Steam Dev Days was an eye-opening experience for many. Valve published a lot of data on various aspects of its business. The company told the audience about the sales of games, explained the joys of working with Early Access and dwelled upon revenues generated by user-generated content (UGC). We were shocked to learn that on average makers of hats and other objects for Team Fortress 2 and DOTA 2 made $15k each last year. Xsolla found out why UGC was so profitable and popular on Steam.
Creation of UGC became a profitable career for many fans of popular online games, Valve said that in 2013 company paid over $10 million to people, who created virtual objects. The most impressive fact was that only 661 authors of UGC were registered in Steam.
Valve CEO Gabe Newell said that hat sales in TF2 were going through the roof, making some people rich. Some of young modelers earned about half a million dollars. Experts doubted that this activity will be interesting for the majority of game fans but from Valve proves that many people will be glad to get a piece of 10-million market, which is now owned by less that a thousand amateurs (this is not entirely true, because among fans of TF2 there are a lot of professional modelers and artists).
Steam gives a lot of thought in stimulating activity of the modellers. Valve wants users to make a lot of their own content and it wants gamers to profit from it. For example Valve was one of the major backers of Robotic Boogaloo — first user-made DLC for TF2. Unlike mobile games, where the winner takes it all, UGC can guarantee enough profits for every content producer.
Valve stated that almost 90% of all objects in Team Fortress 2 are made by gamers. 17 million of Steam clients have already bought over 500 million of in-game goods. During the first weeks of 2014 modelers earned more than $400k! UGC is popular among Team Fortress 2, DOTA 2 and many other games:
- Counter Strike: Global Offensive has over 4700 maps and 20,000 weapon skins created by community members.
- Portal 2 had over 381,000 user generated puzzles. Valve released a separate editor with simple interface that is transparent and easy to use.
- Garry’s Mod has over 250,000 UGC.
- PC-version of Skyrim has 19,500 UGC. Bethesda released a Creation Kit for Creation Engine. This tool extended the game’s life. Skyrim is still being enjoyed by thousands of gamers.
Valve is proud to admit, that its users choose the kind of content they want to get themselves. Unlike many F2P-centered companies Valve thinks that most of the UGC available online should give just some esthetical advantages and make the game more fun. They shouldn’t influence gameplay.
Recent hit DayZ is a great example of UGC going commercial. At first this was just a simple mod with huge community. In a matter of month the new game was created and its early access launch was successful. It a couple of days the alpha of the game sold over a million copies.
Developers think that UGC is the main thing that differentiates games from movies and literature. This is not entirely true. A very successful series of erotic novels «50 Shades of Grey» was initially a fan fiction created by an avid «Twilight» fan. The author just changed a couple of names (no more Bella for you) and a little bit of story and suddently made one of the most popular novels in the world (60 million copies sold). Essentially «50 Shades of Grey» is a mod of «Twilight».
A couple of years ago mods and skins were tools to extend the game’s lifespan. Today games need mods as means of additional monetization. UGC suddenly became big business and we can’t wait to seen where in will bring the whole gaming industry.