At this year’s E3 Bethes­da announced a new pro­gram called the Cre­ation Club. The ini­tial pre­sen­ta­tion was vague and had poor­ly timed jokes that left many peo­ple con­fused about all the details. What many peo­ple got out of the announce­ment was this is Bethesda’s sec­ond attempt at paid mods after the first failed mis­er­ably.

Accord­ing to Bethes­da it’s not paid mods and it’s not DLC. On the offi­cial web­site the Cre­ation Club is described as a “col­lec­tion of all-new con­tent for both Fall­out 4 and Skyrim”. The web­site even has an FAQ sec­tion that specif­i­cal­ly states “No.” when asked if the Cre­ation Club is paid mods.  Although the site makes clear that it won’t be paid mods, it also doesn’t state what exact­ly the con­tent is. It only describes the con­tent as made in part by exter­nal part­ners and inter­nal­ly with­in Bethes­da.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly oth­er offi­cial Bethes­da sources aren’t much help either. VP of Mar­ket­ing and PR Pete Hines hasn’t clear­ly labeled what exact­ly the con­tent from the Cre­ation club will be. He makes clear that they aren’t paid mods, but doesn’t call them full DLC either

Hines reit­er­at­ed the same point in an inter­view with Gamespot, stat­ing “It’s almost like mini DLCs in some way, although that’s prob­a­bly not even a great point of ref­er­ence”. In the inter­view he does clar­i­fy that all con­tent will be treat­ed as offi­cial con­tent and any exter­nal part­ners, whether they are mod­ders, game devel­op­ers or any­thing else will be treat­ed as employ­ees. This means all the con­tent will be test­ed by Bethes­da and made com­pat­i­ble with the game and all oth­er offi­cial con­tent. How­ev­er again this won’t be clas­si­fied as DLC so it won’t be includ­ed in any Sea­son Pass.

The Cre­ation Club is con­tent made by exter­nal part­ners who are approved by Bethes­da. These inde­pen­dent con­trac­tors are treat­ed as employ­ees of Bethes­da. All the con­tent is then processed through Bethesda’s pipeline to ensure qual­i­ty and that it is com­pat­i­ble with offi­cial con­tent. This con­tent will most­ly be small, but there may be excep­tions. Pric­ing on this con­tent will vary, but there are no details or ref­er­ences for pric­ing. They are also paid with Cred­its rather than cash, but again details are scarce. 

Pros

Bethesda's Creation Club: Is It Paid Mods And How Will It Affect Gamers?

The most obvi­ous ben­e­fit is for any­one who only has a PS4. Because the Cre­ation Club is offi­cial con­tent, new exter­nal assets should be usable and playable. This means that new com­pan­ions, weapons, items, and even quests could be added to Fall­out 4 and Skyrim. Even if PS4 users dis­like the Cre­ation Club, this will like­ly be the only way to get tru­ly new con­tent as Sony won’t be chang­ing their pol­i­cy any­time soon.

This is a great oppor­tu­ni­ty for mod­ders and any­one look­ing for a job as a game devel­op­er. They’ll gain some expe­ri­ence work­ing with a pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment stu­dio and learn how it is to be an inde­pen­dent con­trac­tor. All the while, they’ll earn some mon­ey and have some­thing to put on their resume. Of course they still have to be approved by Bethes­da so they’ll like­ly need some work expe­ri­ence before­hand. 

Cre­ation Club like­ly won’t be as dev­as­tat­ing to the mod­ding com­mu­ni­ty as many peo­ple think. Only a few select peo­ple will be able to join the Cre­ation Club so not all mod­ders will be able to sell their con­tent even if they apply. In addi­tion all the con­tent cre­at­ed will have to be new and orig­i­nal. This avoids any pre­vi­ous­ly free mods becom­ing locked behind a pay­wall and the steal­ing of oth­er people’s work. With these prob­lem address there will like­ly be three sources of con­tent for play­er to choose from: Cre­ation Club, Mods, and DLC.

Cons

Bethesda's Creation Club: Is It Paid Mods And How Will It Affect Gamers?

