On July 21, EA published an update to The Sims 4’s policy regarding modding and content creation. While the post stated that EA understands mods are an “important part” of the player experience and outlined how players can re-enable mods following them being automatically disabled after The Sims 4’s newest update, it also established a new set of rules for content creators and modders–and not everyone is happy about them.
Per EA’s new guidelines, The Sims 4 custom content creators are no longer allowed to promote mods “in a way that suggests they are endorsed by or affiliated with The Sims, Maxis, or Electronic Arts.” As such, creators are prohibited from using “any game logos or trademarks, including versions of the plumbob, or key art designs” to promote their creations.
While this might be an inconvenience for modders, the second set of terms is proving far more controversial. According to the post, all content created by modders must now be distributed to the public free-of-charge. Mods can no longer be “sold, licensed, or rented for a fee,” nor can they contain features that support “monetary transactions of any type.” EA added that creators are free to “recoup their development costs” by running ads on their websites to generate revenue and donations–just so long as whatever in-game content they create is not behind a paywall.
Shortly after the announcement was made, content creators began to speculate on whether this would impact the community’s popular early access pay model, in which creators offer mods and custom content on sites such as Patreon to paying subscribers for a set period of time before opening them up for public access. Earlier today, Twitter user MarlynSims96 shared a conversation they had with a member of EA’s support staff indicating this was the case.
— marlynsims (@marlynsims96) August 1, 2022
While EA has not added any clause explicitly stating the early access model is prohibited, this tweet–along with the new “non-commercial” requirement–means that it is likely the case. While some members of the community are celebrating the decision, which will essentially make all modded content free for all players, others are concerned by the new policies.
“Early Access pricing is now being targeted by EA when it hadn’t been a problem before,” popular The Sims 4 architect and EA creator KawaiiFoxita told GameSpot. “The use of Early Access as a way to secure some funds for the work these creators are doing, for me, is a much nicer approach and I fully support paying creators for the benefit of having early access to their creations. This is something I don’t think EA should remove. People deserve some form of compensation for the work and time they put in, so early access is a nice way to do that.”
For some, that compensation has proven vital to their day-to-day life. In their Patreon post about the policy changes, creator JellyPaws wrote that Patreon funding is part of what enabled them to pay for their rent, medication, and other necessities.
“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,” JellyPaws wrote. “It’s really upsetting to see early access be wiped out but I hope you all can continue to support my work, even without the early access perk.”
JellyPaws is one multiple The Sims 4 modders who utilized Patreon and an early access model as a means of income, but is now scrapping the perk as a result of EA’s new policies. Another modder, ChewyButterfly, has found themself in the same situation.
“Patreon has been helping me buy the smallest amount of groceries the past few months when my jobs kept falling through,” ChewyButterfly wrote on Patreon. “I’m really hoping EA releases another statement clarifying early access, since they didn’t state specifically that it wasn’t allowed. But until then, no more early access.”
The Sims 4 community on Reddit has largely praised creators like JellyPaws and ChewyButterfly, who have chosen to pivot with EA’s new regulations–even if there is frustration with those who “abused” paywall protocol thus putting the creators in this situation.
If several mod creators didn't abuse, doing permanent paywall, putting virus trackers/malwares in mod/cc, harassment, leaks of personnal infos… If they didn't do that, this wouldn't happen…
— Ginie62 (@Ginie62) August 1, 2022
However, there are quite a few creators who are choosing to maintain current business practices. Felixandre, one of the most popular The Sims 4 content creators, has made no mention of the policy changes on their Twitter or Patreon. Right now, Felixandre has a whopping 4,433 patrons, each contributing at least $5 a month to the creator. Similarly, AggressiveKitty (who sits at 649 patrons paying at at least $6 a month), HeyHarrie (4,293 patrons paying at at least $2 a month), and Sixam CC have made no mention of an intent to stop. MaxisMatchCCWorld and ADeepIndigo both shared their thoughts about EA’s new policy on their Patreon, but have stated they will continue business as usual until it is made clear that the early access model is prohibited. Lastly, both CowPlant and PixelVibeSims have come under fire on Reddit for finding “loopholes” in EA’s terms. Both creators have stated they are severing any connection to The Sims 4 franchise and the 3D models they build are their own property.
Ultimately this issue is a divisive one, with The Sims 4 community members finding themselves in various places on a wide spectrum of thoughts on the matter.
“As someone who builds primarily with custom content, I can understand why folks have been unhappy with the paywalls.” KawaiiFoxita said. “Initially this didn’t really bother me because I was of the mindset that these people creating these wonderful meshes and assets deserved to be paid for the time and the effort they put in. They are artists at the end of the day and I support artists’ work where I can. That said, I also understand how that can be for those who cannot afford and also those who believe these people were breaking terms of service.”
However, KawaiiFoxita also brought up another good point. The Sims 4 community has largely credited modders with being some of the first responders when there are bugs in the game, and have also brought a greater number of players to the franchise through their largely free additions.
“A lot of people who use mods and CC feel that the game would be unplayable in its current state without them. So, with the removal of an income for many modders, this may mean that they no longer create–and if they no longer create, you run the risk of losing a large part of your player base,” KawaiiFoxita said. “EA should really take note of what is happening within the modding and custom content communities and consider hiring these creators to help implement these features/assets within the game itself, so that they can be rolled out to more than PC players and these folks can be rewarded for all they do.”
GameSpot has reached out to EA for a comment on the policy change, but has yet to receive a response.