Last month, EA announced new rules and restrictions on paid mods, early access, and how creators can advertise their creations. And this led to many unhappy responses and ongoing controversy within the Sims community.
The Sims 4 might have been released in 2014, but the life simulator continues to get massive official updates and boasts a large, active community of modders who regularly produce user-made content for the game on PC. Some of these creators make a living selling mods or taking donations from players who enjoy their work. So it’s not surprising that the July 26 update to EA’s policy—which outlined that selling mods or locking them behind a Patreon sub would no longer be allowed—set off a firestorm online.
In the update posted to the official EA Sims 4 help site, the company explained that mods can’t be “sold, licensed, or rented for a fee” and that mods can’t add or support “monetary transactions of any type.” What this means is you can’t stick your own digital store inside of The Sims 4 and sell NFT shirts or sell your mods via a website.
EA did acknowledge that developing a mod takes time and resources and allows for creators to sell advertisements on their modding sites and to take donations, but creators can’t include that stuff in the game itself.
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But when this support page first went live, the part mentioning paid Early Access being allowed, wasn’t included. This led to a large backlash as many content creators and modders use the Early Access model to release mods to dedicated fans willing to pay before everything is working properly or finished. The idea is that once the mod is done, the devs release it for free and that paid period helps support them while working on finishing the mod.
EA seemingly coming after this fairly old system that was mostly accepted by the community went over about as well as you’d expect. It’s also quite a turn as the publisher is typically supportive of its Sims modding community. Gamespot talked to some content creators about the situation, with some explaining selling access to mods was how they were able to survive.
“Patreon early access is one of the only reasons I can afford my own medications, food, pet care, and apartment so I can live above my disabled dad to take care of him,” Sims 4 modder JellyPaws told Gamespot.
After a lot of backlash from players and some bad press, EA has now changed course and earlier today updated the help article to include a specific carve-out for paid Early Access. While straight-up selling mods or locking them behind a paywall is still a no-no, this new update does allow for the community-approved Patreon system.
Here’s the text EA has added to confirm it is okay with this type of paid mod system.
Offer an early access incentive for a reasonable amount of time. After a reasonable early access period, all users must be able to access the Mods in full for free regardless of whether they donate.
However, while this helped put out some of the fire, others are still nervous about how vague this new rule seems to be. How long can a mod remain in Early Access before EA declares it must be removed and published for free? EA only says a “reasonable amount of time” but doesn’t specify, likely to allow the publisher some wiggle room as they evaluate mods on a case-by-case basis.
Kotaku has contacted EA about the Early Access rule and asked for clarification.
For now, Sims fans and creators like KawaiiFoxita seem cautiously optimistic about the situation. Of course, if EA reveals that a “reasonable amount of time” is like five days or a week, it’s likely to find itself in another mess.