This will essen­tial­ly bring in micro­trans­ac­tion not cov­ered by Sea­son Pass­es. Bethes­da has made it clear that the Cre­ation Club is nei­ther just mods or DLC and that the con­tent will most­ly be small such as armor and weapons. These will also not be pur­chasable direct­ly and instead uses Cred­its. While Bethes­da will sure­ly want to avoid the label, it sounds much clos­er to micro­trans­ac­tions in a sin­gle­play­er game.

Bethes­da Soft­works and Zen­i­max do not have the consumer’s best inter­est at heart. They very well could abuse the sys­tem by hav­ing con­tent that would orig­i­nal­ly be in the game put behind the Cre­ation Club. Per­haps they could lim­it the amount of armors and weapons in the vanil­la game because the Cre­ation Club will pick up the slack. This is pure­ly spec­u­la­tion tak­en to the extreme how­ev­er there remains the oppor­tu­ni­ty for major abuse and no pro­tec­tion against it.

What rea­son would they have to use Cred­its instead of direct cash? If Bethes­da was sim­ply charg­ing direct cash the exchange would be sim­ple. They make con­tent and the con­sumer pays for what they want.  By hav­ing Cred­its instead Bethes­da can eas­i­ly use the manip­u­la­tive tac­tics used in free-to-play games. Whether that is always hav­ing cred­its left over to encour­age play­ers to buy more cred­its or by cre­at­ing dis­con­nect between the price of con­tent and how much mon­ey a play­er is real­ly spend­ing. The best case sce­nario is Cred­its are also earned in game, but with details so vague it can be tak­en in any direc­tion includ­ing ones that screw the con­sumer.

While mods can­not be stolen by those in the Cre­ation Club, there is no stop­ping it from hap­pen­ing the oth­er way around. Any con­tent from the Cre­ation Club could be uploaded or recre­at­ed for free by anoth­er per­son. The only options Bethes­da has at that point is to ignore these pirat­ed ver­sions or try to get them tak­en down. It’ll be much eas­i­er to do on Bethesda’s site, but places like the Nexus will be more dif­fi­cult. This will either lead to an even larg­er pirate scene on PC or a whack-a-mole sit­u­a­tion with all mods. Both options will like­ly irri­tant their fan­base.

The Reality

No mat­ter what Bethes­da may say, this is their sec­ond attempt at paid mods. Unlike before, they are tak­ing some respon­si­bil­i­ty and actu­al­ly curat­ing the mods. They have also tak­en the lib­er­ty to add their own pre­mi­um cur­ren­cy to the process while actu­al­ly pay­ing inde­pen­dent con­trac­tors direct­ly. The whole thing is still a mixed bag and not every­one will ben­e­fit equal­ly. Mod­ders and Inde­pen­dent Con­trac­tors will have great oppor­tu­ni­ty. PS4 users will final­ly get exter­nal assets and new con­tent beyond DLC. Despite this ulti­mate­ly I don’t believe this will end with the aver­age con­sumer win­ning.

Zen­i­max and Bethes­da Soft­works have proven that they will active­ly hurt con­sumer inter­est for the sake of greater prof­it. That was the case they refused to give out review copies and claimed that it was for the aver­age gamer despite tak­ing away sources that bet­ter inform all gamers. They have also been proven to treat third par­ty work­ers poor­ly whether that be Human Head Stu­dios the devel­op­ers of Prey 2, MADia cre­ators of Ech­e­lon, or Obsid­i­an and their infa­mous missed Meta­crit­ic bonus for Fall­out: New Vegas. An argu­ment could even be made for the overzeal­ous trade­mark enforce­ment between Prey and Prey for the Gods or even the recent Ocu­lus Rift law­suit. Some of these prac­tices can be writ­ten off as com­mon or just big busi­ness being big busi­ness how­ev­er that doesn’t dimin­ish the neg­a­tive effects they have on gamers and those who worked with Zen­i­max and Bethes­da Soft­works. The Cre­ation Club just seems like anoth­er tool for them to increase prof­it at the expense of their play­er base.

Regard­less of my opin­ion or pros and cons, the Cre­ation Club will launch this sum­mer. Whether it suc­ceeds will be deter­mined by those read­ing and the aver­age every­day gamer who just sees new con­tent for their game.