Sunday, February 18, 2007

CVG ponders console game mods... has an article up talking about the console ports of Unreal Tournament 3 (which is, oddly, the 4th game in the UT series), more specifically that they will support user-created mods, something never before attempted on a console. Apparently the reason a 360 version of the game hadn't been announced earlier (which was surprising since Epic made Gears of War for Microsoft) was because they were trying to get Microsoft to allow it to support mods, something MS is very touchy about on their closed Xbox Live network.

Mods have been one of the major features of PC games that have never been feasible on consoles. Games like Half Life, Elder Scrolls, and Unreal Tournament all have sizable mod communities who create all kinds of freely available content that can maintain people's interest in a game indefinitely.

Since the PC is an open platform this kind of thing poses little problem. When it comes to consoles however, everything has to be cleared with Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo who have complete control over what appears on their respective platforms.

With Xbox Live in particular, which is built around a marketplace where "free" is a four-letter word, there is tight control over what can be given away. For this reason I'm skeptical that mods will become as plentiful on consoles as they are on PC's anytime soon. As CVG points out, mods are likely going to go through Epic before being made available to the public whereas on PC mod-makers can make their creations available directly to other players. This simple fact will keep mods from ever really taking off on consoles. Players will always be at the mercy of whoever's logo is emblazoned on the front of their console of choice. This isn't entirely bad as only the best mods will end up being made available on the consoles (for a fee?) but it takes away the freedom of being able to get whatever you want. There will certainly still be a lot more available for the PC than the consoles. Then again, that's already the case now, so for console gamers: beggars really can't be choosers, some mods are better than none and uhh...don't count your mods before they're hatched.

One thing is sure however: the days of developers providing their own post-launch content for free is over. It began with Bethesda's infamous Horse Armor for Oblivion, a premium price attached to a throwaway piece of content from a developer who provided a ton of free content for Morrowind on the PC. The charging for content on Xbox Live has surely had a negative effect on PC players as they are now subject to paid downloads as a result. If not for Xbox Live, Oblivion's downloads would likely have been free for PC players.

Source: Can UT console mods ever work? - CVG

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