Sponsored By
Uri Marchand

May 23, 2024

4 Min Read
Image via Pexels user Ron Lach.

Almost a decade ago, I wrote an op-ed titled Modders are developers - it's time to stop treating them differently, which called for a shift in mindset towards a more open and inclusive approach to development. The overriding vision was that users can have a bigger stake in the content creation process within gaming, and creativity can flow from the bottom up. In the last ten years, we’ve seen a tremendous shift play out in precisely that fashion, where major game studios and publishers are actively welcoming and collaborating with creators to improve the longevity and quality of their products. From the advent of Fortnite UEFN to Rockstar acquiring FiveM, publishers have embraced creators and recognized the untapped benefits UGC brings towards the entire gaming ecosystem. Gamers get more content, in-game creators can earn a living with their mods, and publishers can crowdsource content creation in a safe and financially viable way, particularly as content production costs increase. 

The definition of an in-game creator has also evolved. There are stand out solo creators like Porofessor (who sold his business for over $54M); teams of mod authors like FeedtheBeast, dedicated to making Minecraft Modpacks; and even former AAA developers that have turned to build games specifically on creator platforms to optimize their odds of success while reducing development time. The rise of UEFN, Roblox, and platforms like CurseForge have made it easier than ever for indie developers to create games and playable prototypes, reach giant audiences, and provide a pathway to diversify revenue streams and bring their original content to life.

The future of gaming is in the hands of in-game creators  —  this core belief has driven my professional career. These passionate modders, app developers, and game server owners provide an untethered lifecycle for major game studios; keeping gamers consistently coming back for more experiences. As an example, the modding community has enthusiastically embraced titles like Palworld and indie hit game Lethal Company. Since its early access release in mid-October 2023, Lethal Company has sold over 10 million copies. Its top five mods on Thunderstore (a mod manager built on the Overwolf platform) have collectively amassed over 31M downloads. These mods range from simple tools enhancing audio settings and multiplayer lobbies to transformative additions that revolutionize the gameplay experience.

We believe that these in-game creators, whether individuals or studios, deserve to be compensated for their time, which is why CurseForge has introduced DLC-level Premium Mods. Premium mods have the potential to be a significant revenue source for IP owners and in-game creators alike, attracting even talented studios to bring their IP and stories into titles like ARK: Survival Ascended and create engaging content for players to enjoy.

Understandably, the gaming community has concerns about this shift. Attempts and missteps have been made before, including Valve and Bethesda's attempt to introduce paid mods for Skyrim in 2015. The modding community, built on principles of collaboration and open sharing, strongly opposed this commercial shift. Gamers expressed concerns about the quality of paid mods, mods attribution rights, and perceived potential exploitation of mod authors by developers.

However, the industry’s shift towards UGC has essential differences today. Platforms that emphasize player-made content, like CurseForge and Fortnite Creative/UEFN, are offering tools for these in-game creators and allowing them to safely publish their mods. Further, they offer an attractive business model for both IP owners and in-game creators. Quality assurance of paid mods is something that needs to be taken seriously, and handled by CurseForge as a service.

CurseForge has recently announced cross-platform premium mods for Studio Wildcard’s ARK: Survival Ascended. We’ve gone as far as to partner with several game studios, including Blue Isle, Sky Map, and Look North World, to guarantee quality content. CurseForge’s premium mod system gives in-game creators a 50% revenue split with Studio Wildcard. Mods can cost anywhere from $2 to $15 and the split gives the studio and CurseForge the ability to support the creators, moderate the platform, and provide the best experience to the player. The price will be set by the creators, but approved by CurseForge to make sure the price is good for the value players are getting.

While gaming UGC started four decades ago, it is the present and the future of gaming. It is becoming one of the industry’s largest growth engines, with the world’s most popular games turning to creators to provide gamers with endless quality content that is increasing the shelf lives of games. It is difficult to understate the significance of premium mods within this wider landscape as it signals a titanic shift for studios and creators alike. From the publisher perspective, it provides a catalyst to further break down the stigma of relinquishing creative control to passionate creators in exchange for longevity, retention and a new revenue stream. From the creator’s side, the allure and realistic possibility of earning a stable income welcomes in an entirely new and expansive generation of developer-creators who will feel confident in committing their entire working lives to this newly emerging career path. Together, the entire gaming industry will see an exponential shift in the years to come; from an entirely new and untapped revenue stream to the quality of the gaming experience enjoyed by everyone.

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