I'll give Valve some credit here: When its community is mad, it listens. Following four days of upheaval, Valve decided late Monday to pull the plug on its controversial paid mods feature for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, though there's always a chance we'll see it return in a different (more refined) form later on.
You can find the official announcement from Valve's Alden Kroll here. Here are the important bits:
"We're going to remove the payment feature from the Skyrim workshop. For anyone who spent money on a mod, we'll be refunding you the complete amount. We talked to the team at Bethesda and they agree. 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."
"We underestimated the differences between our previously successful revenue sharing models, and the addition of paid mods to Skyrim's workshop. 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."
That last bit is particularly important. It means we've seen the end of paid mods as far as Skyrim is concerned, but not necessarily the end of paid mods in general. It's likely that the next time paid mods arise, it'll be alongside a brand new game — thus avoiding controversies like years-old mods going to a paid model, or paid mods relying on assets from free mods to work properly.
And there are still some other things to work out, like the revenue split. The 25 percent to modders/30 percent Valve/45 percent Bethesda split Skyrim featured was exploitative and gross. Hopefully that gets a strong look before Valve inevitably tries to launch this feature again.
For now, we go back to status quo. Modders become hobbyists again, doing work out of love for the source material. PC gaming gets back one of its most important features, intact. But how much damage was done to Valve's reputation because of this? Or Bethesda's? And how much damage was done to the mod community itself, thanks to the enormous rifts opened over the past few days? Valve's put a bandage on things, but this'll take time and trust to fully heal, if it ever does.
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