Charging for Skyrim Mods Was a Horrendous Idea

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Charging for Skyrim Mods Was a Horrendous Idea

The controversy over paying for Skyrim mods on Steam has almost subsided, but Shamus still has a lot to say on the subject.

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All that, and you didn't even touch on the problems regarding copyrighted content, like Lightsaber mods. It's amazing how bad this whole idea was.

I agree with most of this. Bethesda certainly shouldn't profit from someone else fixing bugs in their game, but I don't think the underlying idea of letting modders monetize their work is a bad idea.

I just think it needs to be properly policed for plagarism, which Valve probably isn't the best company for.

Agreed with all that's said in this article. Valve has no business barging into the modding community and wrecking up the place.

It's the story of the goose with the golden eggs all over again. Modding was already giving you golden eggs, because it fixes games and adds immensely to their longevity, thereby also increasing the chances that people will buy your DLC (many Skyrim mods depend on the official DLC). But they just had to cut in there to get more than that.

An easy to use donation system, that's something I could get behind, but not this.

Of course it was a bad idea. But you know what is the worst of all? That it was an obvious cash grab and they though that we would be stupid enough to fall for it. I don't know you guys but I feel insulted. I mean come on! 75% for valve and bethesda and a 25% for modders? what the hell! Don't pretend that it's anything else.
Look I said in other posts, if they really cared about the modders they would have add a donation button. Simple as that. You choose if you want to pay and how much you want to pay. I have no problem helping my favorite modders with some cash but I'm not okay with companies robbing me and taking advantage of the modders hard work. I hope that they consider this idea in the future.

Caramel Frappe:
image

It baffles me why Valve or anyone thought this was a good idea... heck, i'm not even an economic apprentice or some form of businessman and even I could see this failing HARD. Never try to make profit on a free service ... it would be like a company allowing charities to charge the homeless money for shelters, but 75% of the charities' money goes to said company. Just no... charities do what they do for the good of the community, same as modding communities (sorry if that wasn't the best example).

Two things:

1. The fact that we've had modding for free does not mean we could not have had even more money and resources put into modding if there was also a financial incentive. Money does steer work. Not everyone who is skilled enough to do so is able and/or willing to mod for free. So this could have hypothetically led to more and higher quality mods.

It also wasn't like people couldn't still produce it for free.

2. 75%/25% isn't a bad split. As is, development studios only get 15% with the rest of the money going to the publisher, console maker, marketing, the retail store, and anything else. In this scenario, Steam is the console maker (since Steam is a platform) and serves as a kind of marketing and retail store while Bethesda's store front is itself also marketing and a retail store. Bethesda is also the publisher (They financially assisted the modders by backing the game engine and dev tools as well as providing the storefront). This isn't bad to rent space on this kind of highly visible storefront that is Bethesda's even though it's on Steam.

So 25% is good. It's especially sweet when you don't have to create your own assets or build your own engine components like real developers have to do. It also isn't obligatory. If they don't think it is worth the 75% then they can still go elsewhere.

This was only one more option that was being made available. Shame we killed it due to not understanding that this is an industry norm.

Now, is Bethesda asking for too much? Probably. But that's their prerogative. Especially when the previous model was 100% free and no one got paid at all.

Quick correction: Under the now-defunct plan, authors could cash out once they've earned $100 dollars, which means $400 in sales. The internet telephone game is responsible for morphing this into the $400/$1600 number that's been floating about.

Lightknight:
(Truncated)

Two things:

1. The fact that we've had modding for free does not mean we could not have had even more money and resources put into modding if there was also a financial incentive. Money does steer work. Not everyone who is skilled enough to do so is able and/or willing to mod for free. So this could have hypothetically led to more and higher quality mods.

It also wasn't like people couldn't still produce it for free.

2. 75%/25% isn't a bad split (...) This was only one more option that was being made available. Shame we killed it due to not understanding that this is an industry norm.

This wasn't killed because people on the receiving end didn't understand it, it was because on the balance of things, this was a policy that had the potential to seriously disrupt the modding community with very little upside. The fact that there are minor possible upsides doesn't make it a good idea in the face of the massive problems and downsides it creates.

Your first point is a valid possibility, financial incentive might lead to higher quality, but the article makes a fairly good case that the problems this system would create and the behaviour it would incentivize would create an environment where there would be poorer overall products.

