Poll Question 020 – Would you actually pay for a mod?

2nd March 2007

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half Life 1, 2 and 3

The mod community is probably the biggest difference between PC and console games, for me anyway. As the mod community has grown in size so has the quality of mods being produced and released. This is, no doubt, in part due to the fact that the games themselves have improved in all areas, most noticeably in graphics.

I think it’s fair to say that some mods have even been better than some retail games. I spend a lot of money each year on games but rarely find something that really captures my imagination. However, some mods look absolutely spectacular.

The poll questions this week is:
“Would you actually pay for a mod?”

Let’s make sure we are clear on a few points before we rush into the voting.

Garry’s Mod

Garry’s Mod is now available in a retail form. At $10 is seems very good value and Garry and his team, Valve and the community benefits by selling this mod. However, unlike retail games, there is still a free version available. As time passes the difference in quality between the two will grow but for many the current free version is enough. Will this act as a model for others to follow? I hope so.

Garry’s mod is different from other mods in that it is unique, or at least I think it’s unique. Other mods, whilst different in many aspects, are very similar. They are playable mods with “run and shoot” being the prime objectives. Does this make enough difference to the marketing and possible reception of the mod? I think so.

Game Demos

Most games are released in demo form at some during the release build-up. This allows players the opportunity to try the game and decide if they want to purchase it. Would mods do the same? Would a mod be big enough to have a demo? Perhaps they could follow the point made above. The first few releases are free and if enough people show interest then a retail version could be considered. Perhaps Valve could agree to release 1 or 2 retails versions a year and mods put themselves on a list and the players vote for the ones they want “retailed”.

Not all mods

Clearly not every mod could be sold, only the biggest and best. The question of dividing the revenue would obviously be a difficult question for some mods and this may cause mods that would have been released for free to be canceled due to internal conflicts.

Wrong Motivation

Currently mods are made for a number of reason, mostly I suspect through love of creating something interesting. If money is involved then the community dynamic may change. On the other hand, shouldn’t all that hard work be rewarded in some way?

Delivery System

Steam is perfect for this but not every game has an online distribution network at it’s disposal. Downloading executable files is feasible but things need to be made as simple as possible and a Steam-like system is hard to beat.

A Choice

What if there was a choice? Perhaps the free version contained product placements, properly considered in-game advertisments, limited features etc. The retail version would be ad-free and fully-featured. Would you buy it then?

The Price

A while ago I was contacted by an amateur developer looking to promote a free standing game using a free engine. HE wanted to sell the game for around $10 and released a demo. I played the beginning and found it just an average mod, nothing special or noteworthy. The problem was that I had recently bought Quake 4 for $10 and when games are available at that price it’s hard to see how amateur developers can sell their creations for the same price. Certainly $5 seems to low but $10 seems to high. What would you be prepared to pay? And before you say “It depends on the game”, what would be an average price?

How About For Charity?

I’ve mentioned that charging for games may change the ways developers view them but what if any money you paid was given to a charity? Would you still pay for a mod? If not, why not?

Conclusion?

I would definitely pay for Black Mesa but I suspect it will be a while before we see this sort of thing happening regularly. I actually think it will be a bad move for the modding community as a whole and hopefully the game developers will think carefully before they amend their TOS.

Final Results
  • Yes: 45%
  • No: 55%
  • Total votes: 53

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32 Comments

  1. zeroth404

    If the price was no more than a few dollars and was actually a Total Conversion and not just a gameplay mod (unless it were uber-cheap) then I certainly would.

    If a team charged for their mod, I would hope it was because they intend to use the profits to support their creative endeavors, and not simply for greed.

  2. Dufferx

    Do we consider “Episodes” put out by Valve as totally different than “Mods?”

  3. I think that the reason I like mods so much is that they ARE free. I think that the “commericialization” of mods somewhat diminishes their value. Also, to answer Dufferx’s question, no, the “Episodes” are different than other mods. This is because the Episodes are a canon continuation of the storyline from Half-Life 2. While technologically, they are essentially the same, the “canonity” is different.

  4. Do we consider “Episodes” put out by Valve as totally different than “Mods?”

    This is because the Episodes are a canon continuation of the storyline from Half-Life 2.

