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Why we can't use Patreon, and talking about donations and doing more to support mod authors


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It's been just over 4 months since the paid modding fiasco failed and Valve stopped the sale of mods on the Skyrim Workshop. I'm not here to beat the dead horse on what happened then, but I am here to talk about one of the major fall out points (pun not intended) from that situation, specifically, donations to mod authors.


During the time when paid modding was active, and in the aftermath, two things became very clear; a lot of users on the Nexus didn't know it was even possible to donate money to their favourite mod authors, and the amount of money donated to mod authors was so negligible it bordered on the pointless for almost all mod authors (we're talking a couple of dollars over the course of a 2 year period, even for some of the "big" mods...). We want to try and fix that, to get the word out more about completely voluntary donations while maintaining a certain degree of conformity and professionalism for mod pages.


Before paid modding the donation system was very simple. Mod authors put their Pay Pal email address into their Nexus site preferences and decided whether to turn on a donation button on their file and profile pages. The donation button is in the top-right hand corner of the file page, where the Download, Track and Endorse buttons are also placed. Lots of users missed this.


Accompanying that were a strict set of rules in our terms of service that state, categorically, that mod authors cannot, under any circumstances, ask for or even mention donations anywhere on the site. The main reason for this rule was quite simple; as it stands right now a lot of mod authors already fail to describe what their mod actually does anywhere near the top of their file descriptions. In between huge images, change logs, the latest news about their files/their life/their cats, what they will and won't provide support on and so on and so forth, it's sometimes extremely difficult to find an actual description of the author's mod. What I didn't want was mod authors asking for/demanding donations and giving running commentaries of their donor lists within their file descriptions and sticky comment sections, further muddying what should be an easy to read and understand section of a mod author's file page.


Similarly, we didn't want situations where mod authors withheld functionality that was only for people who donated, or started doing "updates for cash". The idea that the author will update their mod when the donation amount reaches a specific threshold. That's not what the Nexus is about and if mod authors did want to do that they could do that elsewhere. But not here.


This is something we, the people working on the Nexus, can help with by providing mod authors a dedicated area on their file pages to talk about donations. A nice widget or box somewhere on their file page, prominent, but not overbearing and instantly in the user's face, where the mod author can talk about their donations, track and thank their donors and explain what they'll use it for. But right now, with the current design, we just don't have the room to accommodate that. We could make another tab on the file page for donations, but would it be used? Would it really? It's something we'll be working on for our site redesign, but that's not going to be out for a good while yet.


The Nexus has a lot of users who "skirt the rules" already, sitting in a grey area where they know it's a bit naughty, but it's not going to get them into any trouble. I feel if we relaxed the rules on talking about donations, without giving authors a dedicated area to talk about them, then we'd increase our moderator workload substantially, as well as the ensuing drama when we have to make judgement calls on whether what's been written about donations does or doesn't break our ToS. And for that reason, right now, our rules remain the same on soliciting donations.


During and after the paid modding fiasco we altered our donation system slightly. Mod authors can now choose to show users who've already downloaded their file a small pop-up box before they try to download another file on the page. This box informs the user about donations and asks them whether they'd like to donate. The idea being, if you've already downloaded one of the files on a file page and go to download it again, it's likely the reason you're downloading one of the other files on the page is because you're downloading an update to the mod, or an optional file, and you actually liked/use the mod in your game. Similarly, the author can choose to show the same pop-up box when someone chooses to endorse the mod. Once again, the idea being that if you endorse a mod, you like the mod, are you're more likely to actually donate to the author because of that.


Like the donation button, these options are completely voluntary and the mod author can choose to enable, one, two, three or none of the options at the same time.


The inherent problem with the current system is, simply, that it's limited in its scope when compared to platforms like Patreon or Flattr. These platforms are specifically designed for exactly what I'm talking about in this post. From the ground up, they make it fast and easy to donate to your favourite creative people and give them financial support if you so choose. In short, they'd be perfect to implement into the Nexus.


And I'd love to. I mean that. It'd take all the hassle out of us making our own donation systems and we could pass it on to tried and tested platforms that work brilliantly already.


But I can't.


After paid modding failed miserably, donations were talked about a lot both publically and in our private mod author forums. Lots of brainstorming occured on how we could get the word out better. A lot of people agreed (some didn't, mind you!) that systems like Patreon and Flattr would be perfect. I said I would be more than happy to implement them into the Nexus, provided that Bethesda would be OK with the idea and wouldn't send their legion of lawyers after us.


Anyone who reads the gaming news will know, Bethesda's lawyers are trigger happy as f'. In recent years they've sued Mojang, of Minecraft fame, over the use of the name "Scrolls". They've sued Interplay, originally owners of the Fallout IP, over the use of Fallout. They've sued an indie dev for trying to use the game name "Fallout Fortress". And they've sued the Oculus Rift people over the use of "trade secrets". They clearly like using lawyers. I'd rather not lose this entire site over mod author donations.