Your second point is largely irrelevant, and somewhat flawed. Even if it were accurate, it's neutral to the modding community at best, and therefore does little to outweigh the problems that have to be outweighed before this is a good idea. But the point does have flaws.

First, it makes little sense to compare this to an industry standard, since modding is not an industry. Modders are not employees, they are not paid by Bethesda, and their work isn't guaranteed any money at all. In fact, their work costs Bethesda nothing, and is good for them as it promotes sales and people becoming invested in the company brand. Given all of these things, perhaps the smarter move, from a business standpoint, would be to take less of a percentage, rather than strangling the Golden Goose in an effort to squeeze all the eggs out.

In short, it's not that people don't understand this, they do. And it's not that anyone thinks the companies involved shouldn't have the power to do this. It's just that it's a stupid idea with few upsides for anyone involved.

Oh hey! I didn't know you had a Patreon!

Here, have a small amount of money! It's the least I can do for all the joy 'DM of the Rings' brought me.

Lightknight:

2. 75%/25% isn't a bad split.

A bad split is a bad split, even if it is better than the industry average. Not to mention that those companies are not splitting the sale directly with all other parties. They make contracts ahead of time, they have terms and timetables which decide who is paid what, when and for what duration of time. Contracts that the companies in question negotiated for themselves, as opposed to being dictated to them from on high.

We killed this because, even if the core idea of compensating modders for services rendered is a good one, the execution was poor at best.

Signa:
All that, and you didn't even touch on the problems regarding copyrighted content, like Lightsaber mods. It's amazing how bad this whole idea was.

Too bad they didn't let the system run a little longer. It would have been amusing to see Valve and Bethesda in court over all the money they were making from copyrighted material, defending against Lucasarts, Disney, etc

Thanks for breaking this down and summing it up for me, Shamus. I don't have Steam and played Skyrim on the PS3, so I didn't really understand what was going on. All I heard was that Valve was going to start charging for mods. After reading this though, I understand why this backfired so horribly, and honestly, I'm more than a little disappointed in Valve. They're supposed to be the good guys of the gaming world, but this? This is on the level of EA and Activision in regards to some areas. That's pretty low.

Sniper Team 4:
They're supposed to be the good guys of the gaming world, but this?

The days of Valve being in any way consumer oriented are long past us. They basically take the attitude of it's your problem, fuck you now, even EA has a better sales and refund policy than Valve.

Think about that, EA has better customer service than Valve, how times change.

This piece is misguided, even for something written on Sunday. Most of its contentions are with the incentive schemes of capitalist markets, not this marketplace in particular. It also takes the 75/25 number at its face, rather than seeing it for what it means. I've already posted about the confusions about capitalist incentive schemes in this discussion here: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/7.874507-Gabe-Newell-Speaks-on-The-Whole-Paid-Skyrim-Mods-Debacle?page=3#21973324 and here: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/7.874507-Gabe-Newell-Speaks-on-The-Whole-Paid-Skyrim-Mods-Debacle?page=4#21975310

The 75/25 number is worth talking about independently. The proposed split was plausible: modders would retain financial incentives, Valve would cover their costs, and Bethesda would retain a strong financial incentive for supporting the modding community. As I outline in the above links, getting developers actively engaged in the modding community can be a big win for everyone. But all this is assuming the split is inflexible. Bethesda and Valve could agree to new terms, offering more money to modders, or a different split for certain sorts of mods. Bethesda could even offer their full share in particular mods, or just a flat buy-out, to modders who fix their product. These are workable solutions to foreseeable problems - nothing that's worth writing home (or an editorial) about.

The biggest issue with this roll-out was its lack of consumer resources. If Valve had offered more transparent methods for administering to the community, policing copyright, and growing the system of incentives then this idea would be quite nearly ideal. As it stands Valve has been cowed by a largely misguided response from consumers. I hope they implement a mod shop in the coming years, one that has learned from this week's mistakes.

EDIT: It's also a little startling that so few have recognized the tension between the claims that "mods keep Skyrim/[other games] alive!" and "this 75/25 split leaves no money for modders!" If mods really are essential to playing a game then most people will buy them, especially since so many people buy games during Steam sales. Bethesda, too, would have a substantial financial incentive for making this market viable and popular.

