Game modding offers studios ‘huge financial opportunity’ in 2022

Mods and user-generated content (UGC) are so integral to the development of the gaming market that studios that overlook their potential could be missing out on massive streams of income – revenue that could help their games stay relevant and popular long after they are are brought out.

That is the view of Scott Reismanis, who has spent two decades at the heart of the modding community through his founding of ModDB.com and mod.io. After a blockbuster 2021, he’s making bold predictions for the industry, which was valued at around $198.4 billion late last year — a whopping 36% above the $138 billion Statista forecast in 2018.

Reismanis and mod.io predict that by 2025, $1 of every $10 spent on video games will be on UGC — a 400% increase in estimated spend in 2021, meaning user content will be free by 2025 could be responsible for up to 25 billion US dollars worldwide.

After launching ModDB.com in 2002 to bring together key players and aspiring developers in a rapidly evolving PC game modding community, Reismanis founded mod.io, realizing the potential for user-generated content as a service for studios and developers Publisher in 2017. In 2022, mod.io is live in over 100 games across PC, console and mobile, supporting over 220 million mod installs annually.

“UGC gives players both control and opportunity; naturally, [it’s] a version of the game that is more dynamic and engaging than a game without customization,” he says. “When a feature like this thrives, especially one that offers unlimited potential for both the studio team and players, whole new worlds and gameplay mechanics begin to emerge, opening the door to new ways for studios to engage with fans .”

2021 and the rise of UGC

According to Reismanis, 2021 was a turning point for modding, with numerous headlines showing the impact of its growth:

  • Roblox (RBLX) rose to a market cap of $38 billion following its IPO debut in March 2021, becoming the first UGC experience to do so and instantly becoming one of the largest publicly traded companies in the gaming space;
  • Absolutely accurate combat simulator (TABS) became Steam’s top-rated game of 2021 (with an “overwhelmingly positive” average rating score of 98%) – the game powered by unit, faction, campaign and battle creation tools available to modders, as well as a deep sandbox mode;
  • “Ultimate Skateboard Game” Skater XL experienced an explosion in modding, with a 1,000% increase in downloads due to the release of mods on console platforms, one million downloads within the first 24 hours of launch and 100,000 creators on their Discord and other social platforms;
  • The Brilliant Stardew Valleywhich is over six years old and has moved over 15 million copies, has continued to grow and may have future-proofed its simple yet compelling format by making mods more accessible for creators and players to build and integrate respectively;
  • Deep Rock Galactic has received over five million mod downloads since mod support officially launched in July 2021, in a move that supports creativity without impacting the game’s progression mode; and
  • ForzaHorizon 5 launched with Event Lab, which rewards players for good UGC with a kudos system and showcases their best creations in festival playlists.

What will the modding community bring in 2022?

While the modding community is surprisingly unpredictable, Reismanis has three key predictions for where the industry will be headed over the next eight months and beyond, anticipating growth, evolution, and evolution in the roles of modders and studios worldwide.

A shift from developers to creators

“There will likely be a shift from indie game developers to mod makers,” says Reismanis. “As studios unlock financial rewards, it becomes more appealing to create within a game rather than develop an entirely new game, with the added opportunity to create something exciting for a large, existing fan base rather than finding a new audience.”

Indie developers, he says, will cascade toward mod-friendly games that give people the power to produce valuable content in a way that works for both parties — something that’s being demonstrated in part by Roblox.

“The possibility of getting paid for what you do is just beyond imagination,” he adds. “However, where this cascade of creators will differ is in the accessibility of mods, which vary in size, shape and complexity; Mods put no limits on what can be created.”

Mushroom picking micro mods

The ability to create “micro-mods” — simpler remixes of existing content — will allow more players to get involved in content creation, Reismanis believes. As a result, gamers are becoming a bigger part of the gaming experience, perhaps in a subconscious sense – shaping the scene in much the same way that TikTok users have been doing for the video platform.

He continues, “It’s already happening across games TABSwhere mods allow players to mix and match player-created units and create brand new battles, or add a unit to an existing mix allowing for a whole new war to be waged.

“Small remixes of game elements can even allow players to go viral and share their experiences with other members of the community.”

worlds within worlds

Finally, Reismanis predicts that “mini-metaverses” will form as mods begin to grow within games – and new mods are based on those that came before them.

“While developing their games, studios are beginning to focus on developing strengths within a genre rather than building a sandbox that has everything for everyone,” he concludes. “While sandboxes open up creativity, genre-defined games provide cross-pollination between games, allowing mods to thrive, be creative, and potentially offer limitless ideas.”

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