Technology

Valve expands video game 'mod' market

Skyrim screenshot Image copyright Bethesda
Image caption Thousands of extras or mods have already been created for the Skyrim game

Game maker Valve has expanded its online store to let players who make modifications or 'mods' for games sell their creations.

Modifications can make small changes to games or be huge collaborative efforts that add extra challenges, levels and foes or improve graphics.

The first game for which mods can be sold is fantasy role-playing title Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Valve said it would let modders of other games add their creations soon.

Sharing cash

Valve has long run a workshop on its Steam game service that lets people share their extras and additions, but before now creators only got free downloads in return for their work. Steam is believed to have about 125 million active users.

The only situation in which players got cash for their creations was when they made something for a Valve game that was added to the title as an official new feature. Many other games operate similar systems that reward players.

Creators who use the store will be able to choose how much people pay for their mods, extras and add-ons. If they do not want to sell them they can be given away free. If they are sold, 25% of the payment will go to the creator, the rest is being split with Valve and the studio or developer who originally made the game.

The change might prove lucrative for people who produce a popular mod. In January this year Valve announced that it had paid out more than $57m (£37.6m) to 1,500 people who made extras for its games.

So far, 19 different paid mods for Skyrim are available on the Steam Workshop site that give players new weapons, locations and characters. Prices for these add-ons range from a few pence to a few pounds. In the Workshop there are currently more than 24,000 free mods for the game.

Valve said it had put in place security systems that can spot if people are trying to pass off someone else's creations as their own. In addition, mod makers can file "take down" notices via the Workshop to stop copycats and pirates stealing their work.

Many gamers took to Steam's discussion forums to express their opinions about the change. Many criticised Valve for taking a 75% cut and voiced their disquiet about paying modders for their work.

Game journalist John Bain, aka Total Biscuit, said Valve had opened a "gigantic can of worms" by making the change. He criticised Valve over the payment split, he also wondered how it would go about policing who made which mod and asked what help people would get if mods conflicted.

"There is absolutely a fear among the player base that a lot of mods they were used to enjoying will now be put behind a paywall," he said "I understand that fear but simultaneously the expectation that you should always have access to the latest versions of these mods for free is based on old logic."

Mr Bain said many modders may well have charged for their creations before now if it had been easy to do so.

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