Sniper Team 4:
Thanks for breaking this down and summing it up for me, Shamus. I don't have Steam and played Skyrim on the PS3, so I didn't really understand what was going on. All I heard was that Valve was going to start charging for mods. After reading this though, I understand why this backfired so horribly, and honestly, I'm more than a little disappointed in Valve. They're supposed to be the good guys of the gaming world, but this? This is on the level of EA and Activision in regards to some areas. That's pretty low.

Don't be swayed by this shoddy article. Speaking as an actual modder turned software developer, this article is of shockingly poor quality and Shamus should be ashamed for writing it.

I mean, consider this: One of the big points he brings is that by making mods paid people will have an incentive to steal mod content and pass it off as their own. Well of course! The only reason this didn't happen before was because the content was inherently valueless. His solution to this problem is for the content to remain valueless. That is like saying that selling comic books is bad because someone might photocopy the art and sell it as their own. It is a pathetically bad anti-creator argument and I am shocked he would repeat it. We can't let creative content be sold! If it has value then people might try to steal it and sell it, so the creator wont get compensated! Far better to just prevent creators being compensated in the first place!

And then, get this, he goes on to talk about how a donation button would be a more appropriate method. But donation buttons already exist, he even gives himself as an example of how it can support people. But his entire stolen content point rests on the assumption that mod content is valueless!

Either donation systems are so ineffective that content that relies on them is typically valueless or the theft problem is not nearly as bad as he is assuming it would be (because, if they work, content is already valuable enough to steal.) Either way he is dead wrong about something. And I am pretty sure what he is dead wrong about is the effectiveness of donation systems. They can work, but it is rare.

And he didn't even properly fact check the article. You know the 1600 sales/$400 dollar figure he gives? The actual figure would be 400 sales/$100 dollars. But because Shamus didn't bother to do a 5 minute fact check and instead relied on rumors from his besty he inflated the figure by 4 times. Can you really trust that Shamus was thinking critically about this subject when he wasn't even willing to source a publicly available fact?

And that isn't even getting into his questionable assessment of the 75%/25% split or his incredibly anti-creator views on the dependency chain issue. "Modders should just work for free and then beg for donations (which by my own logic is damn near worthless.) That solves all the problems!"

Edit:
"if I was a mod author, I'd rather have 90% of optional donations than 25% of mandatory fees."

[sarcasm]Thanks so much for deciding how I should want to be paid.[/sarcasm]

I'm firmly in the camp that payed modding is a possibly ok idea, but would have to be implemented extremely well, and we got the exact opposite of that. All the IP and support issues shows that Valve had completely and utterly didn't think through this system and took the "free market" plan without thinking about the context of the situation.

Regarding the "cut" portion, which is one of the more argued about points, I believe Valve takes around 30% for all games on their service. Whether that's ok or not is up for debate (personally I'm ok with it since brick & mortar stores take similar cuts albeit with more expenses), but I would argue that 5% is definitely too low. The 45% Bethesda cut is duel-purpose stupid and unfair though.

I'm probably going to still use Steam since this wasn't a big deal for me, but it is yet another example of Valve being completely unable to manage such a big and important service like Steam.

It's certainly nice to read an article about this whole debacle that isn't parroting the whole "hurrr gamers are entitled" nonsense some of the other sites have been saying for a change.

for me one bright spot of this entire debacle has been drawing my attention to where a donate button may or may not be on some of the larger/necessary mods and considering if i should donate to the modder or not, interestingly only 2 of them so far have donate buttons on the nexus

Don't forget the companies that make the modeling and other creative software modders use. How much do you want to bet they're all using licensed versions and paying percentages where applicable?

Unjustified greed ladies and gentleman. Thats what happens some times in the industry.

Why not give the money (in optional forms of donation) to the modders directly instead? they are the ones who worked their asses learning the software and made the mods. Thank you Bethesda for letting anyone that has the game make mods of your game, they make your games infinity better actually the free form and "take it easy" attitude of that pumps up the sales by a huuuuge margin.

Skyrim without mods (this includes DLCs they are mods after all) is lack luster and boring.

Hey Shamus, the $400 figure your friend gave you is already taking into account the 25%. The amount of cash you personally need to have earned before getting anything is $100. Probably should have checked the FAQ.

