Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Adding financial incentives to modding

Modding doesn’t seem to be living up to it’s full potential.

Developers and publishers make a game, and release an SDK and mod tools so that ordinary games players can come together and make changes and improvements to the game. This is awesome, and one of the best things about PC gaming, but there are two drawbacks.

1) Most mods are unfinished and suck

2) The publisher and developer are basically using modding as a marketing tool, and nothing more. they gain nothing from a virbrant mod scene and decent mods other than goodwill from gamers and an increased perceived worth of the game. (not to be sneezed at, but not massive either)

In other words, the incentive to encourage production of great mods is low. Modders do it for fun, and maybe for their CV if they are insane enough to want to get into games. Develoeprs support it as an afterthought if they have the time. Why can’t we go further and have a financial releationship as an option?


Modders get the rights to release paid for mods to the game, with technical support and QA from the developer. The gamers buy this mod, and the money is split between the mod team and the developer.

Would this work? is it a good or bad idea? I’m not saying mods shouldn’t be free, just that with financial incentives, some mods could be much better. In principle, I’m in favour of people doing high quality mods for my games, and selling them for a profit split with me. Would this work? is it fair? is it evil?


12 thoughts on Adding financial incentives to modding

  1. It’s already being done to some extent. Although the developer of the original game doesn’t get any of the cash, some really popular/good mods such as “Red Orchestra” have won awards where the prize is a game engine. The people who made the original mod have then gone on to release the mod as a full stand-alone game using the engine and sold them for the same price as most other games.

    As I said, although the original developer of the game doesn’t get any of the cash some people can make money out of modding.

  2. How worried would you be about quality-checking the resultant mod? Do you think that a bad mod would reflect badly on your original game, or is that not an issue? What about sifting out which mods to publish among all of those that would want to be published?

    I like the idea and think it would bring a lot of high quality mods into existence, but credit and quality should be clearly assignable to the mod author.

  3. To the Bonfire!!

    …Heh now more seriously, has some potential, but needs more elaboration on crucial points.

    * There will be IP rights involved.
    * a possible avalanche of technical support demand (remember the mod will not be funded, your perspective brings money to the table only after the mod is done, released and sold.
    * Developer treating with non-permanent, non-stable “teams”.
    * Need of time and resources to filter which MOD’s are indeed ready/deserving comercial release.
    * Contracts nightmares…

    Anyway, any new idea has its risks, Im not trying to be that negative here, but this particular one its really dangerous.

    I tottally agree however, on the need of pushing the modding forward, beyond the marketting line. How to do it? I dont think money is the answer this time.

  4. I think that knowing that potential profit of your modding efforts will go to someone else (the developer of the game) is quite discouraging. After all, even thought it’s based on a program made by another company, anyone who makes a mod is making his own efforts, so I think that if it’s sold the profit shouldn’t be splat. The question is “who’s buying?” – if the cost is not high enough to make people buy but high enough to be an extra motivation for programmers, then the developer of the game itself can profit still – I think you underestimate the potential value mods can give a game. There are games that are basically living on such users’ contributions, like map-makers (which isn’t a mod but it’s close enough) of Starcraft and Warcraft III for example, who make the game survive for really long years, which also means that new people are buying the game over the years.

  5. BY incentivising the addition of modifications for a given title, are you not inherently stating that the game is unable to stand upon it’s own two feet?

    The best modifications are found to those titles that were fundamentally good or successful in the first place.

  6. I’m also sceptical. Many thing on the Internet work on the Basis that they are free. Things get incredibly more complicated as soon as money is involved. Many of the problems were already mentioned. I would also add:

    * Payment – Difficult to set up and introduces a significant barrier that prevents distribution which is especially a problem for Mods because they have no Marketing.

    * Mature Content – What if somebody decides to make that highschool girl tentacle rape mod? If there is payment involved it would be a commercial product and thus subject to Parental controls. Did you know that Gears of War is banned in Germany?

  7. Yes this is true, there are good reasons not to get involved in any financial arrangement, and it then becomes the case that mods are ‘official’ and you can get blamed for their content. Plus you are doing tech support for someone else’s work etc. I guess what I’m looking for is some way to blur the distinction between official big games company products, and fan-made mods.

    maybe the solution is contracting out. You find a small team (or one person) interested in the kind of games you make, and pay them on a revenue split to develop commercial expansion packs and mods for it?

  8. Don’t you think it looks a little bit like what Microsoft is doing with XNA and the 360 ? It’s not really modding per se, but close enough for comparison.

  9. I think it has great potential. but you would need to create a “market place” and have ranking systems/review for the consumer. there should be a way so that the “junk” expires out of the system. pricing of the mods should be reasonable… I like iPhone app pricing but I understand that with the much more limited user base cost might need to be higher.

    for the third party developer split would have to be fair… no less than 70% for the third party.

    also, I don’t think you should be responsible for the tech support…. that will kill ya… But, just include a “support” feature in the market place…

    in other words; you would be basically providing a website for each individual mod. that website includes ranking, review, support, etc…

    you would need to be able to have custom view of the content too. so that the customer can sort by ranking or other. but also that the third party dev can group by his own.

  10. Hmmmm, not so sure. There’s a lot of paysites in the Sims 2 modding community, and it’s still quite controversial after all these years, even though they have unspoken consent from EA, and the vast majority of players still download free mods, for the most part. I don’t think many people in your particular fanbase would be willing to buy mods – buying additional things for a game you’ve already paid money for can be a bit annoying. But then, I suppose it would depend on how big the mods are. If they add to gameplay a lot, then fans would probably support it.

  11. It’s already been in development by valve, with fellow British independent Garry (and his mod), counter strike and team fortress.

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