Why it's in everybody's interest to allow modders to sell User Generated Content

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.


I wouldn’t mind but someone would likely just steal the idea and make it cheaper. This and less people would get the mods. I know if small trees cost .50 i wouldnt get it but larger stuff like jarrasic park or cba i would. Either way its a way to support the modders

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Lol, no.

ALL software should be free and open. It’s bad enough 90% of it isn’t. We’re not losing user created content too. ■■■■. NO.


nah, when mods become a job the modding community instantly dies. People stops using mod content because they have to pay, and the modders stop creating content.

There are patreon/koffe alternatives now.


Love to hear this as a professional software developer, you know we need to eat too, right?

Modding is not easy, I’m not advocating for all mods to cost money, but there are modders that spend hundreds of hours crafting custom content for the community and they do it out of love for the game, it is not unreasonable to believe that someone who spent tons of their free time making elaborate mods for the community should have a platform to monetize their content if they so choose.

No it should not. That not even what the “Free Software Foundation” and open source is about. Free software is not about getting the software free-of-charge. It’s about getting your software with its source code free of many ties to the creator.

You also must be living under a rock. Most of modern software has become free-of-charge, with increasing vendor lock in and privacy concerns. Exactly what you want, and the exact opossite of what FSF stands for.

As it is, it would not be impossible to sell Aoe2DE mods, but the distribution would be a little bit clunky. If any kind of mod store is implemented, I would hope it does not change the current distribution of free mods, which is very easy for creators. A great limitation on many app stores is regional lock out, that can affect free-of-charge software as well. It would be very unfortunate if only mods from USA, Canada and Europe (for example) could participate.

Only if those mods also have official support by any means I’ll purchase.

What happens when someone buys a mod you made makes few changes and sells it as his own?

Mods run on the base game as the platform so if anyone should be selling a mod it should be the game owners after buying from the original modder.

Most software works like that. An android or IOS app is based around the software and platform provided by the given operating system. By your logic, most developers would not be able to sell their software because it derives from the base platform. For Aoe2 it’s much more simple, but the same logic and principles apply even with derivative work. It’s not that dificult to take an existing smartphone app, make minor changes and try to sell it as your own. I don’t think that’s a major issue though.

There is a different issue though. The current MS game content usage license, which likely applies to these mods, does not allow direct sales. This issue would need to be resolved.

You cant compare a mobile app to a mod.

Most apps are far simpler than more complicated mods. The principles are the same.

I will give an example. I take the hussar unit model remove the wings and sell it as my own unit, is it fine to do?

Under the current MS Game content usage license, no. However the edit you’ve done is yours and the original author does not own it either.

What you can do, make minor modifications to a somewhat popular piece of open source software (Firefox for example), and sell it as your own modification. You can just change the icon. The open source license does require certain attributions and you must follow the rules of distribution.

Maybe the issue extends deeper than simply “unga bunga software paid becuz me need eat”

Maybe you shouldn’t have to worry about putting food on the table and people shouldn’t have to worry about working for upwards of hundreds of hours to have access to basic ■■■■ like Adobe, Microsoft Office, Skillshares, gaming, etc

I’m going to reply to the original matter of this topic here, and not get into whether gaming is a basic necessity so important that it should be free even when something like clean water isn’t in most places.

One of the prime arguments against this idea of paid mods I’m afraid is legal in nature. When a professional writer is asked about fanfiction they will usually answer that they don’t read any of it. If it is mailed to them they destroy it unopened. Because they want to develop their own ideas. Whether this is actually true for any or all writers is impossible to determine, but it is important that they say this. Because if they use an element in their story that somebody else had already published (a specific and preferably non-obvious element, so not “two romantic leads kiss” but “Edward and Bella Kiss, with lots of tongue, for 30 seconds, and Bella gets so out of breath from it she sneezes”) and the original writer could have reasonably known of that publication they could actually lose copyright of that work if the fanfiction writer who published that same idea first sues them over it.

In the software world things are as usual a little more relaxed. Software as an industry is much newer, many people working in it today have memories of starting out as a hobbyist and maybe pirating some stuff. Plus up to the early 2000’s or so software aged into irrelevance quickly. Even Age of Empires 2 shows clear elements of this. The isometric perspective was old fashioned within a few years of the game’s release. There was less of a point in fiercely defending property rights, a game made most of its money within the first 3 months after publication, and including sequels you would expect to get maybe a ten year run out of a property, while a book like Lord of the Rings is still a relevant money maker today. The laxer standards of the software and games industry compared to writers, musicians and movie studios is why we have things like the concept of abandonware. Software publishers are cool like that. This is why we can have mods. You can create a shooter level where your teacher is the final boss as long as you sort of halfheartedly admit that the shooter you’re using is someone else’s product and you’re only helping them make it even better, not running away with it to do your own thing and sell it. And it works both ways. Right now the AoE2 developers can still copy over a map script somebody else made for fun, rename it and put it in the game as an official thing, and the original author will probably get a kick out of that.

But things are changing. Games now make more money than movies, and the standards have been rapidly professionalizing. And this includes the standards on copyright protection. Studios are definitely not looking to shift the balance of power away from themselves. If the developers want to create a new official map but someone else is already selling a very similar map that person has a strong financial incentive to defend their copyright. So not only does that mean they can no longer copy Cross and call it Four Ponds, it means they basically can’t make any new maps because someone else has already done something like it, is selling that map and has reason to defend it. Every time the official developers publish anything they risk having to go to court over it. And that is why games basically cannot have paid user generated content, because of how copyright works.

Now if you ask me copyright laws are pretty generous to rights holders all around. There are much less limitations on the copyright to creative works than on patents for technical innovations, while a patent worthy invention is often much more expensive to come up with in the first place. but in this specific case I really can’t think of a good quick fix. This is just how ownership works. If you can add something to a game and claim ownership over that addition to the point of being able to ask money for it it does only make sense that that would prevent the official developer from threading on your territory.

Have you ever written a line of code? Do you know how much work it takes to even create “basic ■■■■” like the software you listed? Writing software is a skilled profession and should be compensated as such.


Lots of great info. I wonder if this can be solved by modders giving up their right to intellectual property associated with the MOD? They essentially already do that anyway–they just don’t get any money. At least if they could sell it they could get a few $$$.