Wow. Cynical much? Look, I won the gametype cat for the first phase in the MSUC, which is one of the lowest for cash prizes in the entire contest.
No offense, but where are you coming from "and the "value" ascribed to it for the purposes of the contest, was $350,000, which is about $100,000 more than I have seen the engines going for in the recent past--for cash buyers, that is. "
What, you scan ebay for game licenses? Gimme a break. The "value" is what it would cost a studio to buy it. Sounds pretty straight forward to me.
First of all, nearly all the prizes are cash, some are supplemented with computers, and the grand prize is a license which the owner is free to do with what they will - so most of your scenario is a bit bunk.
Second, most mod authors are glad to get *anything* for their work, even if it's just a nod from pros. Heck, my best prize so far - a mention in an official Atari PR statement. That's probably not going to happen for me again.
Third, I don't see anyone else ponying up this kind of stable to try to reward mod authors. Is Epic getting a lot of press for it? nVidia? Heck yah, and they deserve it! I'd rather have a company sponsoring a contest to engage mods into development rather than just picking and choosing a choice few to become "official" titles. This isn't the "Price is Right", it's a company trying to stimulate development with their engine.