Almost a month after I brought the news that paid custom games had made their way into Dota 2, and almost a year since paid mods found their way onto Steam, a few new pieces of information and updates from Steam have hinted at the inglorious return of paid mods. As we all remember, the community outcry was impressive in its scale and scope, and perhaps warranted, as the quality of supposedly vetted mods was dubious at times.
Sega, however, seeing an opportunity, has decided to add unit skins to Company of Heroes 2. To be sure, the line about “skins may be sold in the in-game store” was in the original posting on Polycount so it can’t entirely come as a surprise, though the decision is still strange. For a game that has, on average, ~5,000 players at peak daily, compared to Skyrim’s 30,000, the business logic here may not be entirely sound.
In addition, we also get insight into just how much Valve and other developers take as part of a cut for microtransactions. The actual creators of the skins get 30% of the price, or the exact same cut that Valve takes. Relic takes 20%, and another 20% vanishes into the ether to be used for “community events and activities.” Effectively, that means Relic is taking 40%, though only explicitly taking 20. As these skins were developed as part of a collaborative community effort through Polycount, one would hope that the quality would be above excellent, though whether or not the skins are actually fitting with the World War 2 environment remains to be seen.
Not only that, but it would seem as though paid mods and workshop content is returning. Reports have surfaced of content creators being “allowed to subscribe” to their own content. User uLLeticaL, creator of a number of CS:GO maps, created a thread on Reddit wondering if anyone else had noticed such changes in their content, and it would appear as though all content in all games in the Workshop is seeing such a message. In addition, there are claims of certain strings appearing in the Steam Translation Server related to paid mods, though I have been unable to source such claims as of yet. Again, this is not entirely unsurprising, as many have wagered that it would only be a matter of time before Valve returned with paid mods, though perhaps the sheer scope of the paid mods is baffling.
Could this possibly be tied to the news of the impending release of Fallout 4’s Creation Kit? Possibly, though Bethesda’s EULA for Fallout 4 currently states that mods must be free. Of course, EULAs can be changed fairly easily, and Bethesda is no stranger to doing so, yet I would hazard a guess that Bethesda doesn’t want news of the Creation Kit’s release to be tempered by the outrage of paid mods yet again. We don’t yet know how Bethesda.net’s integration with mods (and mods on console) is going to work just yet, but nonetheless, this timing is highly coincidental, if anything.
Personally, I could see Valve opting for a subscription-based model for access to mods and other workshop content, similarly to Xbox Live for PlayStation Network. I can’t see Valve forcing consumers into paying for multiplayer game access, yet locking out some content behind a subscription may be a way to ensure that all modders get some money, even if it’s just a fraction thereof. Valve has also put in considerable work into improving the security for the Community Market, with some changes that were unwelcome by high-volume traders.
Regardless of my speculation, the saga around paid mods continues, and I’m certain that we’ll know more about what Valve’s plan for paid mods and such a service is sometime in the future.