Lightknight:
[quote="Caramel Frappe" post="6.874620.21976982"]
2. 75%/25% isn't a bad split. As is, development studios only get 15% with the rest of the money going to the publisher, console maker, marketing, the retail store, and anything else. In this scenario, Steam is the console maker (since Steam is a platform) and serves as a kind of marketing and retail store while Bethesda's store front is itself also marketing and a retail store. Bethesda is also the publisher (They financially assisted the modders by backing the game engine and dev tools as well as providing the storefront). This isn't bad to rent space on this kind of highly visible storefront that is Bethesda's even though it's on Steam.

So 25% is good. It's especially sweet when you don't have to create your own assets or build your own engine components like real developers have to do. It also isn't obligatory. If they don't think it is worth the 75% then they can still go elsewhere.

A developer may get a relatively small cut, and many developers actually get closer to that 25% mark, they get paid to develop the content in the first place. The salaries and costs have been paid the entire time and THEN they cut their percentage. In this case nothing is getting paid for the content, so why should the split be the same?

I think the ad for the 10 years-old mod (and probably outright stolen at this point) "Realistic Horse Genitals" for only $99.99 sums up this entire idea.

Most in-house made expansion packs sell for only $40 or what-not.
Everything else would be worth pennies on average, at least with the stuff I've used. Alternate colors, different designs, de-crap-ified UI removed start-up logo.

I'm curious if Steam and Beth had to wait till a threshold to get their cut. I bet they didn't. What of the mods that don't reach that threshold? Beth and Steam keep the money? Or is in perpetual escrow.

I really never saw why any of this was bad. The complaint about "the money" was just asinine to me.

People are making things for a product they don't own, then selling it on a service using an infrastructure they didn't create.

If people didn't want it, they don't have to pay for it. I've downloaded tons of mods for Skyrim, I would seriously pay for none of them. Well, maybe Frostfall. Because they weren't significant in any way. But I'm pretty frugal on any DLC.

Maybe it's because gamers are seriously the dumbest demographic there is, and have to buy everything they see.

Randomvirus:
I really never saw why any of this was bad. The complaint about "the money" was just asinine to me.

People are making things for a product they don't own, then selling it on a service using an infrastructure they didn't create.

If people didn't want it, they don't have to pay for it. I've downloaded tons of mods for Skyrim, I would seriously pay for none of them. Well, maybe Frostfall. Because they weren't significant in any way. But I'm pretty frugal on any DLC.

Maybe it's because gamers are seriously the dumbest demographic there is, and have to buy everything they see.

Or maybe you should read the article and think about the arguments he brings up about there being no quality control, rampant stealing and bethesda and valve claiming money while doing jack shit instead of insulting everyone around you?

This scheme was a poorly implemented mess and shows that Valve does not understand modding culture, and aparantly some other people with capitalist boners in this very thread dont understand it either. Especially when they now get a steady paycheck at the end of the month instead of having to hope that no one steals their work with them having actually no legal protection to prevent it.

Valve doesnt take responsibility, Bethesda takes no responsibility... and good luck trying to get a dmca against a guy you only know as pwnzer348!!! who stole and uploaded your mod and claims that hes the original developer and you are the fraud. Steam has absolutely no copyright protection measures installed into their workshop, and unlike with their own games refuses to commit to any QA whatsofreaking ever, and even encourages people to steal mods that they found for free somewhere else!

Not only that but everyone keeps ignoring the "poisen the well" argument and instead keep stomping their feet on the ground and keep changing "if modders get paid they make better mods"

Without even having any arguments to back that up... as if repeating this statement makes it true.

Not only do these wannabe hardcore capitalists completly ignore modding culture and what makes modding actually possible in the first place (the cooperation of modders due to mods being a free labor of love) but they somehow think that being promised a vague payout at the end of the day suddenly means that people will invest huge sums of money into developing mods... when recent history has shown us that the oposite is true.

Did early acess actually lead to better games? NO! Most games that come out of early access do so with promised features never implemented, the rest are complete garbage unity assets using cash grabs, and then you have one or two games that are actually worth it every now and then.

Or how about steam greenlight? Yeah that one surely helped bring out the best games indie devs can make right?

How can people be so naive and think that introducing corporate culture into a digital HOBBY can lead to any positive outcome? Especialy those that have depended on this hobby to get themselves a job with a steady paycheck?

Its just sad to see how eager these people are to get shafted and sell out their fellow gamers to big corporations whos only care is how to make the biggest amount of money with the least amount of investment.

For fucks sake the quality of games, even AAA games has DECREASED over the last 10 years with the introduction of microtransactions and DLC... and yet these people somehow believe that this time it will actually help improve things?

