I will not lie, when the idea of paying for user-created mods came out, I was outraged. For those not in the know, a 'mod' (short for modification) is user-made content made to alter the experience. Imagine if someone wanted to play Bejeweled but replace the gems with various national flags. Normally a DLC for that would not exist. However, with a bit of programming skill they could alter the game so that instead of rubies, diamonds, and the like, the flags of America, UK, and Canada would appear. These mods can range from simple re-skins to full-on expansion-sized content, as well as even outright game overhauls and patches.
The thing is, though, that no one actually pays for these. Almost all of them are distributed via third-party websites or the Steam Workshop, and there is rarely an entry fee, let alone payment for individual mods. Steam, at least in theory, wanted to change that by making it so that users would pay for at least some mods, with the developers getting a bit of cash back. People were outraged and it was completely understandable.
When I was outraged, the problems were obvious… and they still are today. On the most basic level, there is never a guarantee that a mod will ever actually work, especially if the game is running a multitude of mods already. Game scripts will conflict in ways the makers probably didn't even realise were possible. Things will bug out and possibly not even work at all, and sometimes a mod just won't run. Maybe a later patch changed something and the developer doesn't know how to fix it, doesn't care, or isn't even supporting the mod anymore. Even a generous return policy won't help because the problem may not even be self-evident at first, especially if a lot of mods were bought at once. One could, for example, and in theory at least, buy a skin for a weapon obtained late in the game… except they are early in the game. Even with a week-long returns policy, it could be a month before they even got to that weapon and found out that the skin either didn't work or replaced the sword skin that they wanted with a horse. The returns policy has long since expired and the only choice left is to turn the mod off and sigh…
Next-up would be the fact that some mods simply wouldn't be worth the few cents used to buy them. When the shop was launched, there were already stupidly over-priced items meant for only one purpose that wasn't even hidden behind a thin veil: to earn the developer money (and see how willing some Steam members might be to buy anything). Buying a great mod that actually adds something valuable to the game might be worth it, but blowing any more than a few coins on something that just re-skins a weapon or item? Almost no one would even consider it worthwhile unless it was a seriously great re-skin.
Then there would be the issue of rip-off items. It might be awesome to replace a horse with a motorcycle, but if there is a free mod that does the same thing, or something similar, the paid mod is then only for suckers who can't be bothered to look it up… or worse. Worse, in that the person who made the paid mod can force the person with the free mod to take it down and, possibly, be sued. Suddenly, riding across the virtual world in a motorcycle has gotten you in a courtroom in the real world for riding a bike you don't even own!
Finally, to top it all off, some mods require other mods to even work in the first place! Paying for a mod to let your character back-flip might seem okay at first but then you discover that not only does it not work, but in order to make it work you have to buy a much more expensive mod that alters character skeleton set-ups. That sounds horrible!
That's what I thought, at first. It wasn't even a question in my mind. Not until late one night when I was browsing a mod site. Many of the mods weren't all that eye-catching. Things like armour re-skins, houses, and the like. Then I found one of the larger mods that added in a bunch of NPCs to the game, with things like full voice acting and unique story threads. It wasn't even a question if I wanted it or not… I was already downloading it. While it was downloading, though, I stopped myself for a second and thought to myself…
"This mod is huge. It's not just random people, either. It's people with full voice-acting who made this content on their own with no hope of being paid. It's not even cruddy voice-acting like someone just used a computer microphone. It's near-professional level stuff. I'm getting this for free. There is a donate option but how many people downloaded this for free?"
Then it hit me, full-on. All this time, for all those months, I had only been thinking about all the inherent flaws and arrogantly dismissing the notion that any mod could really be worth all that much money. I already had one mod that offered expansion-level content, multiple that vastly altered how the game played to make it how I wanted, and almost one-hundred re-skinned armour and weapon piece mods, not to mention a few various miscellaneous types. Had they been released by the developer, how much would I have paid? Was that mod in my sci-fi game that replaced the ships with ones from Star Trek really worth no coin at all? Not even a few pennies, when I had just spent some money on minor DLC for other games? It was easy to point to things like EA's tendency to soak people for money with its DLC and pay-to-win options, but did this modder who probably wasn't associated with them in any way deserve to suffer for EA's practices?
I had to stop and think for a moment. People when downloading mods only rarely donate. It's perfectly understandable. A sizeable chunk don't work or aren't worth it and, if someone donated for every mod, quite a few people would have lost a lot of money. I would have lost a lot trying to get some of my mods to work simply because of dependencies. Was that the right thing, to say mods shouldn't be paid for, or just my own greed and spite? I didn't know.
Is it right to make some users who make simply impressive and huge mods not receive any money for it simply because some other people are horrible modders? Is it right to charge people for something that may not even work? Is it right to accuse people of practices they don't use? Is it right to use exploitive practices to soak someone for money?