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Modding platform Mod.io is one of the companies that believes modding has moved into the mainstream, and it has 300 million downloads to prove it.
The Victoria, Australia-based company believes that big game publishers are ready to embrace modding in a much bigger way, and that was one reason the company raised $26 million from the likes of Tencent and Lego Ventures in November.
Mod.io’s passion for modding is echoed by other modding companies like Overwolf, which has raised $127.5 million for the same cause. And then of course the other standout is Roblox, the user-generated content platform that is a leading contender for the metaverse and has a $25 billion market value.
From two decades of watching games and modders, Mod.io CEO Scott Reismanis believes modding going to be gaming’s next big thing.
“The strategic reason why studios should be thinking about modding is that it a way to build a community that allows them to move more rapidly, and to grow their business in a much more magnified way,” he said. “The challenge has always been that it’s always happened at arm’s length. Studios have had no real insight, visibility or control or access to their community because it’s always been happening external to them, whether it’s on ModDB, Nexus modes or other websites. And that’s really where I think it’s changing.”
On Mod.io, six mods were downloaded every second during 2021. Last year, the company saw a near 300% increase in mods created, and it saw a 250% increase in mods downloaded by players. In SnowRunner, players downloaded more than 100 million mods.
The company has improved its community tools and will soon launch the next stage of its user-generated content platform to enable studios to deeply embed mods and UGC within their games and communities. Young people can use mods to break into the gaming industry.
He said, “For students that are thinking about this, whether they’ve already got a game that’s out with a community, or not, I think it’s an opportunity.”
Mods and UGC are so intrinsic to the evolution of the gaming market that studios overlooking their potential could be missing out on massive streams of income–revenue that could help keep their games relevant and popular, long after they’re released, Reismanis said.
“Roblox is interesting because they helped a lot of people understand how large user generated content can be if done well,” he said. “And so for us, they’re part inspiration. We think, longer term, that Roblox is the ultimate sandbox that dwarfs everything. But we’re going to see all these sort of vertical creation communities popping up that enable creation for people who want to play a really amazing first person shooter mod.”
He added, “The time has come, and it probably took until Roblox to go public for it to really become a mainstream conversation. It’s historically been around for decades. And obviously Counter-Strike and Dota and PUBG are all part of the most innovative new genres that emerged from the scene.”
Reismanis has spent two decades at the heart of the modding community through his creation of ModDB.com and Mod.io. He predicts that by 2025, $1 in every $10 spent on video games will be on UGC – a 400% increase of estimated spending during 2021, meaning user content could be responsible for as much as $25 billion globally by 2025.
Reismanis launched ModDB.com in 2002 to bring together players and budding developers into the emerging PC game modding community. Then Reismanis went on to realize the potential for user-generated content as a service for studios and publishers with the creation of Mod.io in 2017. In 2022, Mod.io is live in over 100 games across PC, console, and mobile.
“UGC gives players both control and opportunity; by nature, [it’s] a version of play that is more dynamic and engaging than a game without creation capabilities,” he said. “When a feature like this thrives, particularly one that allows limitless potential from both its studio team and those who play, entirely new worlds and gameplay mechanisms start to emerge, opening the door for new ways for studios to engage with fans.”
How the hub works
Mod.io’s game hubs connect players with official mods that are delivered through the hub. Talented mod creators upload their content to the hubs, and the content is curated by Mod.io for quality and then delivered to players across games on the PC, consoles, virtual reality, and mobile.
“Modding has historically been something that’s usable in post launch. And it’s moving earlier and early into the game development lifecycle,” he said.
Two of the popular games with mods in Mod.io are SnowRunner and Skater XL, which both have deep mod integrations. Mod creators make their mods and upload their creations to a central game page, which doubles as a hub for new and popular mods.
“The goal is always to work with games, across the industry, doing lots of different things ,” he said. “There are new maps for shooters. Mods can be a new level design or cosmetic to show off RPGs. It’s not one particular genre.”
A filter allow players to search mods by creator, content type, and rating. The mod content is uploaded and shared in seconds, and then curated for brand safety and compliance by Mod.io. Players can subscribe to mods for certain games and get notification when new mods appear.
“Once your players are all set up, they can play their game with custom content their way,” he said. “We believe that that modding and the new strain of content is the best type of content in games. Making that accessible and powerful for players and studios to tap into, and then aligning and tying that all in to their business models is really where the future is.”
Mod.io has about a dozen triple-A games with deeper integrations in the works. The company has 36 employees. They don’t make mods, but they work on creating a framework to enable studios and players to use the hub. Fans can vote them up.
“Our goal is to make it super accessible, polished, and very presentable,” he said. “We do that by offering plugins, free media, metrics, discovery, community collaboration and communication, comments, ratings and subscriptions. We offer all of the moderation and safety elements to keep it brand compliant monetization.”
The company has a diverse range of games with mods available, from first person shooters to vehicle simulations, with a range of cartoonish art to ultra realistic. Many PC games have embraced mods for a long time.
“But making it more accessible means that more casual games that appeal to a wider range of people is ultimately where we want to get to, and mobile is almost a greenfield,” Reismanis said.
He added, “The challenge has always been that it’s always happened at arm’s length. Studios have had no real insight, visibility or control or access to their community because it’s always been happening external to them, whether it’s on ModDB, Nexus modes or other websites. And that’s really where I think it’s changing.
Balancing creativity and takedowns
Modio has tools for monitoring DMCA takedown requests.
Reismans said, “There are 1.5 million pieces of content on our system and the reporting tools that we run and require studios to run help manage that very in a very streamlined way. Of course, the best way to reinforce and encourage good behaviors through creator events and recommendation algorithms because naturally 99.99% of traders are good actors doing it for the love and passion of the game.”
He said Mod.io reinforces good behavior by having the best content surface to the top and attaching incentives for it.
“There are occasionally stories and they generate press, it’s really in the scheme of everything that’s been made and what’s actually happening,” Reismanis said. “It’s a very extraordinarily small percentage as this process is in place to manage it.”
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