Minecraft, the most popular game in the world, is turning its biggest fans into entrepreneurs
Microsoft subsidiary Mojang, the developer of the global phenomenon Minecraft, says it has what you might call a good problem: People want new Minecraft levels and items faster than they can build them.
So to close that gap, Mojang is launching the Minecraft Marketplace - a store where players can buy Minecraft customizations made by independent developers. It's coming to Minecraft for smartphones and Windows 10 this Spring, alongside the big "1.1 Discovery Update."
These are no mere surface-level customizations. At launch, custom levels will include pirate adventures, a time travel trip to historic London, and a quest across a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Marketplace items will start at the equivalent of $1.99, Thornton says, and the selection will be "epic."
But the best news is for independent developers, says Thornton, as Mojang plans to give developers "more than 50%" of each purchase, he says, with Apple, Google, or Microsoft's app stores getting their usual 30% cut and Mojang taking the rest.
In other words, for the first time in the game's history, there's a clear path to becoming a Minecraft entrepreneur. You may scoff, but the competing Roblox has become a massive player-run economy in its own right.
The new opportunity
James Delaney, the founder of well-established Minecraft modification ("mod," in gaming parlance) and film studio (really) Blockworks, says the Minecraft Marketplace opens up "a new audience for us."While the PC and Mac version of the game have supported modifications since launch, it's tough to build a business that way: Mods are tricky for most players to install, and Mojang itself institutes strict legal guidelines on how you can (and can't) make money using Minecraft in an effort to preserve the quality of the game.
Now, Blockworks can offer premium Minecraft creations like "Automation Dreams" and "Scorching Sands" through a Mojang-approved store, directly to players, in a way that makes it easy for them to load up and play. Delaney calls it "a big step forward" for developers building businesses in Minecraft.
There are some caveats: Mojang is seeking a higher caliber of Marketplace content, and so developers will have to submit a business license before their Minecraft add-ons will even be reviewed for listing. That means that it's going to be harder, but not impossible, for the 12-year-old Minecraft fan in your life to begin a burgeoning career as a Minecraft Marketplace superstar.
"There's certainly a level of professionalism and dedication [we expect]," says Thornton. "There's nothing to say that a 12 year old couldn't have that."
Thornton also wants Minecraft's 55 million monthly active players to know that while the Minecraft Marketplace and Minecraft's smartphone version are major focuses for Mojang, the PC and Mac version isn't going away: He says that Mojang currently has more developers working on the original game now than it did when the Microsoft acquisition closed in 2014.