Nexus Mod Creators In Revolt Over Deletion Rules

Amora R Jelo

Image: Bethesda Nexus Mods, the biggest host of video game modifications in the world, came under fire from mod creators this week over controversial plans to prevent modders from fully deleting any works they upload to the popular mod-hosting network. Preparing for the full release of a new “Collections” system […]

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim's protagonist performing a dragon shout.

Image: Bethesda

Nexus Mods, the biggest host of video game modifications in the world, came under fire from mod creators this week over controversial plans to prevent modders from fully deleting any works they upload to the popular mod-hosting network.

Preparing for the full release of a new “Collections” system that will let users curate lists of complementary mods, Nexus Mods announced mod creators will no longer be able to fully delete their content from the site. The revelation led to a full-on revolt among some modders, while others hailed it as a step in the right direction.

It’s easy to see the utility of the upcoming Collections feature, which aims to let users curate lists of compatible mods for each other to preemptively try to resolve any of the incompatibilities that can crop up during installation. The controversy arose from some of the steps being taken to pave the way for this new feature, which include letting premium subscribers to the site bypass mod author pages and also prohibiting the authors from deleting their own content.

The change, wrote Nexus Mods community manager BigBizkit yesterday in a sprawling, 6,400-word blog post, “basically means that mod files are no longer deleted, but rather archived—which will make them inaccessible unless directly requested e.g. via the API.”

In other words, mod files authors choose to “archive” will no longer be visible to most passerby. However, if the archived mod is included in another user’s Collection, the author will be unable to prevent others from accessing it.

Nexus Mods is currently giving creators who disagree with the new rules only a one-month grace period during which they’ll be able to request all of their content be deleted from the site. After that they will have effectively ceded control of archived versions of their mods to Nexus Mods, until and unless the Nexus Mods moderators decide to eventually delete the files at their “discretion.”

“Despite what you’re trying to make us believe, none of this is fair, and NO CHOICE is left to mod creators other than, ‘delete ALL your mods in the next weeks or tacitly accept the fact that anybody can do whatever they want with them forever,’” wrote Skyrim modder Hoamaii in the comments under the blog post, of which there are already over 1,500.

Skyrim, Fallout 4, and Stardew Valley are among the top dozen games Nexus hosts mods for.

Screenshot: Nexus Mods / Kotaku

A lot of the outrage and frustration has to do with the fact that there’s no “opt-out” option for this new Collection feature. “If we did provide an opt-out option then any mod author opting any mod/file out for any reason could essentially torpedo the whole system, undermining collections from the very beginning,” BigBizkit wrote. But some modders are skeptical that retaining final say over how their mods are packaged would really break the system.

Another sticking point is how Nexus Mods brings in money and how it gets divided up. The site rolled out a donation system back in 2017 to help players reward modders for their work. Nexus Mods dumps money into a fund each month and then pays it out to modders who opt in to the donation system, with a currency called donation points being paid out proportionally to what share of the overall number of downloads their mods accounted for. Those points can then be redeemed at the Nexus Mods storefront for other games, cash payouts, charitable gifts, or premium member subscriptions.

But users can also donate to modders directly through their mod pages, and some fear the new Collection system, by letting users bypass the mod authors’ content pages altogether, could hurt author donations while still helping to line the pockets of Nexus Mods.

That’s because premium subscribers will have access to a better version of Collections that will attempt to streamline the mod acquisition process even further, letting users simply choose a game, download the best mods for it, and get playing. These subscriptions cost $3 a month, or just under $26 for the whole year, and come with other perks like being able to navigate the site ad-free and faster mod download speeds. What they don’t do is give any money back to the modders whose content populates the site and makes it a destination for PC gamers. By bolstering the value of the paid subscription and helping users bypass creators’ donation pages altogether, some modders are worried the new changes will stack the Nexus Mods marketplace even more in favor of the site’s owners.

“What mod authors are being asked to give up is their current right to decide over derivative works—those are works made by other people using the author’s assets (a.k.a. collections or mod packs),” wrote users Hobbes77. “What they are getting in return is: Less donations, traffic and interaction to their original mod pages (if you have 100 mods in the pack, which player will care about checking the individual ones if they’re buried on that list?)”

In response to Nexus Mods’ announcement, some users have threatened a mass exodus from the platform to try and force the site to reverse course. Some modders have already nuked their files in protest. “ModNexus privatized everything on Nexus by blocking owners of these mods from withdrawing their contributions forever,” wrote user uijk718293, who backed up their Skyrim mods on ModDB instead. “This is [a] den of thieves now and I refuse to update my mods or upload new ones on Nexus at all.”

Other modders have reacted much more positively to the news. In a post over on the Skyrim mods subreddit, several commenters argued that mod packs will ultimately help increase the audience for people’s work. “This is a good change for our community,” wrote user simonmagus616. “Curated, high-quality mod lists are the best thing that ever happened to Skyrim modding, and they’re the best thing that ever happened to me, as an author.”

Several people in the thread pointed to the mod pack installer Wabbajack and Minecraft’s CurseForge mod database tools, which have been in place for some time now and work similarly to Nexus Mods’ proposed Collections feature.

“Pretty psyched on this,” wrote Skyrim modder _Robbie. “Wabbajack is already doing great, and when the Nexus joins in on the collections sharing, I expect it to go even more mainstream and for more people to be creating and sharing awesome load orders.”

Modders who ultimately decide to leave Nexus Mods and take their content with them have until August 5 to request all of their files be deleted. “It might not be what we all wanted, but we think this way is fair, as you get to make your choice,” BigBizkit wrote at the end of Nexus Mods’ announcement. “If anything, this was a tough choice for us to make, but one that we believe is ultimately in our joint best interest as a community.“

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