The first time Bethesda tried to monetize its ever-popular game mod community, it crashed and burned in a hellfire storm comprising thousands of the saltiest Steam reviews the world has ever known. The next attempt, called the Bethesda Creation Club, is proving to be just as controversial, but for a whole new set of reasons. Things just aren’t going Bethesda’s way, no matter how much the company tries to spin this thing. If people being mad at traditionally-free mods is one thing, then the spreading panic over what the Creation Club actually does to its respective game installs is a whole new can of worms I wasn’t expecting to see. If Bethesda wants this thing to get over with the fans at all, the folks responsible might need to find an alternative, and fast.
Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first. I’m not entirely opposed to the Creation Club in an “on paper” sense. Sure, people have been getting mods for free since the dawn of PC gaming, but it’s about time for that to change in some form. A donation button on the Nexus isn’t enough, and I don’t think it’s fair to the people making the mods in the first place for everyone to expect their labor for free. Artists deserve to get paid as much as anyone else for their work, and it’s up to them to charge for it or not.
So in theory, Bethesda building a platform to kick some coin to the modders, and even officiating the content sounds pretty great. Especially since the free mods are still around and also supported (sort of) by Bethesda. If both options can exist at the same time, there’s no reason to be Extremely Mad Online. However, this is assuming in good faith that the modders are appropriately compensated for their work and the system itself isn’t a raging dumpster fire. That doesn’t seem to be the case.
I can’t speak to what the content creators are being paid, but I can speak to controversy evolving over the delivery mechanisms of Bethesda’s new content platform. This thing seems to be all out of whack in a way that is probably not surprising, given the technical reputation Bethesda has curated over the last generation or so. There is some pretty janky stuff going on under the hood.
First off, it sounds like the Creation Club launching means that all of the files are being automatically downloaded into everyone’s Fallout 4 game. This stuff varies in size, there’s a lot of it, and of course there’s plenty more to come. If that’s the precedent going forward, these games could balloon in size over time. This could possibly affect how the game runs. It could fill up hard drives. It might even bring people from going over their data caps.
This is especially problematic because the update is mandating all mod files load in alphabetical order. This sounds trivial, but apparently with some mods the load order mattered. This update effectively breaks them. Meaning the “paid mods” system is threatening the feasibility of some free mods. Whoops! Users on places like Reddit are also reporting that certain free mods and Creation Club mods cause conflicts with each other.
People are still digging into this thing and reporting on various problems as they are discovered. But it’s not a good look for Bethesda's Creation Club. Gamers are already going to be resistant to paying for content they’re used to getting for free, and more people are getting vocally angry over microtransaction-style content. Mass file downloads, technical conflicts with free mods, and other issues are adding more fuel to an already big fire. Hopefully much of this stuff is not deliberate and Bethesda can earn some free will by publicly acknowledging and fixing these issues. As usual, we’ll see what happens.