Amid Controversy, Bethesda Defends Paid Steam Mods

[UPDATE] Valve kills paid mod system for Skyrim.


[UPDATE] Just about an hour after Bethesda released a blog post defending paid Skyrim mods, Valve announced that the paid mod option in the Skyrim Workshop is now officially canceled. You can read more about the removal of paid mods in our story here.

The original story is below.

As controversy continues to bubble over regarding Steam's new paid mods feature for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the developer at the heart of the matter--Bethesda--has spoken out to defend the system. In a blog post today titled "Why we're trying paid Skyrim mods on Steam," Bethesda tackled the issue head-on.

"We believe mod developers are just that: developers," Bethesda wrote. "We love that Valve has given new choice to the community in how they reward them, and want to pass that choice along to our players. We are listening and will make changes as necessary."

Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Addressing Concerns:

Bethesda pointed out that it has for more than a decade now been a staunch supporter of mods, starting in 2002 with The Elder Scrolls Construction Set. Allowing mods in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, meanwhile, boosted the game's ESRB rating from T to M, which cost Bethesda "millions of dollars."

"It's our belief that our games become something much more with the promise of making it your own," it explained. "Even if you never try a mod, the idea you could do anything is at the core of our game experiences. While others in the industry went away from it, we pushed more toward it."

Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series doesn't officially support modding (though that certainly hasn't stopped fans from creating them).

Bethesda went on to say it's always seeking out new opportunities to grow the modding community, and sees paid mods as a way to do that. Right now, only 8 percent of Skyrim players have ever used a mod, and fewer than 1 percent has ever made one, the developer said.

But when Valve first approached Bethesda in 2012 about the idea of paid mods, the developer said it saw this as an opportunity to bolster modding so that it could reach more players.

"Three years later and Valve has finally solved the technical and legal hurdles to make such a thing possible, and they should be celebrated for it," Bethesda said. "It wasn't easy. They are not forcing us, or any other game, to do it. They are opening a powerful new choice for everyone."

No Caption Provided

Bethesda further explained that it believes most mods "should be free," but also contends that the very best creators ought to be rewarded for their work, and the community should have the opportunity to support them. "We believe the best should be paid for their work and treated like the game developers they are," the company said. "But again, we don't think it's right for us to decide who those creators are or what they create."

"We also don’t think we should tell the developer what to charge," Bethesda added. "That is their decision, and it's up to the players to decide if that is a good value. We've been down similar paths with our own work, and much of this gives us déjà vu from when we made the first DLC: Horse Armor. Horse Armor gave us a start into something new, and it led to us giving better and better value to our players with DLC like Shivering Isles, Point Lookout, Dragonborn, and more. We hope modders will do the same."

Full of Problems:

Though paid mods for Skyrim has plenty of benefits, it is also a system "full of problems," Bethesda warned. However, problems are par for the course for any major business, a paid mods are no different.

"They are all the same problems every software developer faces (support, theft, etc.), and the solutions are the same," Bethesda said. "Valve has done a great job addressing those, but there will be new ones, and we're confident those will get solved over time also. If the system shows that it needs curation, we'll consider it, but we believe that should be a last resort."

On the subject of supporting modders through donations or other means outside of buying their work, Bethesda said it is "in favor of all of them." But the developer also pointed out that Skyrim paid mods have already proven lucrative, at least for one creator.

"In just one day, a popular mod developer made more on the Skyrim paid workshop then he made in all the years he asked for donations," Bethesda said.

The Profit Split:

Another issue some have brought up with Steam's new paid mod system is that creators aren't paid enough. Bethesda has now confirmed the revenue sharing setup: Valve gets a 30 percent, Bethesda gets 45 percent, and modders get the remaining 25 percent.

"Is this the right split? There are valid arguments for it being more, less, or the same," Bethesda said. "It is the current industry standard, having been successful in both paid and free games. After much consultation and research with Valve, we decided it's the best place to start."

Bethesda pointed out that 25 percent has been the standard cut for modders since the Steam Workshop opened its storefront years ago. In fact, the entire community has together made $57 million since 2011 at the 25 percent rate.

"This is not some money grabbing scheme by us," Bethesda said. "Even this weekend, when Skyrim was free for all, mod sales represented less than 1 percent of our Steam revenue."

"Our belief still stands that our community knows best, and they will decide how modding should work" -- Bethesda

At the same time, Bethesda also stressed that it may decide to alter its revenue sharing plan in the time ahead. "If it needs to change, we'll change it," the developer explained.

In addition, Bethesda's blog post today addressed the wider implications that a paid mod system might have; this has already been a much-discussed topic. Valve boss Gabe Newell has even chimed in. For its part, Bethesda said it has heard these concerns and is putting its faith in the community to figure things out.

"This is where we are listening, and concerned, the most," Bethesda stated. "Despite seeming to sit outside the community, we are part of it. It is who we are. We don't come to work, leave, and then ‘turn off'. We completely understand the potential long-term implications allowing paid mods could mean. 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."

"There are things we can control, and things we can't," the company added. "Our belief still stands that our community knows best, and they will decide how modding should work. We think it's important to offer choice where there hasn't been before."

DRM Concerns:

Finally, Bethesda responded to concerns about the potential for DRM to expand as a result of paid mods. This is not Bethesda's intent; in fact, the company said it is "anti-DRM as far as we can be."

"Some are concerned that this whole thing is leading to a world where mods are tied to one system, DRM'd and not allowed to be freely accessed," Bethesda said. "That is the exact opposite of what we stand for. Not only do we want more mods, easier to access, we're anti-DRM as far as we can be. Most people don't know, but our very own Skyrim DLC has zero DRM. We shipped Oblivion with no DRM because we didn't like how it affected the game."

What do you make of Bethesda's comments about paid mods? Let us know in the comments below!

For more, check out the stories below:

The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email

Join the conversation
There are 383 comments about this story