The PC master race is dead. I repeat, the PC master race is dead. Console commandos worldwide rejoice as the one feature that PC users have held over their heads for years has been snatched up from them by their lord and protector, Valve. Now, this all sounds apocalyptic but is it really? Let’s take a step back from the pitchforks and torches to actually look at what’s going on.
On the 23rd of April, Steam announced a plan to create an open market to allow modders to charge for their content and that Skyrim, released back in 2011, was going to be the first game to support the new feature. Choosing the Bethesda blockbuster as the flagship for the proposed plan was a great one as Skyrim has benefitted greatly from the modding community and has has over ten thousand mods to date. A perfect sample size to see how paid mods will work. Valve released the program and then, as with most test runs, things started exploding.
Gamers across the net voiced their opinions, ranging from support, to concern, to outright rage, manifesting in interesting ways. A modder made a Lord Gaben mod just so you could kill him in game for a computerized catharsis (not unnerving at all). Gabe Newell himself descended from the heavens … after flying from a doctor’s appointment to answer concerned gamer’s questions in an emergency Reddit AMA.
All this outrage is not unfounded, there are serious concerns about the new format. Namely the old legal gray area of copyright law comes in. A number of the most popular mods don’t create original content, quests, or fixes the game, but rather puts in Elsa from Frozen as an ice mage or Marvels Avengers as companions. These mods, utilizing existing copyrighted characters, were largely ignored because the modder was not making money off of the ip, but now that they are, it’s only a matter of time before Disney and others come in with the cease and desist letters.
Now it’s worth mentioning that this is an optional program. Not all modders need to monetize their craft, and a great many more have not. True modders are like artists, they create not because they wanted money, but they wanted to see a game they love made better and they shared it with everyone so they could enjoy their product. There are a few modders who have their mod on the sale page, but have left their mod free on their own site, treating the new program as a new form of donation page.
Whether or not you think that modders should be compensated for the hours of work making the perfect My Little Pony dragon replacement mod, the PC Master race largely agrees that Valve and Bethesda keeping 75% of the profits made off of mods is ludicrous, insulting gamers and creators alike. This program will most likely not be removed, but improved over the next few months, despite how many Change.org petitions are made. We can only hope that Gabe Newell and Valve will hear the reasoned arguments in the din doom singers.