A few years ago, Bethesda tried to make gamers pay for mods – particularly through Steam (note that this was before mods were brought to current generation consoles, it was still under consideration at the time). Some modders wanted to charge for their work and were perfectly fine with the idea, but others, including some of the biggest names in the modding community, were not okay with the idea.
Bethesda snuck a little something into their Creation Club reveal at E3 this year, showing that you could download mods using points… points that would either be earned by completing in-game actions or through actually paying with your hard earned cash. There is no official statement on how Creation Club will actually work, even the website for the program is vague on how modders will be paid and how much they will be paid for their work.
What we do know is that Bethesda will allow modders to apply to the site, these mod authors will then be verified (or not) and will be paid for any mods they create and upload to the Creation Club. One of the major criterions being that you cannot upload any pre-existing mods, it has to be something new that you created – this prevents people from creating accounts, somehow getting verified and then uploading someone else’s hard work to the site with their own name slapped on it. And mod authors will have to pitch their mod ideas to Bethesda first, because Bethesda doesn’t want to put time into something that sounds like it probably won’t do well.
This sounds like a pretty safe system but there is something we have to be clear on: this is not the return of paid mods, this does not mean that all mod authors have to charge for their work, just those that want to get paid for what they do. These mod authors will work alongside Bethesda’s in-house developers to create new content for games like Skyrim Special Edition and Fallout 4. Which, when you think about it, makes it easier to understand why Bethesda wants to charge for these mods, because their developers are putting in time that would otherwise be used to develop games for the company – games that would make money.
And that is understandable; at the end of the day, Bethesda is a company and they need to pay their staff somehow. They’re not going to freely host the servers for a site that allows mod authors to work alongside their developers, those developers need to get paid, that site has maintenance costs. Which begs the question as to why they would do it in the first place: because mod authors are putting in valuable time to create something for free.
And that’s it right there: time is money. Many mod authors enjoy what they do but can you really blame them for trying to make a little money off of their hard work? Can you really blame them? Because if modders got paid enough to cover their living expenses and actually have money left over on top of that then they would most definitely be spending their time doing nothing but modding; they wouldn’t only be modding in their free time and it wouldn’t be a hobby anymore, it would be a job. And whether or not it becomes a job is entirely up to the mod author.
But if a mod author wanted to make money off of their mods, it seems the Creation Club is the right way to go about it; Bethesda won’t be employing these modders, they’ll just be paying them for whatever work they put out in their own time. That way a mod author can keep their day job and modding stays a hobby (which it should be), a hobby that earns them a little bit of extra cash on the side.
While I don’t necessarily support paid mods; if I had to pay for every mod I’ve downloaded, I would be way past bankrupt; I’m definitely not against it. Because who am I to tell a person to give me the fruits of their labour for free?
Either way, I’m sure many mod authors will continue to fly the Forever Free banner on their Nexus pages.