It’s a way for select creators to make money
Valve famously “didn’t understand exactly what [it] was doing” when it tried letting people charge money for their The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim mods on Steam. There was enough of a backlash that those plans quickly fell through, and refunds were issued, but the company hinted that it would experiment with paying community creators again in the future. That time is now.
The company has introduced Custom Game Passes, a new method for rewarding the folks behind popular Dota 2 custom games. The games themselves will continue to be free, but players will be able to buy passes to receive “additional content or features” on a 30-day basis, with revenue split between the creator and Valve just as it is for full games sold on Steam.
The first and only pass available at the time of writing is for Roshpit Champions, and it costs $1 per month (note: passes won’t auto renew). In the developer’s own words, these are the benefits:
- 8 more character save slots
- 18 more stash slots
- A 50% immortal drop rate buff and 10% EXP gain. This buff is shared with all party members and stacks with other custom game passes.
- A gold kill counter at the top of the UI to show who is a premium player.
- Most importantly, purchasing a premium ticket supports the game and allows us to build content better, faster, more consistently.
Not just any game can sell a pass. “The process will be curated by the Dota team,” says Valve. “We will be carefully selecting which custom games are able to offer a Custom Game Pass, selecting only games which have already established a sizeable community and are mature enough to offer good value to customers. Ultimately, players will help determine which games are right for a pass by choosing to play and engage with growing communities, and the Dota team will continue to work with the custom game community to identify good candidates.”
Valve has also talked through its plans in an interview with PC Gamer. The outlet brought up pay-to-win incentives, which is one of the biggest concerns, to which Valve replied: “If we see custom game developers designing Custom Game Pass rewards that are hostile to custom game players, we will work with the developers to improve their design. If necessary, we will remove the custom game’s right to sell Custom Game Passes. We believe it’s unlikely that custom game creators who have successfully created and continuously maintained a high-quality custom game would knowingly destroy both their game and their community with a badly-designed premium reward scheme.”
The official line is that “Creators should focus on rewards that provide premium value to pass owners without harming the experience of users who have not chosen to purchase a pass.”
Additionally, refunds are available within the first 48 hours after paying for a Custom Game Pass.
This system does sound like an improvement over the paid Skyrim mod situation, but I don’t know that Valve has had the best track record when it comes to curation. We’ll have to see how it goes. If you’re curious, maybe consider flipping some Steam Trading Cards and trying it out.