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Petition against Steam's paid Skyrim mods hits 80,000 signatures

In the same week that we’re gleefully celebrating the madness of GTA 5 PC mods (opens in new tab), Valve’s addition of price options to previously free mod content for Skyrim (opens in new tab) in its Steam Workshop has the PC community up in arms. A change.org petition (opens in new tab) against the new store has reached the not insignificant 80,000 mark.

The petition, which is asking for the removal of the paid content from the workshop, states that “Mods should be a free creation. Creations made by people who wish to add to the game so others can also enjoy said creation. We need to unite and reject this act by Valve.”

Previously all Skyrim mod content has been available for download entirely free, with sites such as Nexusmods (opens in new tab) making it only an option for donations to be made to the modder. On Steam, however, items ranging from single weapons to weather mods are now individually priced.

While modders can set the items to ‘pay what you want’ with a drop down menu of prices and they will of course make a percentage, it raises all kinds of issues regarding who actually owns content. One of the first paid mods to be added to the site - a fishing mod - was removed yesterday when it became apparent that the creators had included assets from another free creation. Oh look, a can of worms (bait?) not even worth opening. Even from the outset, it’s clear that this is an exceptionally murky area for Valve to police.

Skyrim’s discussion forums are furious about the decision with some players even trying to take away the ‘overwhelmingly positive’ review score of the game itself. In a general discussion on the topic, modder FilthyCasual (opens in new tab) who contributes to Mass Effect mods says that the change is a “terrible idea” not for the fact that it will mean that modders will make money but in the problems that it will cause.

“I now see mods going up that are little tiny swords and whatnot going up for sale. Bundles already that cost more than the game itself. In other words, I am concerned about a complete influx of mods that are completely useless and tiny and unsupported and updated, just because of money-grabbers who want a piece of the pie,” says FilthyCasual's post (opens in new tab). “This leads to microtransaction hell. Hell for consumers, and a deluge of stuff to compete against for us modders. This isn't healthy competition. It is gonna be cutthroat. Thanks again for taking the fun out of it.”

This is clearly a passionate community and one that Valve would be wise to take heed of. This is a group that has been creating not for the money but for the love of their game. Now that Steam gets a cut of the proceedings and there is cold hard cash involved, things are understandably turning sour.

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Louise Blain is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in gaming, technology, and entertainment. She is the presenter of BBC Radio 3’s monthly Sound of Gaming show and has a weekly consumer tech slot on BBC Radio Scotland. She can also be found on BBC Radio 4, BBC Five Live, Netflix UK's YouTube Channel, and on The Evolution of Horror podcast. As well as her work on GamesRadar, Louise writes for NME, T3, and TechRadar. When she’s not working, you can probably find her watching horror movies or playing an Assassin’s Creed game and getting distracted by Photo Mode.