What is ModGate 2015?
This is a movement in response to a recent implimentation by Valve on their Steam Workshop software distribution platform, allowing mod creators to sell their mods directly to gamers. The general concept was to give modders compensation for their hard work. While not a bad idea by itself, the way it was impliment caused a backlashed among Steam users and gamers as a whole didn't make it a good idea.
Being a steam user myself, I wanted to know exactly what this system does and how it worked. Doing research within a number of forums and the process of the system itself, I tried to gain as much insight as to what were the flaws behind the monitization. What I found was quite surprising.
There's four key points with this system which causes the negative effect.
First is community. The system has the potential to cause destruction of goodwill, altruism, and collaboration. (existing and future team/group/community projects and derivative works potentially ruined)
Next is Legal. The way it's structured, it gives way to legal compliance, copyright, licensing, liability, theft, and dependency issues.
Then we find Quality Assurance. Because of limits within the system, it pulls up issues with short/long term compatibility of mods, incentives for main publishers to release broken products.
Finally, there's financial. It has a heavily skewed revenue distribution (publisher reaping profits off 3rd party development).
Now what does this all mean? How does one system cause these problems? How can such a system exist? Well, here's what I do know.
When you post a mod within this system, or a mod that's already posted, you get to choose how much it costs. Then 75% of the money goes to Valve and the publisher. This is perhaps the most glaring issue people have with this system. Having a portion of the revenue given to the system is understandable when you are borrowing it to use for marketing purposes. 5-25% deduction of the revenue is what you'd expect to get, not 75%. This means that modders that choose to use this system gets far less than the price suggests. Using a Patreon system would have more efficient. Even a simple donation button would work.
The second problem is the Quality control, or lack there of. The buyer needs to be very careful when getting a mod in this system. There will be a sub-par quality to bad quality mods out there. There are a lot of people who are willing to scam people of their money, taking other mods and selling them on the market. The 24 hour refund policy makes it harder to recover from bad purchuses. Not to mention that Valve's customer service is not considered by many as good.
A big issue that comes up regarding this system is the community itself. Mods have all sorts of compatibility issues. When modders come together to work on things for free, you get the Nexus, a place where modders collaborate and offer solutions to compatibility issues with other people's mods. Steam though? It doesn't have that. Modders here don't need to make their mods compatible with other mods or support for people with issues with said mod. This is a problem when money is mixed in. When you buy the mod, you expect some kind of quality which will work no matter what patch the game gets. A game patch often causes problems with mods, which must be updated to handle the update. Like with point one, when mods are free, modders are much more likely to collaborate with each other, offer patches, offer compatibility updates, and generally rely on each other's content. Very frequently, mods have other mods as requirements and dependencies. SkyUI is the most prominent example right now. When this mod, which many mods rely on, became paid-only, caused problems for not only gamers, but modders as well. WHat happens when SkyUI refuses to let people make money off their work for free? What happens when they deny modders to use their UI for their own mods?
Also, how will you determine the legality of not only the actual mods, but of the games themselves once mods are front and centre as a selling point on Steam? How will you deal with mods using unlicensed names of people, vehicles, guns, or other gaming characters? How will you deal with regional problems with mods introducing (or reintroducing) cut content that is illegal in some countries, but not others?
This is powder keg ready to blow.
It's a big problem for value. Once the PC mods stop being free, it reduces the longevity of the game and the community as a whole. Not only that, taking a huge cut of the profits is just a huge slap in the face to customers and modders, gamers in general. They didn't work on the mod, they just gave them the tools to work with. Honestly, it would be better of Gabe just dropped the system in favor of a donation button.
Listening to: 8-bit Thriller