It’s been a little over four months since the last chapter on Paid Modding, where Valve and Bethesda offered PC Skyrim users to pay for exclusive mods for their game through the Workshop. Met with a fierce backlash, this feature lasted less than a week before it was cancelled.
A new website named Sprked has now appeared, offering content creators a Patreon-style crowdfunding method to receive funding on a per month or per creation basis from their fans in a secure system. In the past, Patreon or direct donations to a Paypal account were the norm, with the Nexus offering it’s own aid for this (accompanied with a set of tight rules) allowing mod authors to set up their donation PayPal. On the surface Sprked seems to aid discoverability, helping users find Mod Authors for a specific game or genre and offering the option to Subscribe to them with a monthly payment. Mod Authors in return can set up goals that they desire to be met.
The problem arises around Bethesdas games. According to the conversations Dark0ne (owner of the Nexus) has had in the past, Bethesda generally disapproves/disallows anything more than donations for modders of their games. This includes services such as Patreon, Flattr and now (reportedly) also Sprked.
In a recent News announcement on his website, Dark0ne reported that the service first seemed to be contacting mod authors through the Nexus. As this was considered spam and their service had not actually contacted Dark0ne beforehand, they were asked to stop by the Nexus owner himself while he investigated the subject.
Dark0ne also elaborated on his attempts to contact Bethesda regarding the issue. While the size of the response was reportedly small to say the least, it did confirm Bethesda’s stance on the usage of Sprked. GStaff, the community manager he was in contact with, confirmed that they do not want the Nexus to incorporate Sprked in their website to offer their content creators a better angle of receiving donations. It could be safe to assume their stance on the website mirrors that of their stance on Patreon, Flattr and other similar services. Dark0ne laments how this again is a blow to his attempts to support his Mod Authors.
Further down his post Dark0ne also expresses that it has been widely reported from multiple media angles that Bethesda might be revisiting paid modding after Fallout 4‘s release. Adding his suspicion that they will be geared towards such a system on Bethesda’s own website, cutting out Valve as their middleman and accommodate a push towards console modding. Indeed, Bethesda.net has been officially announced (follow the link for more information) along with Doom’s mapmaker Doom Snapmap being said to be featured on it. It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume Fallout 4’s console modding will also be hosted on the site.
Bethesda has been notorious on the legal department, showing no sign of being slow on the draw concerning their Intellectual Properties. Ranging from suing Interplay (original owners of the Fallout IP) over the use of Fallout, to suing Indie Dev Xreal over naming their game Fallout Fortress. Zenimax, the parent company owning Bethesda, also sued Oculus Rift over the use of “trade secrets”. Due to this behavior Dark0ne urges caution to his Mod Authors, suggesting they contact Bethesda first before creating a Patreon or something similar, lest they may find Bethesda’s legal hammer dropping on them too.
At time of writing, there are already a few Campaigns available on the Sprked website for The Elder Scrolls and Fallout mod creators, amongst others.