    I don’t believe that has anything to do with the Episode not being mods. Leon’s Coastline to Atmosphere was a continuation of Half-Life 2. The real difference is that they are/will be stand alone games. They do not require Half-Life 1/2 or any other Source engine game to work, whereas mods do.

    If a team charged for their mod, I would hope it was because they intend to use the profits to support their creative endeavors, and not simply for greed.

    Whilst I also agree with this sentiment I believe that most game developers companies are businesses. The people just happen to love what they are doing.

  5. “In the context of a fictional universe, the canon comprises those novels, stories, films, et cetera, that are considered to be genuine or officially sanctioned” (Wikipedia)

    My point here was to say that the Episodes are mods as much as Blue Shift and Opposing Force are. Essentially, canon “mods” are different than non-canon mods.

  6. JC

    I think that the reason I like mods so much is that they ARE free.

    Amen bro… gotta agree with you on that.

  7. My point here was to say that the Episodes are mods as much as Blue Shift and Opposing Force are. Essentially, canon “mods” are different than non-canon mods.

    Perhaps this comes down to semantics. For me a mod is something that modifies something else. In this game a game. Whilst BS and OP are canons of the original game I don’t believe it’s correct to call them mods.

  8. This would be too hard to determine which makers are worth your hard earned cash and which are not. While I find it hard that any maker of a “mod” would take the time to put together a demo (since most mods are shorter in length), it would be appropriate to create a teaser trailer. I know some of you don’t like to watch trailers, but I would make an acception in this case. If say someone was making their first mod, I would not pay for it. Actually, I can’t see myself paying for a mod period & if such happened, I would be very upset. It would definitely take away some of my enjoyment in gaming.

  9. I believe you should prove your worth first before even thinking about getting people to pay for it.

    I would have paid for CtoA or Invasion,Azure Sheep.Poke646 etc if required and the amount of time that would be required to play it had been readily available to base what I was willing to pay.I would however never pay for for 20 to 30 minute mods or those made by people who have not proven themselves capable.

  10. Just curious andyb, but how do you determine who’s worth it and who’s not? What would you base it on?

  11. Modders could ask, “If you enjoyed playing this mod, consider donating via Paypal…”

    I might consider donating if I felt the developer had provided me with a few hours of quality game time. But paying upfront is something I’d hate to do. Too many maps and mods prove disappointing.

  12. Darth Marsden

    Generally, the reason I enjoy mods as much as I do is that most of the time, they’re works of love from a fan who has taken the time and effort to create something new for his favourite game.

    If that fan decides to charge for that mod, then fair enough. He just shouldn’t expect to sell many copies of it.

    Personally, my answer to your question is no. I wouldn’t pay for a mod. I would, however, pay for an official expansion, which is often a very similar thing.

  13. The reason I got into HalfLife on PC is because I could pick up a copy of Anthology for £5, about $10. And, there is a wealth of free mods. Furthermore, the PC I have that it runs on is an old LEX PC133 based machine with what was originally a Voodoo 3DFX and now a “newer” Nvidia. All my parts come from a friends parts bin. He builds and upgrades PCs. So, as Phillip says its unlikely that I would be willing to pay for a mod. You see I’m secretly a console buff. As such, I can add that we in the world of consoles are unwilling to pay for “additional content” also. “Extras” on the XBox360, I beleive, are not a big seller. And, don’t forget that Sony have abandoned their plans for Gran Turismo HD and it is now available free to download. Things might change however as all companies involved in gaming or video entertainment explore new distibution methods and options for content. The PS3 runs Linux making a console truly open for the first time. I am looking forward to seeing if Blender, an open source 3D package with game engine, will run on this platform. Maybe paid for additional content and/or mods is a way for able non professionals to make a crust. I would envisage a structure where additional content would be available for pennies. In summary then, no at the moment I would not be prepared to pay for a mod. Even the publishers do not charge for extended game play. Keep watching the web however as things they are a changing.

  14. geekofalltrades

    I don’t think I would; while a number of mod developers, particularly those at mods like Black Mesa, are doing work of a quality that deserves pay, part of what makes a mod a mod is that it’s free, and it’s been created out of the developers” love for games and creating games.

  15. zeroth404

    You pay 40-60 dollars for retail games,

    so why not pay 5-20 dollars for a high-quality mod and support the moding community you love so much?

    I do however think that charging for mods could be taken too far if not thought out thoroughly.

