Valve's Gabe Newell Responds To Questions About Mod Sales On Steam
Update: Valve's Gabe Newell is recently engaged in an "ask me anything" session on reddit responding to questions about Valve and Steam's paid mods initiative.
Newell opened the conversations writing, "On Thursday I was flying back from LA. When I landed, I had 3,500 new messages. Hmmm. Looks like we did something to piss off the Internet." after explaining his absence which was related to eye surgery, Newell continued, "So here I am, probably a day late, to make sure that if people are pissed off, they are at least pissed off for the right reasons."
Here are a few of Newell's responses so far. He says he should be able to answer questions for the next hour and a half.
As a baseline, Valve loves MODs (see Team Fortress, Counter-Strike, and DOTA). The open nature of PC gaming is why Valve exists, and is critical to the current and future success of PC gaming.
Our view of Steam is that it's a collection of useful tools for customers and content developers. With the Steam workshop, we've already reached the point where the community is paying their favorite contributors more than they would make if they worked at a traditional game developer. We see this as a really good step. The option of MOD developers getting paid seemed like a good extension of that.
In response to a question from redditor Not_dr_phil asking, "Considering valve is a company that owes many of its early games to mods, do you think that if you had to pay 5 dollars for the original Counter Strike, or Dota mod, would they have ever taken off?" Newell wrote, "No, they wouldn't. Which is one of the reasons that we didn't charge for them after they stopped being MODs (at least part of the time)."
One of the controversies surrounding these paid mods is how much of a cut Valve and the publisher/developer makes from these mods. Timestogo asked, "Isn't the 75% cut seen as a bit high?" Newell replied, "The pay-outs are set by the owner of the game that is being modded," and later reiterated saying, "Each game sets its own share."
Regarding the reports of censorship occurring on Steam's forums about discussions related to paid mods, Newell wrote, "If we are censoring, it's dumb, ineffective, and will stop," and further replied in a different response, "If we are censoring people, that's stupid. I'll get that to stop. On top of it being stupid, it doesn't work (see Top Gear forums on Jeremy Clarkson)."
Another good question came from redditor aiusepsi who asked, "Valve's never, in 10 years, required exclusivity of games or DLC on Steam. Why would they require it for mods?" Newell replied, "Exclusivity is a bad idea for everyone. It's basically a financial leveraging strategy that creates short term market distortion and long term crying."
In a pair of humorous responses, Newell explained why he insists on capitalizing the word mod – "Old habit. Circa 1997." He also replied to the vague complaint from someone who wrote, "This...this whole thing is just a mess," by saying, "I need something more concrete if you want me to improve it."
Finally Newell did say the system will be reviewed, as Valve always does with all of its systems, and said that part of him being there and answering these questions was part of that process.
It doesn't seem like Valve, in the near future at least, is planning on reverting or radically changing the process that is currently in place. It's a complicated issue, but I think ultimately putting some money in the hands of the folks who are working hard to create interesting mods is a worthwhile endeavour. I hope Valve can find the middle ground between compensating creators and addressing the long-term fears related to the sale of mods. I would love to see this person, for example, make some money for making me laugh hysterically at a Thomas the Tank Engine dragon.
By the way, the image above is from Gabe's appearance in Powerhoof Games' Crawl, which you can read more about here.