Don’t blink, or you’ll miss it! That phrase is probably familiar to Valve, whom introduced a for-profit Skyrim Steam Mod Workshop a mere 3 days ago. The sudden introduction of paid modifications into the marketplace caused an influx of outrage and a torrent of complaints from gamers, who had plenty of valid concerns on why this was a bad idea for both the mod scene and consumers as a whole. Today, Valve and Bethesda announced the full cancellation of Steam’s paid mod workshop, apologizing for the inconvenience and refunding gamers who had made purchases during the system’s short lifespan.
The decision from both parties came after Valve admitted the err of their ways following a self-described ‘dump truck of feedback’, most of which was evidently negative. In the 3 short days the Skyrim Steam Workshop supported paid modifications, it was witness to countless acts of software theft, plenty of joke modifications for sale at ludicrous prices, and tiny modifications that cost more than Skyrim itself did at the time.
While it’s not known if modification developers will receive any payouts for the sales they did end up generating, it’s good that those that purchased modifications in the Steam Workshop – which are now returning to their original price-point of zero dollars – will receive full refunds for their purchases. Some modifications had switched to Steam as their sole hosts, and it has yet to be seen if the creators will return once again to other free mod websites like Nexus Mods.
Plenty of gamers expressed concern at the lack of modification support and quality control, of which the content in Skyrim’s marketplace literally had almost no guarantee. One of the best examples was a fishing modification that Valve themselves advertised on the main page during the first day of the paid mod system – it had stolen assets in it, so their flagship modification had to be taken down less than 24 hours after it was introduced as one of the first paid mods on Steam.
The official statement from Valve elaborated on their reasoning for cancelling the ambitious project, and they also touch on the fact that they think the original idea had some merits, and might be used in a future system:
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.
To help you understand why we thought this was a good idea, our main goals were to allow mod makers the opportunity to work on their mods full time if they wanted to, and to encourage developers to provide better support to their mod communities. We thought this would result in better mods for everyone, both free & paid. We wanted more great mods becoming great products, like Dota, Counter-strike, DayZ, and Killing Floor, and we wanted that to happen organically for any mod maker who wanted to take a shot at it.
But 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.
Now that you’ve backed a dump truck of feedback onto our inboxes, we’ll be chewing through that, but if you have any further thoughts let us know.
Plenty of pirates were already selling stolen content in the Workshop, so drastic changes to any kind of profitable modification system would need to be introduced before consumers may give Valve another chance. Gabe Newell himself promised a ‘pay what you want‘ interface prior to the cancellation of the project as a whole; a system like that could potentially work in the future and be more accepted by consumers. Most large modifications have donation buttons on separate websites that gamers can opt into, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Steam head down this direction in the future.
Bethesda also commented on the removal of the paid Steam Workshop, apologizing to fans of the Elder Scrolls series and stating fan support is very important for the company:
“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.”
The attempt at introducing paid modifications was evidently a miss-step from Valve and Bethesda, but mostly because of the way it was implemented. Valve still has a lot of work to do if they want to create a system where they can more accurately ensure the original creators are on the receiving ends of any purchases or donations. However, it looks like it’ll be a bridge to cross for another day – which, based of Valve’s response, might not be too far off.
What do you think about Valve back-tracking on their for-profit Mod system, Ranters?