Bethesda Talks Skyrim's Paid Mods Controversy

"It was an idea we worked on with those guys for Skyrim; it didn't pan out."

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In April, Bethesda and Valve teamed up for what sounded like an exciting new feature for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that would allow modders to sell their creations. While some sung the praises of this new system, others voiced their discontent. Just days after paid mods were introduced to the Skyrim Workshop, Valve pulled them down, saying in a statement, "It's become clear we didn't know exactly what we were doing."

Now, Bethesda's Pete Hines, whom you may remember as the featured speaker at the company's first-ever E3 event last month, has shed new light on the situation and what the publisher might do next. Hines would like to see paid mods return, but stopped short of making any promises.

"I think our stance on it is we're going to re-evaluate it going forward," Hines said. "I think that we feel like there is a case to be made that people who spend a lot of time working on mods ought to be able to have a way of monetizing what they're doing.

"Certainly some of the folks that we talked to were very interested in and supportive of the idea," he added. "We had creators who said, 'I've been asking for donations for years and never saw anything, and I made more in one day.' So why would I not support that?"

One of the issues that some brought up around the Skyrim paid mod system is that creators aren't paid enough. As part of the now-scrapped plan, the breakdown for mod revenue looked like this:

  • Bethesda - 45 percent
  • Valve - 30 percent
  • Modders - 25 percent

"Is this the right split? There are valid arguments for it being more, less, or the same," Bethesda said back in April. "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."

Hines told us that, if the paid mod system does return, Bethesda would still expect to get a cut of the revenue-- even if the percentage might change.

"It's sort of like having the world's largest ball of yarn and deciding you're going to unravel it" -- Hines

"Our belief is, 'We made the game, we made the game you're making a thing for.' So just like anything else, there is some kind of involvement that we're going to have in that," he said.

Back in April, 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 Steam Workshop community has together made $57 million since 2011 at the 25 percent rate.

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Overall, Hines used a ball of yarn analogy to describe the reaction to Skyrim's failed paid mod system.

"It's sort of like having the world's largest ball of yarn and deciding you're going to unravel it," he said. "Everything is so tied together that in some ways it's almost impossible to do.

"I honestly, genuinely, don't know what it means for the future. It was an idea we worked on with those guys for Skyrim; it didn't pan out. It came back down."

Wrapping up our interview, Hines said you shouldn't expect to see Skyrim's paid mod system return anytime soon. That's in part because Bethesda has a little project you may have heard of called Fallout 4 keeping the developer busy ahead of its November release date.

"Honestly, [we have] bigger fish to fry right now than sorting that out."

Fallout 4 is making new strides as it relates to mods. Bethesda and Microsoft have teamed up to bring PC mods for the post-apocalyptic RPG to Xbox One. This isn't happening soon, though. Mod tools for the PC edition won't roll out until 2016, with the mods themselves coming to Xbox One (and eventually PlayStation 4) sometime later.

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