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Why Skyrim’s Steam User Rating Is Currently Plummeting
Whether you agree with paid mods or not, one thing is for certain. Gamers are pissed off. The introduction of paid mods for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has resulted in an enormous backlash and the game’s user rating on Steam is the latest victim of angry gamers. On April 23, Valve announced that they would be adding paid mods to the Steam Workshop for Skyrim. According to Valve, the introduction of paid mods would allow players to better support modders and inspire them to create new, higher quality content.
The immediate implication of this news is that paid mods will be introduced into other games that have notable modding communities such as Fallout 3 & Minecraft. Skyrim’s features the most prominent modding community in gaming to the extent that it’s practically a selling point for the PC version; in fact it’s the very reason this writer purchased the game on Steam. Valve intends to support these communities while also continuing to support free mods on the Steam Workshop.
However, the reaction to this news among players has been vitriolic. Before the announcement, Skyrim’s user rating on Steam was “Overwhelmingly Positive” at 98%, making it one of the highest rated games on Steam. At the time of writing, the user rating has dropped to 84%; this kind of drop in user satisfaction is unheard of.
The reaction to this news has been widespread. Players have denounced Valve on forums, several YouTubers including Total Biscuit, Jimquisition and Boogie2988 have spoken out against this decision on their YouTube channels. A petition, demanding Valve remove paid mods from the Steam Workshop has earned over 130,000 signatures and several “protest mods” have been submitted to the Steam Workshop either mocking or deriding the idea of paid mods.
Among the most controversial aspects of paid mods is the percentage of profits afforded to modders. According to an FAQ (scroll to the bottom of the page) on Steam, “the percentage of revenue an item creator receives from direct sales of their item in this Workshop is 25%.” Many players feel that this is far too low considering the work that goes into mods. Valve CEO Gabe Newell hosted an AMA on Reddit, addressing the concerns of players. He clarified that the percentage of revenue is set by the publisher, in this case Bethesda.
Another common complaint players and modders have relates to the interconnected structure of Skyrim’s modding community. There are numerous mods that rely on and build off of each other which makes the distribution 25% revenue share much more complicated. It’s already resulted in a mod being pulled from the Steam Workshop.
A modder who goes by the username Chesko removed his “Art of the Catch” mod from the Steam Workshop on April 24 due to complications of this nature. The “Art of the Catch” mod contained a file from the FNIS mod (which adds new idle animations to player characters). This essentially meant that Chesko would potentially make money from part of a mod in which he had no hand in creating. Chesko explained his decision to remove the mod in a post on Reddit. He also called out Skyrim Nexus Mods, a prominent Skyrim modding community, for being listed as a Service Provider on the Steam Workshop, indicating that Nexus was profiting from Workshop sales.
Robin Scott, the owner of Nexus Mods clarified in a lengthy post on the Nexus website that mods will remain free on Nexus Mods and that the small share of profits Nexus Mods earns from the Steam Workshop is essentially Valve’s way of acknowledging their important role in the modding community. Scott reiterates in the post that mods will remain free on the Nexus.
The biggest concern with paid mods among players is the issue of stealing mods. Players and modders fear that people will take advantage of free mods by downloading them and uploading them to the Steam Workshop, effectively making money off someone else’s work. Gabe Newell addressed these concerns during his AMA writing:
This is a straight-forward problem. Between ours and the community’s policing, I’m confident that the authors will have control over their creations, not someone trying to rip them off.
However this has done little to stem the tide of anger that’s currently brewing among gamers. Gamers who are rallying against paid mods in Skyrim aren’t all suggesting that modders don’t deserve money for their work, but that this is best accomplished through Patreon accounts and Paypal donations. According to these players, forcing people to pay for mods has the potential to tear the modding community apart.
While Valve tinkers away at finding a solution to the many issues they have introduced, Skyrim’s user rating on Steam continues to drop. The question now is, how far will it fall?
Valve has announced that they are removing paid mods from Skyrim and refunding all purchases that have been made. In light of this news, the user rating for Skyrim has risen to 87%.