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User-generated content (UGC) in games, more commonly known as “mods,” are a big part of the gaming experience. It’s also a contentious topic for game developers. But panelists at GamesBeat Summit proposed that the industry could reconcile with the idea in the panel “Learning to love UGC: Harnessing player choice.” It was moderated by GamesBeat’s Jeff Grubb.

The panelists said that the mods can have several benefits for a game and its creators. Damien Mauric, SVP of Sega Studios business development, said of UGC, “As a publisher, we really love supporting modding and the community… We’ve always encouraged the community to create content, because it allows us to achieve multiple things. First, to continue to deliver content for the players, which is great. But also to make sure they continue to engage with the game and the franchise.”

Romain de Waubert, studio head and CCO of Amplitude Studios, weighed in on how the studio supported mods for its recent game, Humankind. “[UGC] will make the game live for a very long time… and sometimes what we’ve seen in the past was that it would evolve our games. We have content we’d never think of, but sometimes there are improvements to the actual vanilla game we would never think of.” He also said that mods are a “huge source of inspiration.”

How to incorporate UGC into games

Scott Reismanis, founder and CEO of mod.io, a mod support solution, said that UGC can sometimes be restricted by access. “In some respects, only the hardcore players could access that content, because they had to leave the game, go to the site, download it, then install it, and hope that it worked.” Mod.io, as Reismanis pointed out, is working to make mods more universal and easily discoverable.

One factor that game publishers must consider is whether UGC can be monetized. Mauric added, “At the moment, we’re still looking at what monetization of UGC could mean, because there are a lot of legal implications… What would happen if someone from the community brought in unlicensed third-party content and started monetizing it? So there’s a big risk here for the publishers. Curation and moderation is one of the aspects that should be looked at with a lot of caution.”

Reismanis added that creators can both encourage their communities and be cautious. “The more you enable [creators], the more they’re going to experiment, and that should be celebrated and encouraged. However, taking the next step and introducing, potentially, commercialization into this requires a lot of thinking. That means probably not necessarily introducing it to a game that has a large, established audience and modding community and then changing the rules on them. There’s certainly going to be steps in there, and maybe step one might be patronage of these sorts of models where it’s almost a voluntary contribution from the players who want to back their favorite creators and encourage them to make more and different content.”

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