You’ve certainly seen by now that Microsoft bought Minecraft for $2.5 billion. To be honest, I wasn’t very surprised that Mojang sold out, whether to Microsoft or anyone else.
Minecraft was barely indie in the first place
Minecraft had become bigger than its creator(s) and I think the guys at Mojang, especially Notch, understood that…actually, he made it quite clear in his “goodbye” post. Somewhere along the way, Minecraft had become a symbol of what an “indie” game could become. Minecraft certainly started out as any other indie game – small, cheap and a limited following – but at what point does something cease to be indie?
I’ve had many discussions with my wife and friends about what “indie” means, whether it be about games, music or anything else. There’s probably a technical definition – “indie” meaning the game was built/released/published without the help of a major corporation. And then there’s the definition that I think most people associate with “indie” – a niche product built by people who are “not doing it for the money” and has a small-but-loyal following. When you’re selling millions of copies of your game, raking in hundreds of millions of dollars and have your brand on items at Toys R Us, you are no longer “indie” so Minecraft ceased being so a long time ago.
And I’m okay with that. Everyone is, otherwise they wouldn’t be playing and praising the game. So those of you that are angry or disappointed that Microsoft bought Minecraft and ruined its indie cred, stop kidding yourself. You’re still allowed to love and play the game. The real worry you should have is what Microsoft will do with the game over the next couple years.
The future of Minecraft…
Once the ink dries on the buy out, I expect to see some swift changes to Minecraft. First, we’ll certainly see a Windows phone port of the game. I think we’ll also see some updates to the Microsoft-owned platforms – Windows and Xbox – that other platforms might not get right away. And we’ll probably see some heavy marketing on television, movies and elsewhere. You don’t spend $2 billion on something and then don’t tell people. If there’s one thing that kept Minecraft indie in any respect, it’s that Minecraft wasn’t marketed hardly at all – at least not outside the customer base. It didn’t need marketing. It did just fine without it, I’d say.
Look, I don’t believe Microsoft wants to change much in Minecraft. They want the passionate players that come with the game more so than anything. If they start messing with the recipe then people will leave. No one pays that type of money for the name alone. However, in the long term I can see Minecraft becoming a more nickel-and-dime style that dominates the gaming/app market these days.
In large, Minecraft stayed true to the “old” way of selling software. You pay one price up front (a higher price) and then you get free updates for the life of the product. I foresee us paying for Minecraft updates and add-ons a la carte like any other app. Oh, you want 3 new mobs? Sure, that’s $1.99 for the pack. How about a new texture pack? That’ll be $.99. New biome? That’s $2.99. I won’t be happy if this comes true but I can’t say it doesn’t make sense.
I would also expect Microsoft to evolve and get a handle on Minecraft Realms and the server hosting stuff. There are tons of private Minecraft hosting services out there and I would expect MS to put a stop to that. Maybe they won’t forcefully shut down these hosts but with all the infrastructure they have at their disposal, they can spin up an Xbox Live-style thing for Minecraft at a cheap price. In theory, the quality and reliability would be far greater than any local service so they’ll just die off naturally.
I can also see Microsoft improving Minecraft technically…fixing bugs, optimizing performance…that type of thing. Whether or not that will actually improve the game is another story. Often the little “glitches” or exploits become part of the game that play into your strategy. I guess that’s not to say they shouldn’t be there but those things bring charm to some games and will most certainly be the last hints that Minecraft was ever an “indie” game.
I’m not going to stop playing Minecraft until it a) ceases to be fun or b) becomes cost prohibitive. I’ve invested too much into Minecraft as it is to give up on it. I don’t care if Minecraft is indie or AAA…that didn’t play a part of why I started playing in the first place. People don’t (or shouldn’t) play games because they think they’re supposed to or because it fits the perception of themselves or their gimmick. Play games because they’re entertaining. Right now, Minecraft is still fun…I just hope it stays that way.