Late last week Valve updated Steam to allow game mod creators to sell their work for real money on the Steam Workshop, starting with Skyrim mods. Revenue from those sales is now split between Valve, the modder and the game's creator/publisher, who is also responsible for determining the modder's cut.
Many people took to various corners of the Internet to express their concerns about the whole thing, which include the potential for free mod communities to wither if publishers move to prevent mods for their games from being distributed anywhere but the Steam Workshop. More than a few game developers argued that allowing modders to charge for their work was a good idea, and on Saturday Valve frontman Gabe Newell opened a Reddit thread to answer select questions from the community about the whole mess.
This isn't the first time Newell has outlined his goals for Valve and Steam on Reddit, and everything he says should be taken with a grain of salt -- a year ago he admitted (again, on Reddit) that "iterating with the community," as Valve aims to do, "your near-term objectives change all the time."
However, his comments over the weekend help shed light on what Valve hopes to achieve by allowing modders to sell their work (beyond its cut of the revenue, of course) and how it fits into the company's long-term goals. The full comment thread is worth reading, but for your convenience we've embedded some choice quotes below.
Some folks are making more money selling their work on Steam Workshop than they might in traditional game development, and Valve wants to encourage that
We've long known that a lot of money is passing through Steam Workshop, and Newell reiterated the company's emphasis on pricing mods in his comments this weekend.
Valve doesn't want to tell game/mod makers what to do -- it wants the community to do it with their wallets
Later in the same conversation, the Valve frontman commented that Steam shies away from telling content creators how to use the service because "everything outrages somebody" and "it's a lot more tractable and customer/creator friendly to focus on building systems that connect customers to the right content for them."
Revenue from sales of mods has already passed the five-figure mark
While responding to a question about why Valve didn't just implement a donation system for mods, Newell noted that Skyrim mod sales revenue had already surpassed $10k in roughly two days.