask people for donations legally speaking since it's against the agreement. That doesn't mean you can't accept donations for other non related things. How you go about doing this though is up to the modder.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 7 years ago
Whilst I said I would wash my hands of this thread, I feel posting a link to this:

Is a worthwhile thing to do.

And now I leave again. :)
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Rogier Voet IT Consultant 7 years ago
It's a shame, it's a an excellent example of a feature which could have changed modding, but it clearly needed more work
- better revenue split for modders
- transparent policies for copyrightholders about commercial modding
- how does support for mods work / guidelines for patches etc
- safeguards against uploading someone's else work etc.

So if these things are in place I think commercial modding can happen.
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Francis Elphick Game Design, Ludia7 years ago
Really enjoyed that link, thank you!
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Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 7 years ago
Yes, I read it. I have no doubt there would be people who are pissed, though I do have to point out, most people who are pissed agreed with my sentiments on the way it was implemented. Many of them felt it should not have been removed and simply revised, in which case I agree.
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Benjamin Crause Supervisor Central Support, Nintendo of Europe7 years ago
It was a very poor attempt to bring in a feature that could have been very positive for all sides.
Lack of communication opened the flood gates for the complaining horde. The damage was there instantly and no one was prepared to take care of questions and complaints. It was a fire gone wild and at the end they had to sacrifice the newly planted forest instead of growing it.
Now that the forest is gone it will take longer to bring this necessary discussion and options for the mod community back.
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