  16. zeroth404

    let me say that another way:

    you payed a whopping 20 dollars for the crap that is Half-Life Episode 1, so why not spend it on a mod that is certainly higher quality than HL2 EP1?

  17. shungokusatsu

    Wrong Motivation
    Currently mods are made for a number of reason, mostly I suspect through love of creating something interesting. If money is involved then the community dynamic may change

    I agree with this, if mod makers become bent on money making, this may actually decrease the quality of the end result, for the stressful and time consuming marketing that is involved in selling a mod.

  18. In other areas of retail, often a product is considered inferior if it is free. Consumers connect cost with quality. We all probably agree that a car that costs twice as much as the one we drive is better. Whilst this may be true in physical products, it isn’t always true in services and software.

    I’m sure we all use free software that we consider to be better than pain software. The gaming community has always been free and making the transition from this to money maybe not only be very difficult but also impossible.

    How do we know that a dev team is still making the mod because they love to do it rather than because they want the money? I don’t know.

    Perhaps making donations a bigger part of the promotion may encourage users but I doubt it.

    If I am honest I very, very, very rarely donate cash. As a willing receiver of donations I noticed that it probably true of most of the gaming community. We are poor and have little spare cash to spare. If I am forced to pay for a game then I have little choice. Yet I do and I do it regularly for games that are below standard. Why can’t I make the mental jump required to pay for mods?

    If somebody can somehow change the psychological barrier then I feel the financial model ca change.

    Crappy games still get our money why can’t the great mods get some of it? We have to find a way of separating the deserving mods from the money-grabbers. Any suggestions?

    Also, I’m curious why nobody has commented on the charity point. Is this idea just too crazy? If so, why?

  19. I’d rather pay a game that will fund for more games rather then fund people to force Christianity down the throats of the African children.

    *cough*

    Crappy games get our money because of the one thing they spend on: Advertisement. A mod is out of it’s league, because it can’t pay for mainstream advertisement like a game can.

  20. AI

    Are we going to stick to the subject at hand or turn this into religious bashing?? #16 above, what is so “crappy” about HL2 EP1?? is it cause you had to pay for it?? if that is the case you could have DL’d it “free” from allot of places on the net! I’ve bought my share of the mod/addons for my collection and I could have gotten them “free” (I know shame on me!!) but I haven’t!! I don’t know how to make these mods/maps or addons so I have to rely on the developers to do this! Some of the good developers such as Leon/spy, to my knoledge, don’t get paid for what they do, I feel it would be fitting for the realy good ones to be compensated for their hard work and an incentive for the others to do better! It was Bob Dylan who sang the song “The times they are a changing” (from Hyway 61 Revisited)

  21. Darth Marsden

    Okay, here’s an idea. What if Valve decided to release, in stores, a compilation of the best Single Player mods? They’re still available to download, but they’re also on this handy DVD that’s only £10 – some of which goes to the mod makers themselves.

    Would you buy it? Why?

    Personally, I would – I like having collections of mods on one disc, mostly – but would you?

  22. Okay, here’s an idea. What if Valve decided to release, in stores, a compilation of the best Single Player mods? They’re still available to download, but they’re also on this handy DVD that’s only £10 – some of which goes to the mod makers themselves.

    Would you buy it? Why?

    Personally, I would – I like having collections of mods on one disc, mostly – but would you?

    The attraction of having several mods on one disc would not lure me into parting with my cash. I can do that myself.

    However, you raise a good point. If Valve collected together several mods — thus endorsing them in terms of quality — and removed a lot of the bugs in the process, I think that would make sound commercial sense. For me, the downside of sites like PP (and it’s a very minor downside when one looks at the myriad upsides) is that there is no filtering for quality. Some maps and mods are godawful. I try to tell the good from the bad by reading the comments, but it’s still a case of ‘suck it and see” a lot of the time. I’ve downloaded some crap in my search for gems. A Valve-approved collection would certainly appeal to anyone new to the concept of free HL maps and mods.

  23. Way back we had a couple of compilations for the Prince’s Trust. They were a collection of demos for PS1 priced at around £15. Unfortunately, most of those demos had already been published on the front of a magazine. Its not really a case of not wanting to buy charitable games, nore a case of publishers not wishing to contribute. BTW Fluffy visits the wrong websites.

