Modding became the hottest topic in the press recently. Many mods are becoming standalone game and make millions of dollars. DayZ — an updated game mod was hugely successful in the Steam Early Access. The alpha of this game sold over a million copies. Xsolla studied this trend and figured out what help great mods become bestselling games.
It’s no secret that developers try to release an SDK as soon as possible. Sometimes companies publish the source code of their games to give users all possible means to modify the game. A couple of days ago Unkown Worlds published the Natural Selection source code. Natural Selection is an old modification for Half-Life, which is still popular at present day.
SDK allows users to change gameplay and graphics of the original game, create new modes, models, skins. Usually these tools and mods are being distributed for free.
A good example of such free user-generated content is Just Cause 2: Multiplayer Mod. This modification was given out for free through Steam. Selling this multiplayer mod was not possible, because Square Enix has the rights for this game. Great mods Deadly Reflex (Oblivion), Multi Theft Auto (Grand Theft Auto San Andreas) and The Unofficial Oblivion Patch (Oblivion) were also given out for free, although these products had tons of high quality content.
However there is another way for UGC. Steam gives a great opportunity to sell games which grew up from mods. This could prove very profitable, if you look at Black Mesa and The Stanley Parable.
Black Mesa is a remake of Half-Life on Source engine. Project was created by 40 enthusiasts. The game took 8 years to complete. This mod/game became one of the first projects on Steam Greenlight. Users voted for this game to appear on the digital shelves of Steam. This would not be possible if Valve wasn’t so generous to give the permission to sell the project. The current version of Black Mesa is available for free and you can download it from the official website. The game will be released commercially through Steam.
The developers of The Stanley Parable achieved similar progress with their own game. HD-version of this dramatic first person adventure is being distributed through Steam. The game costs $15. The Stanley Parable was created by indie-developer Davey Wreden. At first it was just another Half-Life mod that had a very cool idea and strange gameplay. Later the updated version of the game got into Steam thanks to Greenlight and newer graphics.
Valve works as a moderator with mod developers. The company helps to finish the game and get it on Steam. Developer of survival-horror Faceless Adam Sklar from Blacklight Studios says theat the company is super-helpful, but it doesn’t push on developers and doesn’t influence their decisions. Xsolla spoke with Sklar and he gave his own view of commercial modifications:
«Mods turning into games might be killing the mod industry, but it allows for a greater game to be made. We started as a mod, which was our foundation, and now we’re turning it into a game. The team is working hard to ensure the game will become a fantastic product in which we all reap the rewards for making, and until then, we just make do. We contact Valve when we need to, and they contact us when they need to. It’s purely to arrange getting Faceless on Steam when the time comes».
Adam says that Faceless will be sold only through Steam and Humble Bundle. Developers do not plan to sell the game through the official website. It is interesting to note that most mods/games based on Source-games are not sold outside Steam. Usually mods are being sold only through Steam and are being distributed through Mod DB.