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How Mojang is creating a sustainable future for Minecraft

Minecraft Realms is an upcoming subscription service for Minecraft that could essentially turn the sandbox game into an MMO. Mojang CEO Carl Manneh discusses the move forward for his company.

Mike Rose, Blogger

March 22, 2013

4 Min Read

"Pretty much from when we started the company, we've been getting feedback from players, and players want to connect and play multiplayer," says Mojang CEO Carl Manneh. So rumbles on the success of Minecraft, the sandbox open-world indie behemoth that has nearly sold 10 million copies of its PC and Mac version alone, and more than 20 million copies across all its versions, including on mobile and Xbox 360. But Mojang is far from finished with the popular title. It continues to put out regular updates for the game, and as revealed this month, has big plans for a new subscription service called Minecraft Realms on the way. It's currently possible for Minecraft players to set up their own servers, or pay for a third-party service to host a server for them, but as Manneh notes, those less tech-savvy players will no doubt hit plenty of bumps and issues along the way, and may not be able to find the solution online. "We've consistently gotten a lot of feedback from players, and now lately a lot of parents that have kids, and they basically say that they're tired of being server admins at home, and sorting our their children's issues with Minecraft servers," he laughs. He continues, "We've been thinking about this for quite some time for several reasons: Because Minecraft grew so quickly, we had to handle a lot of other things, so the the servers have been delayed. Now we've been developing it for probably half a year, and we're getting close to releasing it, so that's exciting." This is what Minecraft Realms boils down to: rather than offering a service that isn't already available elsewhere, the Mojang team is aiming for ease-of-use as its main sell point. "This will be a one-click option in the Minecraft client that offers access to the server," Manneh adds, "and allows you to invite friends without any technical knowledge around setting up the server." Minecraft Realms.jpg As part of this accessibility charter, Manneh notes that Minecraft Realms servers will not provide many of the current elements of the game. "The goal is to keep it very simple - so that will also limit a lot of features," he says. "It won't be very feature-rich, at least from the beginning, so we're really targeting the middle of the market to try and solve the problem for the normal Minecraft player who just wants an easy way to connect with friends." He adds that, for those players who want to add lots of mods and make tweaks to their server, "Minecraft Realms will not be your option, and you should continue with your third-party host. It will not be possible with Realms to add tons of mods, at least from the get-go."


But there's more to Minecraft Realms than meets the eye. While the short-term plans provide more casual players with a method for easily playing online with friends, the infrastructure and the work involved is setting Mojang up for a connected future. "It's definitely something that will add value to all our games, and the infrastructure that we're building will hopefully be able to be used by other games that we're making too," Manneh notes. "One idea that we have with Minecraft Realms is that you connect servers to servers, so that basically makes it an MMO in theory," he adds. "So you can connect your servers through a portal in Minecraft to your friends' servers, and then you have the possibility to add an endless amount of worlds connected to each other." Of course, to get something up and running on this potential scale, Mojang is going to need a hell of a lot of servers. Is the team ready for such a large scale ordeal? "We've obviously tried to make some calculations, but it's extremely hard," Manneh answers, "because we know there is a demand for this kind of service, but we don't know how big the demand is." "But we do have to keep that in mind in order to scale the business, and provide enough servers for if this is a very popular service. We could need tons and tons of servers. That's something that we're working with our providers - Multiplay for the PC version, and Amazon for the mobile version." There's another side to Minecraft Realms too -- the potential profits. If the subscription service does indeed prove popular, it's not difficult to imagine that it will not only bring in more money that Minecraft sales alone, but will in fact become Mojang's main source of income. "Obviously with the business model behind Minecraft, you pay for it once, and then never again," says Manneh. "That isn't sustainable for a very long period of time unless, you know, Minecraft will sell forever, which has never happened before with any other game." "So we definitely have to think about how to sustain our business going forward, and this is one way. If we build an attractive service that people are willing to pay for, that's definitely a big source of income for us potentially for a very long period of time." Minecraft Realms is currently in closed alpha, with plans to hopefully launch it sometime in the next few months.

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