  24. Modders could ask, “If you enjoyed playing this mod, consider donating via Paypal…”

    I might consider donating if I felt the developer had provided me with a few hours of quality game time.

    I don’t believe that donations are an effective way to receive income. For some reason it just doesn’t seem to work, in my experience anyway.

    But paying upfront is something I’d hate to do. Too many maps and mods prove disappointing.

    That’s why it would only work for the larger mods who may be able to release a demo level.

    Okay, here’s an idea. What if Valve decided to release, in stores, a compilation of the best Single Player mods? They’re still available to download, but they’re also on this handy DVD that’s only £10 – some of which goes to the mod makers themselves.

    and

    However, you raise a good point. If Valve collected together several mods – thus endorsing them in terms of quality – and removed a lot of the bugs in the process, I think that would make sound commercial sense. For me, the downside of sites like PP (and it’s a very minor downside when one looks at the myriad upsides) is that there is no filtering for quality. Some maps and mods are godawful. I try to tell the good from the bad by reading the comments, but it’s still a case of “suck it and see” a lot of the time. I’ve downloaded some crap in my search for gems. A Valve-approved collection would certainly appeal to anyone new to the concept of free HL maps and mods.

    I have been considering starting yet another project called “The Worthy”. The idea was to collaborate with somebody who can make an installer, find the best mods released in each quarter, get permission to distribute them and the create an automatic installer for all the mods.

    One .exe file that does everything for you. The file would be an exclusive to PP and also have the benefit of saving time and effort for the player. As MikeS says “There’s no filtering for quality” and whilst I made a conscious decision to add EVERY mod and map I could find it’s not a perfect system. I have another announcement to make regarding the rating system this weekend but the “The Worthy” another possible solution.

    I did consider selling it on a CD/DVD with the proceeds going towards the hosting costs but am not sure that’s fair.

    Does anybody know who to create installers and what to help me with this project?

    Just a follow up.

    The attraction of having several mods on one disc would not lure me into parting with my cash. I can do that myself.

    I think what is being referenced are the ones that install everything for you. Not just a collection of files.

  25. Darth Marsden

    I’ve dabbled with NSIS – it’s not a bad little installer at all. (Pun intended – it’s tiny)

    I’m between jobs at the moment, so if you want someone to give you a hand with this THE WORTHY thing I’d think I’d be interested. I’ve recently started a similar type of project – putting all the best mods for game, along with the game itself, onto a DVD.

    That said, I’m working with older games at the moment – stuff like Half-Life and Unreal – but if you’d like me to chip in, I’d be happy to. Give me a buzz – my latest email address is, obviously, attached.

  26. Darth Marsden

    …or don’t. Whatever.

  27. …or don’t. Whatever.

    Email sent. Thanks

  28. AlexCrafter

    Maybe this poll should revisit now that valve added mods to steam.

  29. Maybe this poll should revisit now that valve added mods to steam.

    True, let’s wait and see what happens with the idea. It could make websites like mine redundant. Although I said that when Vapour first appeared. And it’s next version hasn’t done me any harm. MMMM, that said I better check out what they are up to: Crosus

  30. The last time I can remember paying full price for a game was for Super Smash Brothers Brawl.

    Orange Box I paid $30 for the PC hardcopy, but I thought that had been $50 when it originally came out.

    Over the past year, I haven’t paid more than $5 for ANY individual game. I got an indie game pack for $30 and that included 10 games, Assassin’s Creed for $5, Bioshock for $5, Garry’s Mod for $5 (I couldn’t get the free version to work, or I would have been perfectly fine with just that), a second copy of Orange Box for $10(5 games) and I think I may just get Mirror’s Edge for $5 and Secret of Monkey Island for $2.50

    Ultimately, what this boils down to is that I barely pay anything for retail games, mods are not going to fair better. I MIGHT be willing to pay $5 for Black Mesa IF it met its original goal of including Coop play, but I’d really rather get it for free. I can’t think of any other mods that have quite offered the level of professional polish on top of overall quantity of gameplay that would convince me it was worth a full $5.

  31. If the reviews and the demo are RAVE,, Absolutely! Mods are allot of work..Especially good ones. There should at least be a donation option.. Building a really good mod is long difficult work frm all I have read on the subject.. Yes they should be paid in some way…

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