Rust [official site] now has a microtransaction item store, through which players can buy cosmetic items direct from their creators. The idea is that modders can add and profit from the sale of their own work. Perhaps most interestingly, this is all happening through Steam itself using new 'Item Store' functionality.
The store already features a number of community-created items, including a skeleton hoodie for £1.60, punk rock pants for £3.20 and a 'Nightmare Balaclava' for £1.60. If you click on the store page for any of the items, you're presented with its current cost in the Community Market - the part of Steam through which players can sell items they didn't make but don't want to one another. Prices for that £1.60 Nightmare Balaclava begin at £2.00 when bought from other players rather than its creators.
This might seem odd, but it means that the item store is simply another part of the existing trading ecosystem. Items might come and go from the item store, and prices will fluctuate on the community market accordingly. In all cases, these cosmetic items will also be available as random drops in-game for people who don't want to pay any kind of price.
This sounds a little similar to the paid mods feature Valve tried to introduce through Steam with Skyrim earlier this year, but the difference here is that these items can still technically be gathered for free or traded for very little, and it has been created to encourage a community that's not yet as developed as the Elder Scrolls modding community was.
More precisely, it's exactly what Valve already do with their own games like Dota 2, Team Fortress 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, where community members can create maps or hats or other cosmetic items and list them for sale themselves.
Writing on his own blog, Rust creator Garry Newman explained that he thought the item store was a win for everybody, even going so far as to break down the benefits he thinks it offers for "money guy", "poor guy", the modding community and the developers.
"If you'd have asked me if I'd ever have a game with microtransactions in 5 years ago, I'd have probably laughed in your face, but the way Valve does it is different. The idea is that no-one loses out. Everyone wins with every transaction."
This is interesting for players of Rust, but more broadly the item store functionality's inclusion in Steam means that this is likely to be the first game of many outside of Valve to include it. It'll be interesting to see whether all the markets develop as Valve's have.