It has been just over four years since Microsoft paid Markus “Notch” Persson 2.5 billion dollars for Mojang, the company he founded. Of course, what Microsoft was really buying was Minecraft. Notch had been forecasting doom when it came to Microsoft’s plans for Windows 8, but it turns out that a couple of billion dollars can change your mind when it comes to monopolistic practices.
Notch said at the time that the deal wasn’t about the money. And I am sure he was right. It is never about the money, it is about what the money can buy.
Anyway, four years down the road and it seems like Microsoft hasn’t managed to screw up Mojang and Minecraft. I was concerned at the time as there is a long history of big companies buying small studios and then destroying them by not understanding what they really bought. But Microsoft has managed to avoid that fate, in large part I imagine because they have mostly left Mojang to focus on what it does best, while pushing a few smart ideas of their own that their size and muscle allowed to be a success.
There has been some news out about Minecraft this week, which I am going to mix in with a couple of items of my own for a list of bullet points about Minecraft.
- A Lot of People Play Minecraft
In a recent interview the head of the Minecraft business group at Microsoft, Helen Chiang, said that more than 90 million people play Minecraft every month, up from 74 million at the start of the year, and more than 150 million copies of the game have been sold, up from the 100 million mark back in mid 2016.
This is no doubt related to the fact that Minecraft is available in some form on a lot of platforms. I was going to compare to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for most platforms supported, then I saw Minecraft was available on things like Apple TV and the Nintendo 3DS and started wondering if we were getting into Tetris levels of platform support.
- No Minecraft 2
Also in that interview the question of a sequel came up and the idea of a direct sequel for the core Minecraft product was dismissed. Microsoft gets it. If you have a popular product with 90 million people playing it every month, you don’t yank the rug out and force them to decide between what they currently enjoy and some new item.
While Club Penguin didn’t have that level of popularity, things would have likely ended better had Disney not tried to force its player base onto the now discontinued Club Penguin Island.
So while Microsoft will use the Minecraft IP for other games, it won’t try to replace the core game.
- Minecraft Dungeons
And speaking of using the Minecraft IP, at MineCon this past weekend a new spin-off was announced in the form of Minecraft Dungeons.
Described as something of a cross between Minecraft and Diablo, this will be a multiplayer dungeon crawl experience. I have actually wondered about a Minecraft dungeon crawl experience in the past, though I would like it to be in the world where I can also build stuff.
Here is the trailer:
This could be interesting if done right.
- Minecraft Realms
Not in the news, but something I want to mention as an item Microsoft got very right. Part of what Minecraft does well is a shared experience. You can play with your friends. Minecraft is a power in online gaming that people often don’t even consider.
For a long time there was a plethora of third party hosting services for Minecraft and then Minecraft Realms. Realms didn’t offer any of the customization options that the third party hosts did and was much more expensive to boot, at least if you just wanted to play with a few friends. It was pretty much a non-option when I first went looking for a place to host our Minecraft world.
Somebody at Microsoft figured out that if they couldn’t do quality when it came to features, they could easily do quantity based on a much lower price. So they dropped the price and added in support for the various editions of the game, and kept it all easy to manage. The UI for Realms is built into the Minecraft client.
You still can’t run mods and such, but for $7.99 a month it is an easy, no hassle way to put up an invite-only world that you and your friends can use.
It sure as hell was a better plan than that whole Mineserver fiasco.
- Cuteness Overload
Also announced at MineCon was some of the plan for the next Minecraft update, which will be version 1.14. Core to this will be Pandas. There is a video.
There are also new NPCs planned, called pillagers, but this will be known as the panda update.
This is the sort of thing that will keep people coming back to Minecraft.
The MineCon announcement summary has been posted.