It's been a long walk to paid mods for Bethesda, but a little over two years after the catastrophic attempt to monetise Steam Workshop, Creation Club is officially live for Skyrim players.
The platform was announced during this year's E3 conference and has been live in Fallout 4 since August. It allows users buy community mods which have been professionally ported to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC by Bethesda or an approved partner studio.
Bethesda denies Creation Club is simply a paid mod platform however, saying that mods will "remain a free and open system whereby anyone can create and share what they like." The distinction is that all Creation Club content is taken through the full internal development cycle, including localisation, polishing, and testing.
In an FAQ, the company said: "We've looked at many ways to do 'paid mods', and the problems outweigh the benefits. We've encountered many of those issues before. But, there's a constant demand from our fans to add more official high quality content to our games, and while we are able to create a lot of it, we think many in our community have the talent to work directly with us and create some amazing new things."
Monetising mods has proven to be a tricky thing for the Bethesda in the past. Back in April 2015, working with Valve, it sought to allow modders to sell their work through the Steam Workshop. Theoretically it was a great opportunity for talented modders, but given the Wild West nature of the modding sphere and Valve's lackadaisical approach to quality control, it quickly turned into a mess.
Valve shut the whole thing down after just four days, saying "It's clear we didn't understand exactly what we were doing," and the idea of paid mods was put to bed. But as Rob Fahey wrote for GamesIndusty.biz at the time, the commercialisation of mods was inevitable.
Fahey was right, and early indications suggest the second coming of paid mods has been better received. That said, the the whole thing is reminiscent of the 2006 horse armour debacle. Current offerings are limited to items and abilities, with a survival mod scheduled for release next week.