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Skyrim Workshop Paid Content

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So... unless you've been living in a cave or under a rock, you likely know by now that Valve and Bethesda have launched official support to allow modders to charge money for mods. What follows are my own personal opinions on the matter. I'll also set some misinformation I've seen straight. Please keep any discussion on this civil. I will report any troll posts in this thread as spammers rather than simply removing them, and IPB's anti-spam service is VERY good at what it does.

I have been modding Elder Scrolls games now for going on 12 years now. I started off with Morrowind and did some tinkering around for personal use. Two of those mods eventually made it out into the public arena years later. I have numerous Oblivion mods I've made myself, and countless others I've been on project teams or contributed to in some way over the years. I also have several Skyrim mods out there now as well. So I'd like to think I've got some idea of what Elder Scrolls modding is like, and possibly some idea of what the general community thinks.

Let me preface this right now, so it's clear. These are my personal opinions on the matter. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer, my colleagues on various projects, Valve, or Bethesda.

With the amount of time I've invested in modding and the financial situation I've been in for awhile now, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I've been in favor of the idea of making money from mods for a good long time now. It's not something that was possible due to prior legal arrangements, but now it is, and yes, I intend to take advantage of it where possible. I don't think this makes me a bad person. It doesn't make me a greedy <insert racial slur here> as some people are saying - and yes, they're saying it. I'm not a sellout for deciding to take advantage of something I was offered the chance to do. Quite the opposite IMO.

I think modders choosing to be able to get paid for their work is going to be a net positive for modding once the hate machine runs out of gas. People will begin to realize this, and indeed I've noticed some already have. People will buy what they think is worth buying. This is already happening as well. Some authors might even be able to turn this into a full time career opportunity. Publicly available data already suggests at least one person is well on their way to this after just two days of this being available. This will become a successful venture. Of this I have little doubt. People just need time to adjust to this new reality, much like many of us had to adjust to the new reality of Skyrim only being available on Steam to start with.

The system is not without its problems, and I think one of the biggest ones of them all is the monetary split between Valve, Bethesda, and mod authors. It appears to be the thing the overwhelming majority of people are actually angry about. Maybe with good reason. Maybe not. For those who aren't aware, yes, modders take a 25% cut from the sale of their mods. The knee-jerk reaction has basically been "you're ripping off the modders." I'm not so sure this is the case. If you stop to think about the amount of infrastructure involved on the Workshop and Valve's staff commitment to this, their standard 30% cut doesn't look bad at all. Bethesda's 45% cut looks less equitable, but then we don't actually know how much their legal team has had to put up to clear the road for this legally. There's A LOT of stuff that we as modders simply aren't having to deal with. So 25% may not be so bad. Would I like it to be higher? Hell yes. Who wouldn't? As Gabe Newell said somewhere among one of the many threads, the distribution is up to the game developer to decide, so it's entirely possible this could change later. I for one hope it does.

In short, I think this is going to be something good for the community in the end. It's a choice. Modders can choose to participate or not. Users can choose whether to buy mods or not. Let the free market do what it does best and decide this on its own. That's the only data Valve is going to go by when deciding how to proceed from here.

What's not going to be good for the community is to continue ripping each other to shreds over this. The sheer volume of hate filled posts, racial slurs about Jews and money, calling people greedy assholes, and sending death threats to people only tends to make people think there never was a community if we're willing to do this to each other. Oh, and stealing the paid mods to upload them to piracy sites? Not cool. Hypocritical in fact. If we're going to protect the free ones, the paid ones deserve the same.

So what do I plan to do with my own stuff? All of the mods I have published that are currently available for free on Nexus and elsewhere will remain free, now and forever. Nothing will change there. I don't think it's helpful to take existing mods, make updated versions, and lock them behind the paywall. As I'm sure we've seen, Bethesda and Valve were right when they recommended against doing this because the fans would get upset.

I have one mod in the paid content section now. I believe it to be a good quality work that people will find worth the price. It has never been posted for free anywhere at any time. It was developed specifically with the paid content initiative in mind.

I will decide on how to handle NEW mods on a case by case basis. Yes, I will continue to create free mods. Yes, I will also create mods I plan to make money off of. The choice exists, no reason not to use it.

Now. To clear up some misinformation about all this, a Q&A type format follows.

Why did they spring this on us without any kind of notice?
There was notice. ~70 modders with various levels of community involvement were approached for the initiative about 6 weeks ago now and agreed to participate. So it isn't a completely unknown thing that just showed up on some random day in April. It looks that way to the vast majority of people, but as I understand it there were a lot more people asked if they were interested who either didn't respond at all or declined to participate.

Why on Earth would you sign an NDA for this?
We didn't. We were asked, yes ASKED, not to discuss this outside of the pre-launch group. Nobody had to promise their first born or sign away their lives or anything. Just asked not to discuss it. This is a pretty standard thing and they COULD have demanded a legally binding NDA but they didn't. I would have signed one had it been required though. For me, the opportunity was too good to let go over something like that.

