Why A Minecraft Subscription Makes Sense

Minecraft’s Indie developer Markus “Notch” Persson, Founder of Mojang AB, unfortunately won’t be at E3 this week to talk about the blowout performance of the Minecraft Xbox 360 Edition.

Last month, within the first 24 hours of its release, the game sold more than 400,000 copies and hit profitability, says GameSpot. Nonetheless, I still think a subscription-based Minecraft makes sense.

Under Minecraft’s current pricing plan, once you’ve bought it – that’s it.  This pricing approach was novel when the game was first released as an alpha in May 2009 at half price, or $10. A single/multi-player game for $10 is quite appealing and may have helped ramp up sales in the first place.

But for me, there’s a question mark as to the life of the game. And Notch himself has said that when he thinks the game has run its course, he’ll open source it. In the meantime, that hasn’t stopped Mojang from providing updates every month or two.

Servers to Run, No Recurring Revenue

Without recurring revenues to cover the costs of running the game’s multiplayer’s servers, it means Minecraft will have to continually attract new players to remain sustainable. Requiring players to signup for a subscription would generate a source of re-occurring revenue.

If Minecraft ultimately did close down, it’s already inspired a large list of clones, says reddit. Many of the clones are open source, so someone would undoubtedly take it over.  If it were up to me at Mojang, I’d be looking for suggestions from the players for new features that would induce them to buy downloadable content, or pay for extra game items to fund the games continuation. Make no mistake about it, Notch has defined a new game genre that players love.

Hopefully, Notch will give the same consideration to Minecraft that he’s giving to his up and coming Ox10c. He says on the Ox10c home page he’s toying with the concept of a monthly subscription fee for the multi-player game. Says Notch:

The cost of the game is still undecided, but it’s likely there will be a monthly fee for joining the Multiverse as we are going to emulate all computers and physics even when players aren’t logged in. Single player won’t have any recurring fees.

If Star Trek’s chief engineer Scotty were advising Notch, he’s likely to say: “You cannae fool the laws of economics.”

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5 Responses to “Why A Minecraft Subscription Makes Sense”

  1. Anthony Paladino

    Minecraft doesn’t run their multiplayer servers, the players do. Players either set up a server on thier own machine, or rent servers from third party companies. Even for the Xbox 360 version, multiplayer is handled peer-to-peer and not through a central server. There is infintessimally little overhead for for Mojang to support multiplayer (the only thing they facilitate is the downloading of player skins from their authentication server) and there is no cost incurred on them for all of the Minecraft servers that are out there as that is shouldered by the players themselves.

    It would make no sense for Mojang to start a subscription plan for Minecraft, because there is nothing to subscribe to.

  2. Yep, what Anthony said. I run my own multiplayer server on my laptop actually. I can eaisly handle 3 to 5 players, and that’s all I really want. Im also down with it eventually going open source, I already run several third party mods.

    I actually kind of hoped that 0x10c would end up with that same model, player hosted multiplayer servers. But, I could see how an MMO aspect could be cool, I may be down with a bit of a subscription, we’ll see. Either way Im really looking forward to it!

  3. In addition to what Anthony said, the Xbox crowd is on average much younger than the PC crowd and are not going to pay (or get their parents to pay for) a subscription for something in addition to the Xbox Live subscription fee. The only way you could facilitate this would be to go the micro-transaction route which many games are doing these days. There are too many MMO’s out there now to compete for paid subscriptions, but of course those games run their own official servers.

  4. luke Johnson

    but one thing you guys are not considering is that behind the scenes your client connects to mojang authentication server and their skin server and when those are down you can’t even connect to other players servers. if the game goes open source there might be one more update to not require authentication and the skin server could be taken over by someone else in the community.