Have you spend your live under a rock? Take a look around! Pre order incentives, micro transactions in single player games with no replayability, nickle and diming "free to play" games that like to go whale hunting, DLC ondisk, heavily monetized multyplayer for full priced games and it goes on and on and on.

But modders... they are saints... they would never try to abuse the system to make a quick buck... no sir.. because now they are promised some sort of compensation they suddenly will all quit their jobs and start developing mods fulltime...

Ignoring the fact that theres no copyright protection for modders work.

That there is no incentive for them to finish their mods after they sold them (quite the contrary from an economic standpoint, why should you keep working on something that doesnt make you money anymore?)

That there is no incentive to actually maintain their mods when something breaks due to a game update (again, an economical stupid decision seeing that word of mouth is useless when you can just upload new mods with a new account)

That there is a bigger incentive for developing tons of smaller mods instead of one single big mod of high quality (selling 3 x 10k 1 dollar mods is more profitable then selling 1k 5 dollar mods)

But because people are such saints they would surely never exploit the system and the overall quality of mods would improve?

Pretty well put.

DrOswald:
One of the big points he brings is that by making mods paid people will have an incentive to steal mod content and pass it off as their own. Well of course! The only reason this didn't happen before was because the content was inherently valueless. His solution to this problem is for the content to remain valueless. That is like saying that selling comic books is bad because someone might photocopy the art and sell it as their own. It is a pathetically bad anti-creator argument and I am shocked he would repeat it. We can't let creative content be sold! If it has value then people might try to steal it and sell it, so the creator wont get compensated! Far better to just prevent creators being compensated in the first place!

You're projecting a bit here. His point was that Steam's method of offering paid mods would incentivise stealing more than donation buttons would, because under their model you would have to actually part with money to download the mod if the mod's uploader opted into the system. People could (and do) still try and get payment for the mods made by others under a donation system, but because donations are optional it means people are more likely to do the research before they give money - whereupon they might discover the person they are about to donate to is a fraud.

And then, get this, he goes on to talk about how a donation button would be a more appropriate method. But donation buttons already exist, he even gives himself as an example of how it can support people. But his entire stolen content point rests on the assumption that mod content is valueless!

No it doesn't. As noted above, it's the difference between providing a storefront that makes it extremely easy to shift what is essentially stolen property and giving the property away and asking for a donation. There's no doubt which would attract more potential thieves.

Most of the stuff in this article I'd already brought up before and thought of. However, the one thing that really sticks out to me is the idea of Bethesda profiting off of things that they should have done themselves. Don't get me wrong, I loved the base game of Skyrim, but I don't think I ever actually got Blood on the Ice to work when I was playing the game on console. Mods fixed so many bugs and the idea that Bethesda could make extra money off of something that should have been their job is inexcusable. I know the bug fix mods didn't ever go onto the Workshop, but just the potential alone was awful.

I should mention that I am completely for modders getting compensated for their hard work. I've personally donated to several mods that I thought were worth money in more games than just Skyrim. Mount and Blade Warband has mods that easily surpass the main game and the official DLC that it has come out with.

I'm not opposed to some mods being sold for money, on principle. Some of them are huge and had a lot of work put into them, and are essentially fan-made DLC. Nor am I opposed to Valve getting 30% because that's what they get from actual games already. But I would have treated it the way Valve treats the Half-Life 2 mods they put on Steam: Cherry-pick the ones that they (or Bethesda) feel are worthy to be showcased on the Steam store; everyone else is on their own. And as far as the copyright thing goes... OK, story time: You know the Team Fortress 2 map Mann Manor? That map had a different tractor model when it was in development, but the person who had drawn the concept art for it (just the concept art!) couldn't be reached in time for Valve to buy the rights, even though it had been freely contributed to the TF2Maps resource pool. So Valve asked the co-creator of the map to design and model a new one from scratch at the eleventh hour. That's the level of diligence that needs to be exercised here. Not the fucking honor system.

As far as Bethesda getting a cut... there are only two cases I can think of where this would be justified: The mods that recreated Morrowind and Oblivion in the Skyrim engine. Since it's Bethesda's games that are being poached. And that's only assuming that the mod makers want to charge money for them and all the rights can be cleared as I mentioned above.

