There is not a doubt in anyone's mind that Minecraft is a huge success. It made Notch extremely rich and famous, and he saw it through it's release, handing it to Jeb afterwards to work on other stuff. But after all this time, the Minecraft money train is slowing down. While sales are still high, Mojang must be looking for ways to monetize it even more, while also keeping their good relations with the community and fulfilling their requests. In this article I will go over a couple of ways Mojang could do this, and all that with a lot of pretty pictures. Let's begin.
The Minecraft community is very tied to the Internet. SMP is played by a big portion of the fans, and various Minecraft communities are active on Reddit and the Minecraft forums. This experience needs to be implemented into Minecraft. A friends list, cross-server chat, and most importantly, online achievements and stats… The list is endless. This could all be tied together into Minecraft, but also the web. A social network similar to Battlelog for Battlefield 3 or Playfire would work great with Minecraft. Users could see what servers their friends are playing on, display their stats and achievements on their profile page, show off their skins, upload worlds, screenshots and videos and share them with their friends all in one singular location.
The audience for this kind of thing would be enormous, since minecraft.net currently sports over 5 million premium users who bought the game. It would also lure out those 20€ from pirates that still need that push to buy the game, and that is a considerable number of sales. Mojang could monetize this social network with small, not intrusive ads in the vein of Facebook and similar social networks. There is no doubt Curse would be able to provide the servers to handle such a userbase, and they are already hosting the forums, so why not cooperate on this too?
Another great way of pleasing the community is something Mojang is already doing - the modding API. But it needs to be done well, or users will move back to the forums. An in-game system allowing you to download and automatically install mods, check compatibility with each other and update automatically is as integral to the API as are good and intuitive tools for the developers. This is a very tricky thing to pull off, but I think that if anyone has a chance of doing it well, it's the Bukkit team. This could also intertwine with the social network I described above to make it more user friendly and accessible.
Jeb himself once said that he couldn't possibly add as many cool stuff as the Internet, so modding is a huge part of Minecraft for him. Spout and Spoutcraft came close to the experience we're aiming at here with their client automatically downloading assets needed to run plugins the server is running, basically allowing completely different experiences depending on what server you visit, without reinstalling mods, but still having custom blocks, items and other stuff. Spout, however, is not finished and, while still better than downloading each mod separately just to join a server, is a hassle for inexperienced users that need to download the special Spoutcraft client. It's an idea that needs to be worked into the default client so that everyone has access to it.
Now if you read all this you can probably see where I'm going with this. Steam. Steam is the ultimate PC digital download platform, and it's features would allow for all of the features above to be implemented and accessed easily. Steam Workshop would allow for all of the features mod enthusiasts need and more, Steam Cloud could store your worlds and screenshots so they are never lost, and since Steam allows other sites to access that data the Minecraft social network could easily be built around the data it supplies. Notch has come out and said that Minecraft will not come to Steam because of the way he treats it.
Things have changed, though, and Minecraft is turning more and more into a Steam game. Make it happen, Mojang. It wouldn't be easy but a deal could be made between Mojang and Valve since it's well known that they are friendly. Existing Minecraft customers could get a code that allows them to buy Minecraft on Steam for a discounted price (5€ would be an appropriate amount, and would generate tons of revenue for both Valve and Mojang) which would get them the benefits of Steam related features I already mentioned above.
While Steam is the best way to do it since the foundations for the new features are already present, making the users pay some more might piss some people off. But it's hard to not piss people off when you're dealing with 5 million unique users with unique requests and desires.
Do you agree, or do you think this isn't the way to go for Minecraft? Do you have your own ideas on how Minecraft should advance in the future? Sound off in the comment section below.