Well, that was fast. Less than a week after implementing the arrangement, Valve and Bethesda have decided to cancel their paid mods scheme for Skyrim, and issue refunds to anyone who paid for one.
The deal, which would allow mod creators to sell their previously-free work on Steam (with Valve and Bethesda taking 75% of the cut), outraged fans who saw it as an assault on a tradition of free mods, upset creators who saw the dangers in the crediting and payment options and even led to Valve boss Gabe Newell—on any other day one of the most beloved men on the internet—getting his ass downvoted to oblivion on Reddit.
A statement from Valve employee Aldon Kroll on the Steam Community portal reads:
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.
Bethesda, too, have issued a lengthy statement explaining where they were coming from with the deal, and why they’ve made the decision with Valve to shelve this particular version. It’s a long read, but worth it if you want a little more background to why the decisions were made.
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.
While Valve and Bethesda may have a case somewhere, at some point in time to charge for mods (indeed, Kroll says Valve will simply be looking elsewhere to “start iterating” paid mods), this particular program was implemented terribly (dropped out of nowhere, with little consideration given to the legal impact of modding’s convoluted crediting process), in a way that showed either a lack of understanding of their community, or a lack of care for what they thought about the modding scene. Kudos to all involved for realising this, pulling the plug and going back to the drawing board.