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At a recent press event at the Valve headquarters in Bellevue, Washington, Valve founder Gabe Newell talked about their stance on console gaming. This is interesting because Valve hasn’t really released a game on the major consoles since the Xbox 360 despite console sales being at an all-time high. This apparently stems from Valve wanting to do free to play games on consoles, something that got a lukewarm reception from the powers that be.

So you try to talk to someone who’s doing product planning on a console about free-to-play games and they say ‘Oh, we’re not sure free-to-play is a good idea’ and you’re like ‘the ship has left.’

Newell also mentions the bureaucratic red tape developers have to deal with while developing and maintaining products meant for mobile phones.

There have been cases where we’ve updated products 5-6 times in a day.

When we did the original iOS of Steam App, right, we shipped it, we got a whole bunch of feedback and like the next day we’re ready to do an update. We weren’t able to get that update out for six months! And we couldn’t find out why they wouldn’t release it! They wouldn’t tell us. This is the life that you have in these environments. And finally they shipped it! And they wouldn’t tell us why they finally shipped it.

So for us, while we’re spending all of our time trying to be as tunnel-vision in this loop with our customers, to all of a sudden have this complete uncertainty about doing updates… Like we don’t know how to operate.

Valve aren’t the first ones to bring up the apparent difficulty in updating apps on a mobile platform like iOS and Android. The certification process takes a long time and with relatively little communication between the developer and Google/Apple can make the process frustrating since there’s a lot of uncertainty as to where in the process you’re standing. Like Newell said, this makes updating apps frequently more of a pain than it should be. It is because of this that Valve does not consider the mobile platform a valid option to pursue, with them rather focusing on the PC over all other platforms.

I’m sure that other people are wildly successful in those environments, but sort of our DNA tend to not work well when someone is trying to insert a lot of process between us and our customers.

A thing they are thinking about, however, is the reintroduction of paid mods to the Steam Workshop. This plan was originally planned to become a mainstay for the Skyrim workshop, but the system they implemented proved to be controversial with the player base as well as easy to manipulate for people looking to make a quick buck. Unsurprisingly, this feature was removed from the Workshop almost as soon as it was introduced.

This, however, did not completely dissuade Valve, who instead opted to go back to the drawing board to devise a system that was a lot more fair towards modders and users alike, while trying to figure out a way to make the system less open to abuse.

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. —Alden Kroll, Valve UI designer

During this roundtable, Newell spoke openly about the company’s plans to reintroduce a feature to the client that allows modders to get paid for their work without making it feel exploitative.

In a sense you want to have really good signal to noise ratios in how the gaming community signals to developers ‘Yeah, do more of that.’ Or, ‘No, please, don’t release any more of those ever.’ And [modders] create a lot of value, and we think that … absolutely they need to be compensated, they’re creating value and the degree to which they’re not being accurately compensated is a bug in the system, right? It’s just inserting noise into it.

It’s hard to disagree with that statement, especially since there exist some modders who go above and beyond to make new content for the games they love. Some of these mods are absolutely huge, adding in vast swaths of new gameplay mechanics, areas, storylines and graphical improvements that extend a game’s life by huge margin.

The Skyrim situation was a mess. It was not the right place to launch that specific thing and we did some sort of ham-handed, stupid things in terms of how we rolled it out.

EJ [Valve’s Erik Johnson] basically said we just need to back off of this for now, but the fundamental concept of ‘the gaming community needs to reward the people who are creating value’ is pretty important, right?

As of the time of writing this, we don’t know what Valve intends to do with the new system, nor do we know what this system will look like when it inevitably makes its return to the popular PC platform. There’s an obvious need to support voluntary content creators who use the workshop to create and share mods. All they need to do now is find a way to do that without causing another wave of backlash.

What  do you think of Valve’s stance on console games and paid mods? 

Chris Anderson

Staff Writer

I've been playing games since I was just barely able to walk, and I never really stopped playing them. When I'm not fulfilling my duties as senior staff writer and tech reviewer, I'm either working on music, producing one of two podcasts or doing freelance work.

  • vonSanneck

    I’d like to see modders get paid by the IP owners/Valve for having a popular mod supporting their game. I think the ship has sailed with the consumers paying the end directly outside of Patreon.

  • Casey

    I personally believe that modders should get paid for their work, but there are a few things about it that make it such a pain that I don’t know if it can ever be done.

    1. Support. – You’ve gotten that new game and you see a mod for it that looks pretty dope. You shell out your cash, get your mod and then boom. The game updated. Now that mod is broken. Who is to say that the modder will go back and fix their mod? Are they under any obligation to do so? Are you entitled to a refund? These are questions that MUST be answered before this is implemented.

    2. Reliance upon other mods. – You buy that new game, you see a cool mod, the requirements list that you need another mod to use it. How should this situation be handled? Skyrim itself is a perfect example as the script extender mod is required for many complicated mods.

