I’ve always been surprised by the fact that more companies don’t allow modders and scenario designers to sell user generated content (UGC).
The developers for a game like Age of Empires are fantastic. They’re some of the best around. That being said, when you have a community of up to 1 million players, there is going to be outstanding design talent in the game playing community as well.
Some of the custom scenarios I’ve seen such as Spo0kyMagician’s Jurassic Park scenario are outstanding—the 2000 triggers it takes to make work, the updated custom skins, the concept, the testing, etc.—such a thing takes hundreds of hours to conceive, design, implement and test.
It would seem like a great financial decision for Microsoft, as well as the right moral decision, to allow people like that to sell their UGC in an “App Store” for the game. I would gladly pay say, $2 or $3 for Spo0kyMagician’s Jurassic Park scenario. Like the Apple App Store, Microsoft would keep 30% of the revenue.
—It would open a whole new steam of revenue for Microsoft.
—It would justly reward modders and scenario designers for their hard work and creativity—even allowing them to build a portfolio should they ever want to make game design their job.
—It would help keep a game popular and “alive” longer as people created new content for it. We, as a gaming community, could ask for a certain mod or scenario, and the best community designers would compete to create it for us.
—It would be a free source of ideas and inspiration for the Microsoft development team designing the next iteration of the game. Not only that, it would provide added direction and guidance to them as well, showing them the kinds of mods, scenarios and gameplay there was a demand for—things they could keep in mind as they developed the next iteration of the game. It would help them design a future product that was more enticing to the community, because they’d have another data point to look at to see the type of UGC the community was purchasing.
The system of free mods that exists already provides some of the above, but if you were to financially incentivize the talent in the community, I think the quality of content we’d see would skyrocket as more designers and more talent would get involved. You might even have small indie studios trying to make a name for themselves by creating entertaining high quality game modes.
As a player, having free mods and scenarios is nice for sure. But I am more than happy to reward a designer for their hundreds of hours of work with my $2 if they have given me 3-4 hours of happiness gaming with my friends–and incentivize them to make more.