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Minecraft's future depends on more than just Mojang, says EA's Hilleman

EA creative chief Richard Hilleman examines the business potential for Mojang's Minecraft, noting that mods and external projects could eventually become the biggest money-maker for the hit indie game.
Markus 'Notch' Persson and the team at Mojang have this far been the only real driving force behind Minecraft as a game, and as a business. They've handled everything from its unusual design to its direct-to-consumer business model, but some believe that Minecraft's future depends on more than just the small indie studio. Electronic Arts chief creative director Richard Hilleman told Gamasutra that given Minecraft's thriving community, the game's long term business strategy might not revolve around the game itself, but around those developing mods, server tools, and more. "I think in the long term [Minecraft's] business evolves into something different," Hilleman said. To explain his point, he compared Minecraft's future business to the California gold rush, noting that there is plenty of money to be had by simply supporting the endeavors of others. "…the people who made money from the gold rush weren't the gold miners. It was guys named Levi Strauss and Crocker, and folks who ran banks, and people who sold jeans, and sold picks and axes," he said. "I think ultimately in the long term that the money that will get made in Minecraft will not be about Minecraft, but will be about the services and products that get introduced into it." In fact, Mojang has already revealed that it wants to make its game more compatible with mods and other community driven projects. In a recent feature interview with Gamasutra, Minecraft creative lead Jens Bergensten said pointed out that Mojang's small team "can't compete with the rest of the world with content," so the developers instead hope to make the game easier to use for outside contributors. Hilleman believes that while Minecraft has taken steps in the right direction, Mojang might need to enlist further help if the team hopes to establish a stable and user-friendly mod community. "As somebody who has had to reinstall Windows on my son's computer after he attempted to install Mod Manager on that machine, there's a lot of value to be provided for the customer in making Minecraft and its mods and installations something that's a more commercial and predictable product," Hilleman said. "And those are the kinds of things that Notch needs help with, and that without the help of a publisher or other support, he's probably not going to get there completely by himself. Now maybe his community will, and I'd love to see that happen. It's a great experiment; I'm really anxious to see what happens." Hilleman even wishes that EA could somehow get involved, as he thinks Minecraft and Mojang can offer some important lessons even to the industry's biggest publishers. "The reason I wish we were involved is because I think we'd learn from [Notch]. And the other thing that's true is Notch is a true talent of this business; I just like us being associated with great talent. So from my perspective, I'm watching Minecraft with both eyes -- sometimes with a third and fourth, because my wife is trying to manage my children's behavior." An expanded interview with Hilleman, which examines how EA drew lessons from its own history, will be available on Gamasutra on next week.

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