I encouraged mod authors who were interested in Flattr and/or Patreon to contact Bethesda about the topic and get their take on it. Initial reports back were not good or positive and the general consensus was that Bethesda had said no. The topic was laid to rest.


Then, a few of months back, a site called "Sprked" cropped up, looking to become a Patreon style platform specifically designed for modding and activities of a similar ilk. They began contacting and messaging a lot of mod authors on the Nexus about using their site, but didn't send a message to me about it. I sent them a message asking them to stop doing it immediately. Not only was it spammy, but if mod authors attempted to mention using the service on the Nexus they'd have received a warning, as it would have been seen as soliciting donations. I explained the situation to the person I spoke to at Sprked, that Bethesda seemingly didn't want such a system implemented, but I told them I'd contact Bethesda personally to get to the bottom of it.


So I got in contact with GStaff, the community manager over at Bethesda, to get to the bottom of the issue once and for all. I'll quote the messages I sent to GStaff on the topic, so you can see what I said, but I won't quote GStaff, out of respect, as I have not asked for or had his permission to do so.


Hi Matt,


I hope you're well.


I wanted to give you a heads up on a new site that's just launched called Sprked. It's basically a Kickstarter/Patreon monetisation site tailored specifically for mods. It features Bethesda games, images and IP quite prominently.


I know a user called <redacted for privacy> contacted you after the Skyrim Workshop paid modding situation to ask if Patreon would be OK for mod authors. From what the mod authors had gathered you had indicated Bethesda would not be OK with such a system. Is this correct? I ask, as it's something we would have explored implementing in to the Nexus if you hadn't made it relatively clear to <redacted for privacy> that you weren't OK with it. It's something we would not implement if Bethesda were not happy with the idea, especially if it would sour things between us, and because of this we haven't pursued the idea any further. It's also something we have actively prevented mod authors from advertising on their file pages on the Nexus, which has essentially "nipped it in the bud" as without our authorisation it's practically impossible for them to get the word out about it to their users.


We have extremely strict/tight rules on mod authors asking for donations. Mod authors cannot specifically ask for donations in their file descriptions, they can't offer "perks" for donations and they can only use our generically written donation text, which links to a user's Pay Pal account. The Nexus never, ever, touches donation money. As such, we've informed the creators of Sprked that we will not allow them to contact mod authors about the service/advertise their service on the Nexus until we've heard back from you on the topic, simply because it's against our TOS for mod authors to advertise such services on their file pages at this time. That rule will not change unless you/Bethesda make it clear that such things would be deemed "OK".


If you could shine a light on this rather precarious situation, I'd appreciate it.





The response I received was one line long and informed me that it was something that Bethesda cannot support.


Unfortunately, GStaff's answer didn't really answer my original question. I wasn't looking for Bethesda to support it, I was writing to make sure if the Nexus supported it, Bethesda wouldn't have a problem with it. I clarified the situation:


Hi GStaff,


Welcome back from what I assume was a busy week last week.


Unfortunately this is something the mod authors are pushing me heavily for so I kind of need a little better wording on this one (sorry!). When you say "it's not something we can support" I don't know whether you mean it's just something Bethesda aren't going to support themselves, on their own sites/services (e.g. Bethesda.NET, the forums and Skyrim Workshop) or whether it's something which, if the Nexus did support it, Bethesda would be unhappy about/come after the Nexus either legally or with a blanket ban on Nexus related use?


Sounds extreme, I know, but when Bethesda opened the Pandora's box that was paid modding all this other stuff came out with it and we, at the Nexus, are coming under pressure to do more to support mod authors from a donation stand-point when we're utterly unsure how far we can go without you, Bethesda, getting upset. Hence this message.


Thanks for your time.


GStaff's answer was to say that yes, it would be problematic if we were to pursue Patreon or Flattr-esque systems on the Nexus, and that was that.


GStaff did not go into any further detail as to why it would be problematic if the Nexus used Patreon or Flattr and frankly, I didn't ask because I didn't want to push any further. You can speculate on the reasons yourselves. I imagine if they were pushed they'd likely quote the tried and tested "legal complications" with such an idea. Though why there'd be legal complications over Patreon/Flattr but not straight-up Pay Pal donations, which Bethesda signed off on personally when I asked them for permission to implement that system after Skyrim's release, I don't know.


It's also been widely reported in the gaming press that Bethesda will be revisiting paid modding at some point after Fallout 4's release and I think we can all safely assume that they're going to be gearing towards such a system on their Bethesda.net site, which they've been talking about a lot as well. Such a system would effectively allow them to cut out Valve as the middleman, accommodate an interesting push in to console modding, and either ensure they can maximise their profit as much as possible, or allow Valve's original cut to go to the mod authors. I freaking hope they're going for the second of those two options. Irrespective, I've no idea if the fact they want to revisit paid modding in the not too distant future has any bearing on their decision to say no to Patreon or Flattr on the Nexus, but I think it's similarly possible.


