The marketplace opens up the opportunity for third-party developers to sell their original content and creations — new story lines, in-game activities or landscapes — to the tens of millions of players of the hugely popular video game.
Microsoft is adding a new marketplace — and a new currency — within the video game “Minecraft,” opening up the opportunity for businesses to sell their original content and creations to tens of millions of the game’s players for the first time.
Set to go live in the spring, nine businesses will be selling feature packs within “Minecraft” — such as new story lines, in-game activities or landscapes to explore — with prices ranging between about $1 and $10 per creation. Other companies can apply to be allowed into the marketplace over subsequent months. Users wishing to purchase content will need to buy a form of new currency — Minecraft Coins.
“For the first time we are going to enable creators to come in and put content into our store alongside the same content that ‘Minecraft’ makes,” said John Thornton, the game’s executive producer at Microsoft. “The real impetus is to let creators connect to players and help them make a living on top of ‘Minecraft’.”
A store within the game does already exist but is limited to items created by the “Minecraft” development team. The change to allow third-party developers to sell their wares within the same ecosystem opens up an entirely new business model for independent creatives.
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“For us the big step forward is having a stable platform from which we can build a solid business,” said James Delaney, managing director of third-party “Minecraft” developer BlockWorks, which is one of the first companies to be allowed to sell on the store. “We know the community over there is huge, and they’re pretty desperate for this kind of content.”
“Huge” is a relative description, but in terms of an addressable market it’s pretty apt for “Minecraft.” The game, originally released in 2011 after two years of experimental versions, was acquired by Microsoft via its $2.5 billion purchase of software company Mojang in 2014. It has grown to sell over 121 million copies worldwide, and has 55 million unique monthly players, according to figures provided by Microsoft.
The Minecraft Marketplace will not be available on all platforms — a notable exclusion being Microsoft’s own Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation game consoles — but will be available on Windows, iOS, Android, as well as the Apple TV, the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR virtual-reality platforms, and even Amazon’s Kindle Fire.
Developers can set prices for their creations. “We don’t have a strong price cap,” said Thornton. “If we have content that shows up that everybody agrees is of significant value that a consumer might want to pay more than that, we’ll have that conversation. Ultimately it’s up to the creator.”
The new coins can be bought via any supported device that features an app store, such as iOS, Android or Windows. These coins will live in a user’s Microsoft Xbox Live virtual wallet and be accessible for marketplace purchases on any platform. Microsoft would not confirm the exact figure developers would receive from the revenue share after it and app stores took their cut, but Thornton said it would be over half.
“We have a model that allows us to give more than 50 percent of revenue to the creators,” he said. “They’re all happy with that revenue split and we’re happy with that as well.”
There are restrictions, however, to protect the large numbers of young “Minecraft” players. “Every piece of content in the store is reviewed by ‘Minecraft,’ ” said Thornton, so — much like Apple’s app store — nothing is likely to hit virtual store shelves without being vetted first.