It’s back and it’s worse than ever before.
Emergency article about E3 ahead. Hot opinions warning and such. If you happen to see Bethesda like Nintendo fans see Nintendo you’ll be really upset by what you’re about to read, so leave now. I’m writing this in the middle of the night and less professionally than usual so expect mistakes and errors and the like. Also, this article is incredibly cynical, and I admit its from a very angry, glass half-empty perspective on the future of the Creators’ Club program.
Paid mods, just that phrase raises tensions in some people. And while in theory, its not a bad idea, Bethesda’s previous absolutely cynical attempt at monetizing other peoples’ hard work for their own gain went down about as well as a gay orgy at a Westboro Baptist Church protest. It went down so well, in fact, that they have a massive paragraph dedicated to begging everyone not to perceive it as paid mods in the Q&A section on the website. Obviously my cynical take on the situation does not agree with this paragraph or I wouldn’t be wasting three hours in the middle of the night complaining about it.
Paid mods were critically panned and rightfully so. There was a massive backlash and counter-backlash against the introduction of paid mods into Steam, and it seems like it just happened yesterday. As many people expected, Bethesda had future plans for monetization. They decided to put it away long enough for people to forget. They underestimated the mind of the cynical gaming public, however. How could Zenimax let such a potentially massive, limitless source of content go? The simple answer is that it was never going to happen.
There are many legitimate and important criticisms of the original implementation of paid mods on Steam, the largest of which was the massive cut Bethesda expected to get for content they didn’t make. Rather than take a smaller cut, they seem to have come up with a new scheme for monetization of the modding community at large. At best I could call it talent poaching – They plan to take the best modders right out from under us.
This is a ploy. This rang my internal alarm bell so loud I think my ears are ringing. Bethesda has decided to create a program whereby they can seek out talented modders, snatch them up, and put them to work for Bethesda itself. It’s no secret that Bethesda has an extremely cynical and perhaps even jealous view of their modding community, it’s very prevalent in their language whenever they discuss mods in a public setting that they consider modders’ content their property and they feel entitled to a massive cut just for creating the platform that drives mod content. Even during the reveal early this morning this attitude is on display, and I quote:
“… did you know that Bethesda’s first PC user mods in 2002 …”
“… Last year, Bethesda user mods were made available to Playstation 4 and Xbox One …”
“… and We’re just getting started … ”
“… Bethesda is mixing things up again …”
All this self-congratulatory claptrap points to one thing, Bethesda wants to be heavily involved in and have a high degree of control over the wild, thriving modding community around their games. They also want to snatch up promising modders and put them to work. Ultimately, their goal may to cannibalize the best talent of the modding community into their company, giving them a monopoly over the best mod content and bolstering their future games with more talented developers.
Now, admittedly, a lot of this is taken heavily out of context, and this is a worst-case, highly cynical viewpoint. There are some very important things to note here, things that could be a positive force in the future of Bethesda’s games:
- Creation Club will not replace existing mods. In fact, Bethesda is explicitly disallowing existing mods to be retrofitted into the Creation Club frontend. This is a good decision as an issue with Bethesda’s previous attempts at monetization
- Bethesda does most of the development themselves. Primarily, people pitch ideas and then oversee the Bethesda development team as they implement their ideas into the game. Although I’d consider this a bad thing, considering how fucking incompetent we all know Bethesda Softworks actually is. (You’re still using gamebryo guys, come on already.)
- “Bethesda should just let modders make their games” Perhaps, Bethesda are simply drawing from this long standing criticism that modders just have the ideas that make their games worth playing. This would be an admittance from Bethesda that their games are probably not as good as everybody says they are, and if this their intention, they’ve sure clouded it underneath a lot of self-congratulatory faux pro-community faux pro-consumer fucking nonsense.
- At the end of the day, it’s not technically paid mods. This is the elephant in the room, and I’m happy to address it. The fact it isn’t paid mods troubles me even more when looking at this from the glass half empty perspective. In fact, I’d go so far as to call this competition with the modding community at large. Bethesda thinks they can make better content if they steal the best and most ambitious idea men from the forefront of the modding community (Good luck making decent content with your development history, Bethesda).
Okay, time for the most wildly conspiratorial parts of this article. Keep in mind this is all theoretical and you should take it with a grain of salt big enough to wipe out the fucking dinosaurs. Grab your tinfoil power armor folks, you’re gonna need it. I’m an extremely cynical person and this is a probably simply a product of my extreme distrust of the corporate side of gaming development at large.
I can’t help but maintain unfaltering cynicism as gaming becomes more corporate by the hour, and I’ve got a sinking feeling in the back of my mind that Bethesda is very subtly trying to decay the modding community. If Bethesda can take all the primary community talent for themselves, then what’s left is a massive gaping hole where the best of the best once were. Gradually new mods become less ambitious and less frequent, and Bethesda’s new frontend slowly becomes the primary method of distributing community content. Once they’ve monopolized this they have complete control to fuck both the creators and the users right in the ass and run away with their money, as Bethesda and Zenimax tried to do with Steam.
Support this program, it has the potential to be a positive force both for modders and the quality of future Bethesda games, but keep a very close and watchful eye on it, make a scene whenever they try to fuck it up. Do not allow Bethesda to fuck you in the ass and take your money. If they inevitably turn on you, the modders, you lay them out to dry. They work for you, you are the creator, you have the ideas and the bargaining chips. Do not let them walk all over you.