I can see Valve's point of view on this improving the quality of mods: they figure that the money-motivation will encourage more people to make better mods and to keep up with improving them/updating as patches come out. If they don't, then they won't get as many sales. It's not so much BS as it is wishful thinking - an idealized way that this will all shake out.
I do think that they misunderstood the typical motivation of modders, as mentioned previously, and were trying to induce a different drive than currently exists. It's an interesting experiment that IF HANDLED PROPERLY could lead to an exciting future in modding for everyone. However, I think that the path they chose was poor and wouldn't yield much in the way of benefits for the consumers, only the companies involved and a handful of modders (who at this point I'd kind of view as independent DLC development houses, once they're making money off their work).
But yes, strong curation of paid mods is vital, as is providing a better recourse for consumers.
huge page-breaking list
1) as some have said, list the paid mods separately. Also, keep their downloads distinct from all other downloads (explained later).
2) have an active vetting process, with any paid mod getting code compared to other existing mods. There will need to be some mechanism involved that is able to exclude comments, headers, etc. for such a scan. A common rejection should be "too close to an existing Workshop mod." Somebody could still upload it to the Workshop, but they couldn't sell it. This is sadly magic hand-waving at this point for me, as I don't know what software accomplishes this task. However, I suspect something out there would get the job done.
3) automatically reject mods that have dependencies on other mods unless those authors sign off on it - INCLUDING establishing a percentage of the modders' cut with the primary modder(s). The dependencies deserve money if something based upon their work is being sold, and it would also encourage them to keep their own mods up to date.
4) create a different system for establishing paid mods, somewhat similar to Kickstarter. It can use the Steam Wallet essentially as an escrow fund (some changes would need to be made).
A labor/ongoing distribution cost (split between the mod author and Valve - this is where the author makes money)
- Create an amount that is needed to fund a paid mod. This amount would be split up into two portions:[LIST]
[li]A stratified publication & licensing fee (split between Valve and the original publisher/indie developer). An example follows:[/li][LIST]
- <$1 = a set percentage (volume sales - think weapon mods or other lightweight stuff). These are most likely to maintain compatibility and are also the easiest to make, so this profit sharing setup makes sense for everyone.
- ≥$1 but <$5 = a significantly smaller percentage plus an up-front flat amount. Maybe minor stories/dungeons. This requires a bit of follow up work to occasionally make sure things aren't getting screwed up with other mods, updates, or official DLC. As such, a larger tail end of profits should go to the modder as a reward for keeping it going strong.
- ≥$5 = an upfront flat amount, no percentage. This would typically be "deluxe" mods and total conversions requiring extra follow up work by the author for compatibility purposes. They can draw in purchasers of the game on their own, rewarding the publisher without needing too much of a cut from the mod sales, and they're also the most labor intensive both up front and over the long haul and the larger share of profits for the modder on tail end sales makes a greater incentive to keep supporting it.
Create a fund-by date no greater than one month upon listing the mod. This sets a level of verified funding for the modder, and if it isn't met then all consumer investments are automatically refunded to their wallet. The author can choose to resubmit (likely at a lower level of funding), choose to upload it as a free mod, or simply walk away from the project.
Customers would determine if the mod is something worth investing in, and if so then they could pledge an amount of money (whatever the price is, INCLUDING "pay what you want" if the author chose it) toward the mod via their Steam Wallet. The money is held by Valve as part of a visible, detailed, "pledged" portion of their wallet until successful completion of the mod (explained below). And yes, they get to earn interest on it even if it winds up getting refunded.
Establish a projected release date with the listing of the mod.
Create consumer protections on the purchases.
- If the mod is not released within a month of its projected release date, the consumers are automatically refunded the full amount they pledged via their Steam Wallets. The author can try to resubmit the mod for funding, explaining how much/how little work is left and providing a revised release date. The author could even choose to reduce the price in order to entice people to come back and support the mod again.
- Upon official release, a notification goes out to the consumer via their messages. Create a new envelope indicator for those - perhaps with gold background.[LIST]
[li]At that point, it will be available in a separate tab in their library.[/li][li]If the customer does not download the mod within 30 days, their purchase is considered complete. All of their funding goes to the designated recipients.[/li][li]If the customer DOES download the mod within those first 30 days, they have 72 hours upon completion (think just over one full weekend) to provide a thumbs up or a thumbs down on the mod.[/li][LIST]
- If it's a thumbs up, the mod moves from the separate section in their library over to the DLC section for the appropriate game and is theirs forever. Their investment is then distributed among the various recipients.
- If it's a thumbs down, the customer is refunded via their Steam Wallet.
- If the customer fails to respond in 72 hours, it's considered to be a thumbs up.
- If the amount of thumbs-up respondents wind up not being enough to meet the original funding goal, any customer who originally gave a thumbs-up is given one week AFTER the initial 30 days of release to choose if they want their refund or to keep the mod, anyway. If they keep it, their investment is then distributed among the various recipients. This item is useful for MP mods - you may want to have access to one because you and your friends may enjoy it, even if nobody else in the world of Steam does. On the other hand, you may only want to keep a mod if there are enough users out there with it.
This hopefully creates the following incentives:
- Strong modding support by the original publisher
- Strong modding support by the mod authors to keep their profits rolling in
- A method where profits are assured (Wallet money is spent on games, regardless), but consumers are protected in case things go bottom-up. Zero risk by Valve, zero risk by the original publisher, zero risk by the author (well, spent time is at risk), and limited risk by the consumer (oh, no - money you were already going to waste on a mod that wound up being crappy instead gets to be spent on something more worthwhile ... like a mod that's actually good!)
- A means to decently protect IP's.
- A means to encourage ongoing support by dependent mods.
Anyway, feel free to destroy the ideas - I don't have an MBA, so I don't hold any pretense of knowing wth I'm talking about. Just keep in mind that the dollar figures were for demonstration purposes only, as you'd likely need some analysts to properly break down the correct levels and percentages.