Valve are known for their odd experiments, from Team Fortress 2 hats to - heck! - Steam itself, but they tend to roll with them no matter what the reception, polishing these oddities up with force of will and years of refinement. Their plan to support selling mods through Steam, however, has gone back to the drawing board.
They launched a pilot scheme last week with Skyrim, and had planned to start letting other devs enable paid mods for their own games if they wished. Instead, they've removed paid mods from Skyrim, refunded everyone who bought mods, and confessed that "it's clear we didn't understand exactly what we were doing."
Valve's Alden Kroll explained in last night's announcement that, turns out, modding isn't as straightforward as the other ways Valve have let community creators sell stuff:
"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."
So probably expect to see the idea return at some point.
Launching it alongside a new Valve game seems the most likely route to success, something where there's less of a conceived notion of how its mod scene should work. Picking a game, like Skyrim, which for many is chiefly a vehicle for mods, not to mention is a bit of a shambles without mods, was clearly a bad idea. But Valve are into it, at least one publisher is into it (and surely more), and some modders are into it (evidently a fair few, given that they put their work up for sale).
Skyrim folks Bethesda explained yesterday why they were into the idea. "We completely understand the potential long-term implications allowing paid mods could mean," they said. "We think most of them are good. Some of them are not good. Some of them could hurt what we have spent so long building. We have just as much invested in it as our players." They added:
"We believe most mods should be free. But we also believe our community wants to reward the very best creators, and that they deserve to be rewarded. We believe the best should be paid for their work and treated like the game developers they are. But again, we don't think it's right for us to decide who those creators are or what they create."
This all probably wasn't helped by folks being able to post and sell whatever they pleased. Sure, people could file takedowns if they thought someone was yanking their stuff, but that's far from ideal. The lack of validating what goes on sale is a real problem Valve will need a solution for.
Any bets on when paid mods will return to Steam, and with which game?