In light of the fact they've said no, I think what upsets me most, personally, is the seeming irony of Bethesda's stance on the topic of paid modding. They've said time and again that they believe mod authors should be allowed to be compensated for their work, but they forget to add their caveat to that statement; that they seemingly want mod authors to be compensated for their work, provided they can take a cut. And heck, I completely understand why they believe they deserve a cut. It's their game, their platform, from which mod authors would be making money. It's entirely reasonable for them to take a cut (how much of a cut is still open to debate, though!). What I don't appreciate is the fact they try and paint it like they're doing it for the mod authors out of the charity of their own hearts. It just seems really silly.


As I said, this is something I really wanted to get behind for mod authors. It seemed so simple and easy to implement that it was a no brainer. But we can't, and for that, I'm sorry.


I wanted to set the record straight on this topic as I still get contacted about it regularly even today. It was also mentioned a lot in our recent site survey that 25,000 users were kind enough to fill in, and I still see a lot of posts on other sites wondering why we haven't done more. The reason why we haven't done more is because our hands seem to be tied.


If you have any ideas about how we can make donations more prominent and friendly to mod users while using a simple donation system over something more expansive, like Patreon and Flattr, then by all means get in contact or leave us a comment. We're all ears on trying to help out mod authors more, without the potential for getting sued to hell and back.

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The best way to compensate mode authors would be to give the good authors with many a certain amount of downloads a space where they could get some advertising revenue. Essentially they become a partner with you,with no voting or legal rights but they have a square on their page where they can sell an add. This can be set up in a variety of ways where you, the nexus can get advertising to pay more to advertise on popular mod pages and therefore send the mod authors a small percentage of that. The nexus can still have adds on the better spots on the page and not share in that revenue. You can create a sliding scale where the popular mod authors make more of a percentage of their add revenue so it is tied into the amount of page clicks and mod views and also more importantly unique downloads.


Think of it like this Dark0ne: How does the Government guarantee they get their taxes. Here where I live it is called Deduction at Source. The Government makes Companies/Corporations pay their employees taxes by removing the taxes off of their pay-checks. It becomes the Companies responsibility to do this for their employees.


Your mod authors can be thought of as employees. If you really want them to make some money then you need to facilitate that into the function of this website. You wouldn't loose money and you wouldn't have any legal problems. You don't need programmers to solve this, you need accountants.


Have a nice day :)


Edit: I wonder if you would be able to tie it in with Google Adsense and therefore you wouldn't even have any extra work on your end as the Adsense guys would send them their check directly... or you could work directly with Google Adsense and figure out the details.


I think this idea changes the paradigm and solves everything. If you, Dark0ne, truly want mod authors to make some extra cash then this is a way that accomplishes you4r goal and solves the Legal Issues that are preventing you from doing so.





Edited by Psijonica
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Well...that's just my opinion...but i think it's fine as it is...the donation system...it's true some people doesn't even know about its existance...but i undertand that many are not willing to donate...afterall mods are for free,and if they suddenly had a price,some may just not use them anymore.


If someone wants to do it he'll do it,and for discussing it there are always private messages.

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Maybe you could put the donate button above the description? it doesn't have to huge and it'll keep it out of the description itself. As is it's shoved over to one side out of view, just now I had to load a page up to find where the button actually was and I use the site daily.
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Probably a controversial idea- downgrade the free Nexus a bit and push more people to the Premium Nexus (probably with a price cut - say $10 for 1 year, $20 for 3 years) then the Nexus pays popular mod authors based on popularity. As for what downgrading the free nexus actually means, hmm Bandwidth slowing doesn't seem to be much of an incentive - especially with a lot of mods being quite small size, so how about limiting posts, limiting mods to one a day, putting ads also on the supporter Nexus or ... well now that I write them they don't really seem like good ideas, but mod authors who make good (and popular) mods with clear instructions and are active in their own mod post/forum pages should be rewarded. Edited by seanxx
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I didn't even know of patreon until all this hoo haa, donations are fine, you're right Dark, there's absolutely nothing in it. But that odd donation a couple of dollars or ten dollars, is a gift, and I'll go buy a coffee or something, or a game I been wanting with it. Anyone hoping to make a living from modding will need to keep their day job.


Edited by Rigmor
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Simple. Allow options. Patreon is subscription based and allow people to pay monthly. You can add that functionality with paypal. Same with Flattr. Actually Flattr is a better system. Have people just generally donate an amount "overall", like $10 a month or whatever, then at the end of the month spread that amount between all the mods that they have endorsed.


You could make it so people can go into a settings menu and customize the ratios for each mod. so if they think one mod they endorsed deserves more they could tweak it, but if not or can't be bothered just distribute it evenly between all endorsed mods.


That would probably make people more selective about using the endorsed button as well, making it more meaningful as a side effect.


Damn I'm a genius. :P

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Unfortunately Skyrim is not Minecraft. You dont own your copy and since it is basically a permanent rental you cant do anything you want with it (especially concerning money). It will probably be very similar with Fallout 4. If Bethesda wants Fallout 5 or TES 6 to be competitive (in 3-5 years) it is going to have to reconsider its business model and its association with Valve.



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