Update 02.08.22 – EA have now clarified that Early Access is acceptable for a “reasonable amount of time”. Not sure what timeframe they’re thinking of but at least they’ve confirmed that Early Access is ok.
EA have clarified, somewhat, their stance on 3rd party content creators hiding their stuff behind paywalls and early access here https://help.ea.com/en-gb/help/the-sims/the-sims-4/mods-and-the-sims-4-game-updates/
I hate the greed and entitlement that some creators display when releasing content but I also understand that those who are damn good at what they do deserve support as it takes a lot of time and effort to make CC/Mods AND keep them updated and supported (just look at the mess the July 2022 patch has created, PC: 1.90.358.1030 / Mac: 1.90.358.1230). Without some of this amazing content The Sims 4 can be pretty dull if you want certain aspects in your game.
I sometimes use a lot of alpha CC in my game depending on the aesthetic I’m going for and what mood I’m in and have done for years now. A lot of it is hidden behind ghastly Adfly or similar links which nearly always download crappy files in the hope that an unsuspecting user will open them, often masquerading as an Adobe Flash installer (who even still uses Flash?). But my enthusiasm for this type of CC was dampened when I approached various creators asking if they were going to update their objects due to game updates causing glitches such as awful shadow lines or just not working anymore. Most of the responses I received were along the lines of “no, I can’t be bothered to update my old stuff, I’m putting out new stuff through Patreon where I can make more money”. Even then not all of these creators update their Patreon content so their poor Patrons are paying for stuff that invariably becomes obsolete in their games.
But not all creators are that greedy thankfully and genuinely want to create and share incredible content – I’m not naming any here but their reputations precedes them and they are VERY well known in the community, in a very positive way. None of them hide their stuff behind paywalls, whether that’s dodgy advertising links or subscription services such as Patreon. Let me be clear, a lot of them do use Patreon but payment is optional, you can subscribe to support them but you don’t have to pay to download content.
Aaaaaaanyway, back to EA’s statement. It is a bit ambiguous and open to interpretation. The interesting bit is in The Sims Policy on Mods section:
We do not object to Mod developers continuing to share their amazing content, subject to the following:
- Do not promote your Mods in a way that suggests they are endorsed by or affiliated with The Sims, Maxis, or Electronic Arts. This means you cannot use any game logos or trademarks, including versions of the plumbob, or key art designs to promote your Mods. You may state that your Mods are for The Sims 4 and/or for a specific game expansion pack.
- Mods must be non-commercial and distributed free-of-charge. Mods cannot be sold, licensed, or rented for a fee, nor can Mods contain features that would support monetary transactions of any type. However, Maxis recognizes that creating Mods takes time and resources. Accordingly, Mod developers may recoup their development costs via passive advertisements and donations as long as:
- Passive advertisements and requests for donations must be limited to the Mod website or distribution site, and not appear within the Mod itself.
- All users must be able to access the Mods in full for free regardless of whether they donate.
I interpret that last point as the end of early access. If someone hides their content and makes it only accessible to paying subscribers or donators for any length of time, whether it is one day, two weeks, one month or any time-frame, they are breaking EA’s User Agreement because the Mods are not available to all users, even if only temporary.
That’s only my interpretation though. I’m no legal expert and of course at the end of the day it’s down to EA to enforce the EULA. If they don’t enforce this updated policy then nothing will change. But they also need to clarify it further because at the moment it’s open to interpretation.