Valve's Digital games distribution platform Steam is how most people get their PC games these days, and increasingly how most of them install mods, or user created content that modifies existing game files or adds entirely new assets to create new levels or experiences. Today, Valve announced that it's allowing modders to sell their work directly through Steam.
"We think this is a great opportunity to help support the incredible creative work being done by mod makers in the Steam Workshop," Valve said in a 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."
I haven't heard the "UGC" abbreviation until the Game Developers Conference this year, where during a panel titled "How Modding Made Bethesda Better," The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim developer explained not only how modding helped improve its games over the years, but extend the life of each game thanks to users who kept making them bigger after release. According to Bethesda's Joel Burgess, there were only two important trends at the show: VR and UGC.
Bethesda should know. According to Valve, Skyrim mods have received more than 170 million downloads to date, and the game is still frequently in top 10 most played games on Steam, even four years after release.
This is pretty exciting, mostly because it incentivizes modders to create more
It's probably also why Skyrim is the first game Valve will allow players to sell mods for.
"Unlike other curated games on Steam that allow users to sell their creations, this will be the first game with an open market," Bethesda said. "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."
Historically, you had to download mods directly from whatever site they were hosted on, and installing them was usually a complicated process that required tinkering with game files, which, if mishandled, could easily break your game. Mods also had to be free, since charging for content using another developer's intellectual property without paying licensing fees would violate its copyright.
Steam Workshop, which was originally introduced to allow users to share cosmetic items for Valve's multiplayer first-person shooter Team Fortress 2, made distributing mods so easy, even Motherboard could do it!
Valve previously allowed users to sell cosmetic Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2 (another Valve-developed game) items and it's been incredibly profitable for everyone. Valve paid out over $57 million to community content creators since Workshop debuted in October 2011.
That figure is likely to grow exponentially now that users will be able create all types of content for more games.
This is pretty exciting, mostly because it incentivizes modders to create more. Usually, mods are either pure passion projects, or a great way for aspiring developers to build their portfolio. Both Counter-Strike and Dota, two of Valve's biggest, most profitable games, started out as user-created mods for Half-Life and Warcraft 3 respectively.
Now that modders have an easy way to sell their work, we could see an explosion of creativity.