    3. Mod theft. – What is to stop some random asshat from downloading someone else’s mod, then changing like, one thing, and then selling it themselves? So far as we saw in the skyrim fiasco, nothing.

    4. IP usage – So you got that new game and you see a mod that puts in Macho Man Randy Savage, or maybe some cartoon character. You aren’t legally allowed to sell this mod. It’s not your property. Every single mod would have to be reviewed to ensure this doesn’t happen.

    5. Rewarding shitty companies – Bethesda releases their new game, and surprise surprise, it’s a buggy pile of shit. Physics are broken, questlines don’t work, scripting is broken, etc. Modders go in and do the work Bethesda SHOULD HAVE DONE and release their mod. However, because the game belongs to Bethesda, some portion of that mod sale goes to Bethesda. They’re profiting off of hardworking people doing the job they should have fucking done in the first place.

    6. And finally, testing – Who in the hell is going to go through and test all these mods to make sure they don’t have a virus or BSOD your computer? If you think steam is, you’re sorely mistaken.

    There are probably several other scenarios I’m not thinking of right now, but these are the main issues that have to be addressed before they can even THINK about trying this shit again, otherwise it’s just gonna be another GDCF.

  • My Opinion

    Modders have a field day with this one. vacproofdotcom

  • My Opinion

    mod this vacproofdotcom

  • Reece Ingram

    The problem with app updates is only with apple. Updates to Google play apps are controlled entirely by the developer, no 6 month lag time.

  • Mitchell

    I think that because of these great points that you make, the current system of a modder presenting their mod while saying, “If you like it and want to support us, you may donate to us,” is the best system possible right now.

    As soon as it stops being a voluntary donation, higher expectations and obligations get set which will only cause problems for the reasons you listed and, probably, more. This is a cultural problem that really can only be solved by people deciding for themselves that supporting modders is the right thing to do and to do it.

    Gabe/Steam talk nobly about the principle of compensating modders for the value they provide, but they need only start a sort of PSA campaign urging users to donate. The fact that they’re trying to create a system that forces users to pay in a way that Steam and the games’ publishers get a cut as well just tells me that this is really just another way they see to make money.

  • FlamingoJet

    They are going to try that shit again?

    Get that fax number ready, boys.

    We obviously were not loud enough last time.

    We told you Valve, donation system ONLY.

  • Michele

    You made good points.

    I believe that it make sense that modders are allowed to earn from their work. So Valve could be right in that. But I strongly disagree that the ones that made the game and the one managing the store (Valve) should earn as well. They are pushing for modders to earn money but they are really pushing for themself earning from what they produce.
    Also, what about title that doesn’t require steam? Paid mod would mean the end of modding out of Steam.
    Also, what protect modders from developers that updates their game introducing the content that was previously in the mod, making it obsolete? I believe that in that case modders should own that content, preventing the developer from implementing it.

  • Reptile

    The only way that “paid mods” would work the way they want it to work is if they have a system like AppStore (that in this same press event they said they despise).

    You have to have some sort of internal approval system for the mods to check things like intelectual properties, check if the people submitting is the author and etc. But let’s be honest, Steam don’t even do that to full games will they do it for mods?

    Also it raises other problems like restrictions, they will have to impose a lot of restrictions on mods that contains other IPs like, Star Wars ships or Spider Man costume, that means restriction to modders and if there is something modders surely despise is restrictions (otherwise they wouldn’t be making mods in the first place). So even if they manage to put an approval system on Steam it will have less mods and less activity than third party mods sites like Nexus or Moddb.

    Honestly all this looks like a clusterfuck to deal with looking from all angles, simpler and more fair is to incentive donations to mod creators.

  • ParasiteX

    Payed mods is just never gonna be able to work right. And i’m speaking as a long time modder myself..

    To many issued to deal with.
    Most notably copyright issues. As you can’t charge for mods that include copyrighted assets in it. Not to mention stealing other modders work.
    All that would require considerable amount of reviewing of every mod before it is allowed to monetize itself..

    What they can do instead is introduce better systems in Steam workshop for accepting optional donations from people. But actually charging for mods would require way too much work.

  • Feniks

    Yeah all the apps on my Android phone get frequent updates, sometimes several times a day.

  • Casey

    Well, I have to disagree on part of your first point. If steam is providing the marketplace for them to sell the mod, they should get a cut too. Not a huge one mind you, but something. I mean it IS their storefront, and they ARE providing the bandwidth. However, like I say in my post, if someone is fixing something that should’ve been fixed on release, well, the company shouldn’t get a stinking penny for it.

    Your second point though, I agree with you. One thing that pissed me off about Fallout 4 is that most of the new features they implemented can be found right now in mods for Fallout: New Vegas. It’s like they took the best the community had to offer, and then threw feces all over it with their new conversation systems and such.

    It’s a complicated problem, with no easy solution.