Bethesda's paid mods may not be as bad as we think

Depending on how much you like Wolfenstein, Bethesda's E3 2017 press conference last night may have been somewhat underwhelming. However, despite the generally unimpressed reaction the conference garnered from internet denizens, there was one announcement that has received a lot of talk in the hours since Bethesda went live: Creation Club. On the surface, it seems like this is another attempt by Bethesda to get us to pay for user-created mods, which have traditionally been offered free by their creators.

Considering the harsh reaction Valve and Bethesda received the last time they tried to offer paid mods for Skyrim, you can probably already see where this is going. People are upset, and for good reason. Mods have been an important part of games in the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series for a long time, and by trying to put them behind a paywall, Bethesda comes off as wanting to profit from content it didn't have a part in creating.

So, it's no surprise that Valve and Bethesda received such a passionate push back when they tried to implement paid mods through the Steam Community all those years ago. Gamers don't tend to forget transgressions like these either, so it's really no surprise that Bethesda is getting lambasted for Creation Club too. As I said previously, on the surface, this just seems like Bethesda is trying to sneak in paid mods where they've never been previously.

The fact that Bethesda packed the Creation Club announcement in the middle of a long string of trailers doesn't help its image, nor does the fact that Creation Club wasn't addressed by Bethesda Vice President of PR and Marketing Pete Hines on stage. If Bethesda wanted to convince us that it was doing things differently this time, it did an awful job.

However, is Creation Club the same as the initiative Valve and Bethesda tried implement three years ago? The answer is both yes and no. Here's Bethesda answer to whether or not Creation Club means "paid mods" pulled straight from its website:

Is Creation Club paid mods?

No. Mods will remain a free and open system where anyone can create and share what they'd like. Also, we won't allow any existing mods to be retrofitted into Creation Club, it must all be original content. Most of the Creation Club content is created internally, some with external partners who have worked on our games, and some by external Creators. All the content is approved, curated, and taken through the full internal dev cycle; including localization, polishing, and testing. This also guarantees that all content works together. We've looked at many ways to do "paid mods", and the problems outweigh the benefits. We've encountered many of those issues before. But, there's a constant demand from our fans to add more official high quality content to our games, and while we are able to create a lot of it, we think many in our community have the talent to work directly with us and create some amazing new things.

To start off, it's a little disingenuous to say that these aren't paid mods when they clearly are. Bethesda seems to draw its distinction between Creation Club and paid mods in general based on the fact that it won't allow just anybody to charge for a mod. That's fair, but it doesn't change the fact that Bethesda wants to charge you for mods, be it ones that are created in-house or ones that are made by partnered creators.

With that said, it really sounds like Bethesda envisions the free-to-download mod community and the Creation Club coexisting. It seems that Bethesda wants to heavily curate the stuff that appears on the Creation Club, which makes this new service stand in stark contrast to the paid mods that were once available through the Steam Community. Whereas Steam let anyone charge for mods, you won't do that through Creation Club unless Bethesda deems your content worthy.

That's encouraging, as is Bethesda's statement that the "problems outweigh the benefits" when it comes to paid mods in general. It suggests that Bethesda won't start out by having a small, heavily curated selection of add-on content that quickly expands into the Creation Club being the sole place to find mods.

Don't get me wrong, I'm nervous about a potential slippery slope here, and I don't like the idea of Bethesda charging for anything other than the base game and the expansions it creates in-house. It does seem that the reaction has been a bit overblown, but I would also argue that the reaction is primarily Bethesda's fault. If Pete Hines had come out on stage last night and said that whole spiel from the Creation Club FAQ you see above, the reaction would almost certainly be a lot more tame.

He didn't, though, and allowed the internet at large to form an opinion based on an announcement trailer that wasn't as clear as it needed to be. Whatever damage control Bethesda needs to do in the lead up to the launch of Creation Club is its own fault, as far as I'm concerned.

Let's be clear here: I'm not saying that you should be okay with the idea of Creation Club, and I'm certainly not saying you should spend your money there if you don't want to. What I am saying is that we shouldn't treat this as if its the death of the modding community as we know it, because according to Bethesda, it's not interested in seeing free mods go away. We should give Bethesda a chance to prove that intent before we skewer them for something that hasn't launched yet and wasn't announced in the best way, even if that something does smell a little rotten.

What's your take on this whole Creation Club fiasco? Do you think this is the beginning of the end for free mods, or should we wait and see how Bethesda handles this curated content? Head down to the comments section and let us know!