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
No, more like mini DLCs or add-ons like we’ve done before, like for Oblivion. Mehrunes Razor, spell tomes…stuff like that.
— Pete Hines (@DCDeacon) June 17, 2017
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.
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.
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.
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.