I n late April of 2015, Valve and Bethesda announced that they would be selling mods through the Steam Marketplace, starting with Skyrim. It was a disaster. Within just a week, Valve refunded all purchases and removed paid mods from Steam. What went wrong and could Bethesda’s new Creation Club be any different?
Meet Bryan Shannon, previously an artist at Maxis and currently employed as an Environment Artist at Arkane Studios. Between his time working at both companies, he managed a gig as a “Cities Skylines modder.” His work quickly rose to the top of Cities Skylines’ Steam Workshop page, with Shannon claiming 4 out of the top 10 most subscribed mods. I’d think of working as a game modder as a hobbyist’s endeavor, but through Patreon’s crowdfunding platform, fans of Shannon’s work were able to support him. This is awesome.
During my time creating mods for Cities: Skylines, I was able to support my living expenses as well as contribute to my total student loan amount. Though not entirely abolished, the mods definitely brought some of my student loan cost down to a manageable month amount.
An avenue for professionals to create content for the games we love is an opportunity to create jobs and extend the value of the games we buy. Right now there isn’t a formalized infrastructure for this happen, but Bethesda’s new plan could bring more to the virtual worlds we love. The following are reasons why the Creation Club will succeed where Steam Workshop’s Paid Mods couldn’t:
- This is a partnership between modders and Bethesda. In order to put anything onto the Creation Club’s store front, the modder as to apply to be a “Creator,” then pitch a three milestone development schedule, then work with Bethesda through their entire production pipeline before anything is sold.
- All mods sold will be compatible with your game. When patching up a massive Bethesda game with an array of mods, it’s common for it to start crashing and become unstable. Part of the development process that Creation Club mods will go through is testing with Bethesda’s QA team. This way you can get that new gameplay mode without worrying if your game will suddenly stop working.
- Creation Club will be supported on modern consoles as well as PC. One of the biggest drawbacks of playing any of Bethesda’s previous games on a console is its limited (or lack of) mod support. The Creation Club could do a lot to help bridge that gap.
Valve’s move to monetize the Steam Workshop was a mess. There was no curation. Anyone could upload anything. It was seen by many as an attack on the free modding community. People quickly picked up existing free content and tried to put it up for sale. You don’t have to look far to see why that initiative failed. The Creation Club is a step towards giving skilled designers an avenue to create quality content and a curated way that ensures the best experience for their audience.
There is a bigger impact Creation Club could have further down the line. If this initiative is successful, it could be a job opportunity for smaller developers and amateurs to work as production teams, building up large scale games like Skyrim and Fallout 4, Creation Club’s debut titles. More to do in our favorite games. More jobs for skilled creators.
Are you still not convinced that this could be a step forward for a game’s life cycle post launch? Let me know what you think in the comments below.