I just had a rather silly thought. Modding has traditionally been about passion and people wanting to push the limits of games etc. What's important is that it wasn't about money. But what happens if you turn that "argument" up-side down? Of course modding was about those things because there was no way to get paid (reliably).
Is there something in this new paid mod structure that prevents people with passion etc from modding for free? I don't think so.
Are we likely to see more free mods go pay-2-play? Very likely.
Did non-modders benefit greatly from the tradition of getting free content? Absolutely.
Did the developers who built mod-friendly games benefit? Broadly speaking yes (although difficult to measure investment/reward). For example I picked up Sosa2 solely for the star trek mods (shout out btw).
Are non-modders likely to suffer a reduction in the quality and quantity of free mods? Probably yes! They are of course not entitled to anything, really. But for the vast vocal majority this will always be a sore point.
Will paid mods increase the level of quality provided by mods? Probably yes, although I think long-term larger collaborations are unlikely to happen. Paid mods will probably always be small-scale, or produced by professionals. Because you can't really engage people to contribute to your project if it's not free, and knowledge and profit sharing is unlikely to work because kids.
Did the old way of doing things actually prevent some interesting mods from getting made? Likely yes! Whereas the formula used to be "passion -> mod" now it's "passion+money->mod" where either passion or money can actually be zero. And it's not too difficult to imagine situations were mods simply didn't get made because there was no funding. I already posted such an example earlier in the thread.
People who never paid and never will stand to lose from this paid mods business. I don't think there's any way around that. The really interesting question is this: Is the added benefit to all the consumers of a product larger or smaller than the benefit removed?
Over the next months we're likely to see all sorts of interesting developments in this area. For example:
- Free library mods that paid mods depend on are likely to attempt to retaliate by preventing access from paid mods. Although some made them free for the sake of being open, others will be hurt that paid mods are using their freely available effort to benefit paywall new content.
- Kickstarter for mods. A likely result of wanting high-quality large mods by professionals. How are they to know what will sell? Go kickstarter! Actually there's already a guy doing buildings for Cities Skylines that set up a patreon with the purpose of getting money so he can spend more time modding that game. Although in that case, it's still donation-based and the content is free upon release afaik.
- There's bound to be new business models. For example, imagine a situation where a mod is initially given away for free (with express intent to later become pay-2-play). The early adopters get free access permanently, in return they provide feedback and exposure. The mod continues to grow in size, adding content. The price goes up, and will continue to do so for as long as the mod is being developed. Now people who are unsure may be pushed to commit before the mod grows too expensive. On the other hand, the price is constantly "fair" in the sense that you pay for what you get right now. But you still have the early adopters, happy that they were in on the ground floor, giving it good ratings etc.
Obviously there's a rather large shitstorm against paid mods on the internet right now. And they're likely to dominate the "news" regarding this new market for the foreseeable future. But beyond knowing why paid mods are shit, I'm also looking forward to seeing why they aren't. Although news about that is likely to be significantly harder to come by, not only because it wlil be rare, but that detractors will try to suppress it.