There are several ongoing crusades right now from large corporations targeting PC game mods, such as Games Workshop targeting all user made Warhammer content (jeopardizing modding for Total War: WARHAMMER III), Battlestate Games trying to expunge EmuTarkov/SPTarkov information from the internet, and Take Two going after mods for Grand Theft Auto III through Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
Their rationale is this: “Game mods might compete with our own content, so we’ll legally take down these mods so that our own sales will prevail!” Understandable logic for a corporation, only the numbers and the history of gaming don’t support it. There’s more evidence of the contrary – mods and the promotion of mods often lead to increased sales. Let’s see why and how.
Many All Time Popular/Best Selling Games Originate From Mods
We have an article about this subject right here. Dota 2, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS, DayZ, Garry’s Mod, these are all huge mainstream successes, with Dota 2 and CS:GO being all time best sellers and constantly topping the concurrent player charts even today, many years after their release. Most of these games are heavily moddable too, but their moddability and the fact that the original mods these games are based on remain available do not conflict with game sales. You can play the mods those games are based on, but people still prefer to buy the game.
Not convinced yet? How about the fact that plenty of remasters today are made for games that already have such mods – mods that effectively remaster them already. That hasn’t stopped Nightdive Studios from remastering games such as Quake – an open source game with plenty of source ports, some of which include 64-bit executables and much more modern graphics APIs. Source ports such as Darkplaces are far beyond what 2000s Grand Theft Auto mods are, it’s even far beyond what Nightdive’s Quake is capable of graphically, yet that didn’t stop the new Quake remaster from being an alarming success. It is so successful that I predict it will lead to a brand new Quake game on id Tech engine, made by either id Software or MachineGames.
The issue of game studios taking down mods doesn’t only apply to remastered games. Look at Battlestate Games and their crusade against mods that add a single player game mode to Escape from Tarkov. How on earth is this a problem? The mod requires Tarkov, so the mod does not serve as a free download for the game. It gives people another reason to buy the game. The mod is leading to more sales, because people interested in SPTarkov are obviously interested in a single player Tarkov experience. Therefore, if the mod were to be promoted, it’d become more well known, and more people would purchase Escape from Tarkov.
Better yet, if Escape from Tarkov was moddable enough to have custom game modes created, that’d lead to lots of new sales, since this game is so unwelcoming to new players and not everyone wants to play its one game mode. A game mode such as DayZ’s zombie survival would certainly be popular.
Mods don’t generally conflict with game sales, they typically lead to a growth in the game’s market. Mods mean more interesting and diverse content, content that costs game studios nothing to make, so more people will buy the game to check out these mods. Free money for game studios. Perhaps mods will conflict with awful microtransaction and lootbox sales, perhaps not, but most of the studios going to war against mods aren’t even doing so for this reason.
If Games Workshop were to eliminate modding for Total War: WARHAMMER III, that will only reduce game sales since mods are such a big part of that game. Do they believe that by eliminating modding for this game, that will somehow increase sales or get people to subscribe to their streaming service? Use common sense. Similarly, just imagine if Bethesda killed off modding for The Elder Scrolls VI. That’d obviously be disastrous as mods are what keep that franchise alive over all these years.
Mods Can Lead to Long Term Sales
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim doesn’t enjoy continued success only because of its constant re-releases. You cannot ignore the mods, from the million mods that improve every single element of the game to the heavy hitters like Falskaar and The Forgotten City – the developer of the former got hired by bungee, while the latter became its own game which released this year. Skyrim is just one of many games that people buy largely for mods, on the platforms that allow for modding that is. You’ll be hard pressed to find a Skyrim PC player that doesn’t use mods. The same goes for many other popular games.
Arma 3 sales are still going strong as reported by the developers in 2019, six years after the release of the game. DLC is one of the reasons, mods are another. Garry’s Mod sales are still noteworthy, as reported by the creators as recently as this month (September 2021) as they reach 20 million sales. This game is 16 years old.
We don’t have the latest data on Skyrim sales, although a figure of 30 million copies was reported in 2016. If only we knew what that figure is now, but mods are an undeniable part of that. The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games frequently have new buyers to this day – as of 2010 the franchise had sold four million copies worldwide, and as of 2021 GSC reports over 10 million sales. So that’s 6 million sales in the past decade for a franchise beginning in 2007, and most of these newer buyers are purchasing the game primarily for mods (a few mods in particular, though sadly not the one masterpiece), even though most of these S.T.A.L.K.E.R. mods don’t even require the original games! Despite this, people are still purchasing all three games. Look at all the newcomers making their way to DOOM and DOOM II today, almost exclusively for mods.
Battlefield 2042 won’t be moddable, but it has a sort of gimped alternative in Battlefield Portal. Look at how much interest this has sparked; let’s wait and see how this game sells, but I’m willing to bet it’ll be the best selling Battlefield game in a long while, and Battlefield Portal (the ability to mix and match some content from previous games and their different settings) is an undeniable reason behind this. Now imagine the hype if this came along with modding, to expand on its capabilities further? Like the superior PC exclusive Battlefield games of past.
The fact of the matter is, many gamers enjoy making content or experiencing a diverse selection of user made content, as evidenced by these very successful moddable games. No, mods won’t cause every game to be the massive success that Skyrim is, but it also doesn’t hurt, it helps. Mods are the main reason people continue to buy older games such as S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Skyrim, Doom 1-2, Rainbow Six 3: Gold, Garry’s Mod, Arma 3, countless others, and one thing most of these have in common is that the mods have officially been recognized and praised. So to all you guilty game studios – do not fear and attack modding, embrace it and promote it like Valve does. This will appeal to a wider audience if a strong mod selection comes with it and you will profit in the end, especially in the long run.