Is Bethesda's Creation Club Something Old or Something New?

By Laura Kate Dale and Rich Stanton on at

It's fair to say that, since Bethesda's Creation Club launched a few weeks back, things have gotten off to a rocky start. Customers complaining that they're forced to download files they didn't purchase, free mods being broken by paid creations, and perhaps most vocally a war being waged over terminology. Is Creation Club offering DLC, or is it mods?

Here is Bethesda's official description of Creation Club:

Creation Club is a collection of all-new content for both Fallout 4 and Skyrim. It features new items, abilities, and gameplay created by Bethesda Games Studios and outside development partners including the best community creators. Creation Club content is fully curated and compatible with the main game and official add-ons.

And this is the short version of the community discussion. Some look at Creation Club as DLC developed by Bethesda internally, and as such argue it should be free to season pass holders. Bethesda has refuted this with shifting descriptions of the content, and of course argues it's not part of any season pass. The content is made in-house, by modders or Bethesda staff being paid a salary, so it does kind of seem like DLC. But Bethesda says no.

Then there's another angle; some are mad at Bethesda for charging for mods at all. These are creations outside of the standard DLC pipeline, often made by popular members of the modding community, and in many places mimicking existing free mods. Bethesda has had a rocky history with attempting to charge for mods in the past, and as such has been trying its hardest to distance Creation Club from mods when pressed. They're definitely not mods, they're just DLC made in-house by Bethesda employees that in many cases are clearly inspired by mods.

The whole thing is a bit of a mess. Look at this exchange:

You can see what Bethesda's trying to do with Creation Club. The argument that season pass holders should get all its stuff free seems somewhat unreasonable, and perhaps borne more of dissatisfaction with the most recent example of Fallout 4's DLC offerings (three of six eventual DLCs were workshop content.) Not to go all The Man about it but they're not called lifetime passes and Bethesda isn't a charity; the Creation Club is a new and distinct offering. As with all such arguments, the proof will be in how many consumers open their digital wallets.

The real problem is that Creation Club both is and isn't what it looks like. It has elements of DLC, and certainly has elements of mods, but these go hand-in-hand with a new distribution system, a new production system, and greater ease of access. Hines is exactly right to say people are "trying to force something new into an existing category," but the problem is that's more or less what Bethesda has been saying too.

Bethesda on the one hand wants Creation Club to be mods so it doesn't have to get into the season pass argument. At the same time it doesn't want to suggest it's charging for mods, because that might bring back bad memories. So the company and players have ended up going in circles trying to argue their side.

It's the kind of situation where straight talk would work out better than hedging. The idea of Creation Club is a good one, Bethesda clearly thinks so, and the service is a relative pioneer in terms of bringing more esoteric and community-led content into what are, let's not forget, some of the most commercially and critically acclaimed games around. The company should be making the positive case for Creation Club rather than denying it's this or that.

Is Creation Club DLC or mods? It's both and neither. Call them professional mods. Call them whatever you like. But Bethesda's saying Creation Club has the best of both and the downsides of neither. Even if that were true, you've got to come up with something better than mini-DLCs. No wonder people are confused.