This Valve paid mod things is just like DLC, microtransactions, pre order bonuses or the Xbone's bullshit, yeah on paper it might be a good idea but as we've seen this industry and good ideas dont mix, especially when money is involved. Always be cynical, dont just buy into what they're saying because its Valve saying it, or Rockstar saying it, or your favorite dev/company saying it.

As soon as I hear some new way in which game companies will make money I'm always negative because we've had a decade long track record of this stuff blowing up in our faces and being abused.

This is the first time Valve has done something that completely pissed me off. Usually if they do something off, it's a "Okay, I see what they're trying to do here. Even if I don't particularly like the method, I get it." Not this. They can completely fuck off with this idea.

I haven't even mod games before and this still made me angry. It's the greed that really pisses me off. Valve are possibly the wealthiest developers (if you can still call them that) out there and they try to release a new way to monetize from Steam before fixing the many other problems that Steam has such as Greenlight and Early Access (which this 'paid mods' scheme would have become and completely tarnished the reputation of the modding community).

As far as I am concerned this is a victory for the gamers. The big companies don't seem to realise that when we smell something shitty we don't accept it! Valve now have had to backpedal on their scheme because we probably flooded their inboxes with hate. This whole idea was not thought out and terribly implemented. People will take advantage of anything and you could see from the first MINUTE the paid mods scheme was introduced there were already weapon skins costing $1 or people taking the piss with the 'extra apple' mod (which was pretty funny). People will try to make money off anything.

It probably sounded good in theory by allowing creators to actually make modding into an occupation rather than a hobby but you know what else sounds good in theory? Communism; and we all know how flawed that is when put into practice. As soon as the human element is involved, things go to shit.

So much ignorance on this topic. Valve game the modders the option to sell their mods if they wanted to. They gave them a fair percentage of the profits of 25%, which by the way is the same rates that Dota 2 and TF 2 modders get for their items. This 25% is also far greater than what you would be getting if you were doing development as a real job.

This results in completely clueless people flipping their shit thinking it's the end of modding, never mind the fact that many popular games started as mods before turning into retail products. I guess I shouldn't be surprised at how childish the response to this has been, but it has made me stop visiting several sites due to the outright stupidity on display in the overreaction.

Amir Kondori:

Lightknight:
[quote="Caramel Frappe" post="6.874620.21976982"]
2. 75%/25% isn't a bad split. As is, development studios only get 15% with the rest of the money going to the publisher, console maker, marketing, the retail store, and anything else. In this scenario, Steam is the console maker (since Steam is a platform) and serves as a kind of marketing and retail store while Bethesda's store front is itself also marketing and a retail store. Bethesda is also the publisher (They financially assisted the modders by backing the game engine and dev tools as well as providing the storefront). This isn't bad to rent space on this kind of highly visible storefront that is Bethesda's even though it's on Steam.

So 25% is good. It's especially sweet when you don't have to create your own assets or build your own engine components like real developers have to do. It also isn't obligatory. If they don't think it is worth the 75% then they can still go elsewhere.

A developer may get a relatively small cut, and many developers actually get closer to that 25% mark, they get paid to develop the content in the first place. The salaries and costs have been paid the entire time and THEN they cut their percentage. In this case nothing is getting paid for the content, so why should the split be the same?

The game, the game engine, the development tools they're using, the marketing that went into the game they're modding, all of these are costs the publisher and core game developers incurred.

This is as silly as someone adding a chapter to Harry Potter and claiming they got no help from J.K. Rowling in the creation of it when all of the tools and setup were there. Heck, this is even more extreme as Bethesda even created the mod tools.

Beyond that, there's also the fact that they're renting space on Bethesda's storefront and in Valve's platform.

So.... you're extremely wrong here.

Randomvirus:
People are making things for a product they don't own, then selling it on a service using an infrastructure they didn't create.

While generally true, things get a bit more nuanced when applied to Skyrim.

This is a very mature community, creating content for a game that is widely regarded as heavily dependent on mods. Not "featuring mods", "enhanced by mods", but outright depending on them for its popularity. It may be true modders do not own Skyrim, but in monetary terms the value they have added far outweighs any investments on Bethesda's part to enable them.

Adding paid mods to a new game could certainly be done, and possibly indeed create net benefits for everyone. The lack of customer support, the bonanza of bad incentives, and the absolute disregard for chained dependencies can all be ironed out, but doing so takes time - and is exponentially harder to do if a decade's worth of work needs to be revisited.

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