How could you sell out for so little money?
I didn't sell out. 25% of something is better than 0% of nothing at all. Yes yes, I know, that line has been done to death already in the gaming press. That said, it was an issue we raised. Several of us in fact. I personally would rather it have been 50/50 but was asking for a 33/33/34 split as a compromise. The extra 1% leftover going to the authors. In the end, they decided to leave it as is at the current split which is 30/45/25 for Valve, Bethesda, and authors.

Keep in mind, I'm broke, I need the money. So maybe they took advantage of me. Maybe they didn't. Either way, it was my choice to continue participating and I felt it was worth doing so to see where this goes eventually. It's also my choice to accept that I'm only getting 25%.

You're getting hosed, they won't pay out until you hit at least $400 and it will be in Steam Wallet dollars!
Folks who say this haven't even done minimal research. Valve's official FAQ already says that there needs to be a minimum of $100 in the modder's coffers to initiate a payout. Not $400. It also quite clearly says that it's real cash, not wallet bucks. We had to provide them with bank routing info to handle the payments and everything. That also includes the IRS, who are arguably the real rip off artists here since THEY do literally nothing for a cut of what the modder gets paid. There's no way I would have agreed to any of this if it had been wallet dollars. I have next to no use for those and it wouldn't help one bit with my financial situation.

Why force people to buy a mod anyway?
Nobody is being forced to do anything. Modders are not forced to offer content for money and users are not forced to buy it either. I'm not sure where this even entered into things since it has no basis in logic.

How long before Valve shuts down Nexus?
Never? Dark0ne has already addressed this in great detail over on Nexus. May as well read his statement directly.

The majority is against you. This will fail.
I'm not convinced. The so-called majority looks like the same set of people posting on the same forums basically going in circles restating the same arguments over and over again in each new thread that pops up somewhere. In reality, even with the 100K or so supposed modders (we have no way to verify this) who signed the change.org petition, it's a small minority of very vocal people. The majority, as usual, is sitting silent. May of them are going to be completely oblivious and have no idea anyone opposes this at all. They'll simply see a new option in the Workshop and rightly be all "oh, just like TF2 and DOTA, ok".

You idiot, they own your content now. Just look what they did to Chesko.
Uh, no, not quite. They don't "own" anything. Proof of that is in the 1099-MISC forms we're going to get from the IRS. It's classified as "Copyright Royalty". That's a legal thing btw. So their lawyers know full well who owns what and has the final say.

We as authors can withdraw our content at any time, for any reason. Valve put one condition on that though. Anyone who has already paid for a copy will get to keep that copy. The listing will remain visible to all paying customers as well as to the author, Valve, and Bethesda. We knew this throughout the entire pre-launch discussion. This is literally no different from buying a full game from Steam and later having a publisher withdraw it from the Steam Store. This happened with Realms of Arkania and I never lost access to the game I paid for when it did. The same goes for mods on the paid Workshop. Chesko knew this going in and agreed to those conditions. Valve's lawyers were entirely in the right to tell him that they're under no obligation to remove the content unless legally compelled to do so. Which means if Chesko wants it completely removed, he'll have to sue Valve, win, and then have the court order enforced. That's not gonna happen.

As far as the rest of his situation, he brought most of it on himself when he decided it would be useful to begin lighting bridges on fire. Any damage to his reputation is solely his responsibility for how he's handled things.

He DID NOT deserve the death threats directed toward him or his family though. Anyone who did that should get a visit from the cops and set straight about just how serious that is. Nevermind the toxicity it brings to the community.

That said, I'm also not convinced that Fore had the legal standing to bar the dependency on FNIS to get the fishing animation into the game. The Valve team even told him as much after consulting their legal people. They're far more likely to know what they're talking about than random internet posters. The animation file itself was NOT STOLEN, despite the gaming media and the community claiming otherwise. Chesko had someone develop that specifically for Art of the Catch.

Oh yeah, well guess what? The EULA says this is illegal and I'm gonna tell on you! Also Bethesda owns all mods.
Ignoring for one moment that Valve and Bethesda are very clearly aware of this whole thing...

No. Bethesda does not own all mods. Read the EULA more carefully. Not gonna bother quoting it directly as this debate has been done to death now for years and years, but the gist of it is that Bethesda licenses the right to use your content. They cannot appropriate actual ownership of your copyright without you signing a very specific form the government has for that purpose.

Mods are derivative works of the game, which is why they can dictate the terms they do. They were nice enough to let us retain ownership of our works, be they free or otherwise.

Donations are a superior way to handle this. Use those instead.
It's a noble sentiment to be sure. A lot of people have put forth donations as a way to combat what they see as the coming scourge. There's only one problem. Nobody donates. It could very well be that's because, until Friday, the donation buttons on Nexus may as well have been invisible. Thing is, everyone knew they existed and knew where to find them. I don't know for sure how long the system has existed, but I can count the number of donations I've received on one hand [1]. Nexus isn't the only place I've left donation links either. So that can't be the only reason.

[1] Over the last 2 days, incoming donations have exploded. I very much appreciate every last one of them, but I'm going to wait and see if this is a temporary trend or a long term thing before commenting further on this.

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