Minecraft, online gaming

Minecraft is the most popular game in the world with 122 million copies of the game sold as of February. Source: Shutterstock/Tinxi

Minecraft launches Marketplace store and in-game digital currency

EXEMPLIFYING the slow, inevitable collision of the real and digital world is the announcement of Microsoft’s in-game store for third-party content creators on its wildly popular gaming platform, Minecraft.

Minecraft, a block-building video game created by Microsoft-owned Mojang, is famous for the sometimes elaborate structures built by its players – ranging from detailed reconstructions of famous landmarks like the Taj Mahal or Notre Dame, to mind-boggling original builds. As of February, around 122 million copies of the game have been bought.

Minecraft, Coins, online gaming

Users can purchase Minecraft Coins, which is an in-game currency, which should allow makers to cost their products more flexibly. Source: Minecraft

Mojang’s announcement of what they simply call the “Marketplace” will feature a platform for registered content creators to sell in-game goods, as well as a currency system that players can use to buy merchandise.

In a blog post, Microsoft said: “We’ve partnered with heroic crafters well-known to the community to build up a launch catalog of amazing adventure maps, texture packs, minigames and more.”

Among the creators that will be featured are Noxcrew, BlockWorks, Qwertyuiop The Pie, Blockception, Sphax, Eneija Silverleaf, Imagiverse, Polymaps and Razzleberry Fox. The company is also looking to give access to other interested parties. Content will start at US$1.99 per item, and according to a spokesman, the selection on market will be “epic”.

The purpose of Marketplace, according to Mojang, was to give “Minecraft creators another way to make a living from the game, allowing them to support themselves in the creation of ever-greater projects, while giving Pocket and Windows 10 players access to a growing catalog of fun stuff – curated and supplied by us, safely and simply.”

Players can buy character skins, adventure and world maps, block models, texture maps, and various other in-game content that can further customize the gaming experience. Prior to Marketplace, Minecraft sold most of its original content through an online shop (rather than in-game). Third-party makers were restricted to their own stores.

Furthermore, the platform will open customization up to a whole new audience who previously largely avoided modifications or “mods”. Though the PC and Mac versions of the game have accommodated modifications since the game launched, mods are tricky for most casual players to install and Mojang strictly regulates how these can be monetized.

The platform will ease the monetization of mods, and may even spur further innovation from makers who will view the platform as a kind of incentive. The creator of Minecraft mods and Minecraft’s Blockwords film studio James Delaney noted the Marketplace will “open up a new audience for us” by making otherwise casual players far more invested in the game.

The consolidation of creators into a single platform would give Minecraft players a wider range of options to pick from – from Microsoft’s original content to fan content – and the company’s pledge to only accept applications from registered businesses will prevent low-quality content from flooding the market.

SEE ALSO: Asian tech firms are prioritizing Virtual Reality’s potential in more than gaming

Curation seems to be a big deal for the managers of Marketplace. Though retailers are encouraged to apply, the company is maintaining its right to select who is allowed to load stock onto the platform.

“We will be reviewing applications [but] we need people that have a portfolio, we need people that basically have a business license [and are] serious about this as an entrepreneuring thing they want to do,” Minecraft Realms executive producer John Thornton told Mashable.

To facilitate transactions, Mojang has designed a currency called “Minecraft Coins” that can only be bought by players through their XBox Live accounts. The Coins allow creators to set “flexible prices”, as they don’t have to conform to standard app store pricing denominations.

Minecraft, Marketplace, online gaming

“We want to have more flexibility, [such as] giving away things for zero Coins – which isn’t even possible on some of the app stores we work with,” Thornton said.

“By decoupling from in-app purchases and going to a coin system, we have a lot of flexibility in how we choose to price things and we can change the prices quickly.”

The platform will take a 30 percent cut from all profits and transactions – standard for gaming companies – while the lion’s share will go straight to creators. The move is a smart one by Microsoft who is opening up it’s 55 million-strong player base to content creators in order to reap profits and possibly reach out to more potential players.

SEE ALSO: China’s knock-off Pokémon GO attempts to fill market gap with hilarious results

Though the company touts its service to push creators’ profit-making, it shouldn’t be ignored it will also be a huge moneymaker for the company. The platform will be available with Windows 10, the Oculus and mobile devices – the platform is notably absent from gaming consoles, but we expect that might be rectified in the future.

The platform is due to launch a public beta mid-April, and the company expects a larger launch later in spring.

According to Polygon, Mojang showcased some of the packs users can buy on Marketplace at a launch event. These include packs such as Skyfair (a map of funfair floating islands), Fairy-tale Adventure Map (a world full of well-loved tales) and Pirate Map (a combat map featuring sunken treasure ships and piratical adventures).

According to a Microsoft spokesman, the online store has been in the works ever since Microsoft acquired Mojang back in 2014 for a crazy US$2.5 billion. Map-making has always been a popular and high-demand activity in the game, and the Marketplace effectively monetizes the industry for the benefit of both players and creators.

It’s estimated the online video game industry is valued at US$101.1 billion and is set to keep growing. Minecraft is considered the most popular online game in the world, and its videos regularly rack up millions of views on YouTube.