Modding games has been around for as long as there's been personal computers, and numerous games throughout the years have developed huge modding scenes full of mod makers and mod players who extend the lifetime of games often for decades beyond their original release. The AAA scene has always been a mixed bag when it comes to supporting this, with some companies openly embracing modding, others vehemently against it, and others that send mixed messages (Hi Blizzard!)
Of course it's difficult to talk about the modding scene and it's progression without discussing Bethesda Game Studios whose Elder Scrolls and Fallout series have enjoyed continued success for years beyond their game releases, thanks in no small part to the highly dedicated modding scene and Bethesda releasing full featured modding tools to the general public. Of course this goodwill has been tested numerous times with Bethesda trying to shoehorn paid mods into their games to squeeze money from this scene that helped give them so much success. The future, for Bethesda games in particular, looks very uncertain as while there will likely be modding of some kind available in their future flagship titles like TES:6 and possibly Starfield, it remains to be seen if they will be as open with providing a feature-complete toolset or with their terms of service in distribution of such mods. They already have garnered a rather well deserved amount of criticism in recent years, and failing to adequately support the modding community for their newer games would likely spell utter disaster for the company.
Though it's not like only heavily criticized game companies like Blizzard and Bethesda are at risk of drastically limiting the modding scene. CD Projekt Red, a much beloved developer, released RedKit for their game The Witcher 2, which allowed users to create their own full featured content for that game, their next title The Witcher 3 however was released with a scaled down mod kit instead of the full RedKit2 that was used to develop it, severely limiting the potential for mods for the game itself.
Meanwhile with many bigger studios trying to shy away or otherwise profit from full featured modding support of their games, the scene appears to be steadily increasing among indie games. Minecraft, Terraria, Starbound, Kenshi, Rimworld, Mount & Blade, Banished, and Don't Starve, just to name a few, all have very active modding communities, that are fully supported by the developers themselves.
Of course, official modding support hardly prevents a game from having a modding scene, as many games without official toolsets or support from the developers have gone on to have quite a number of successful modding scenes develop. Lack of tools often has less to do with a modding scene's popularity than the game itself, even the aforementioned The Witcher 3 boasts way more mods available for it than The Witcher 2 despite having a more stripped down toolset. Game series like Dragon Age actually hold the 8th, 10th, and 13th spot on Nexusmods website for having the most amount of mods despite no official support other than "a blind eye" from Bioware and EA.
Of course this leaves the question of where is the future scene of modding going? There's no doubt it will always be around in some capacity, as many indie games support it, and even unsupported games continue to have dedicated hackers and modders who find ways to create new content, but what about the official scenes? As Blizzard recently showed in it's release of Warcraft III: Reforged it dealt a serious insult to it's own modding community who created dedicated maps for the series with ridiculously one-sided terms of service. Cross-platform modding continues to stumble at serious roadblocks from console-makers worried about the risk to their firmware despite new consoles being easier than ever to develop for (or perhaps more-so because of it). Big studios like CD Projekt backing off from full-on modding support, and companies like Bethesda all too willing to bite the hand that feeds them and being extremely unpredictable with how they will support modders into the future.
What do you think the future will be? Will we see an increase in more AAA games receiving official mod support from their developers, or is it likely the future of AAA modding will end up more underground than ever, with the same legal "gray area" of operation as is seen with the ROM scene? What are your thoughts?
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