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 Minecraft 's future depends on more than just Mojang, says EA's Hilleman
Minecraft's future depends on more than just Mojang, says EA's Hilleman
March 23, 2012 | By Tom Curtis, Brandon Sheffield

March 23, 2012 | By Tom Curtis, Brandon Sheffield

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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Bob Johnson
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EA wants to make an offer you can't refuse.

k s
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I can't help but think Richard Hilleman looks like some kind of evil hippie but that may just be the bad tastes in my mouth from EA.

Michiel Hendriks
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The only thing I see EA bring to the game (pun intended) is nickle and diming the shit out of it.
Mod commonalities have lived in proper symbiosis with commercial games since... doom(?).
Initially without explicit support from the game developers. The community created their own tools. Later developers started to provide their own tools with the games they released. (This is how Epic Games started to grow to what it has become right now. This is where Valve originated.)

Mojang doesn't need interference from EA, they can just enlist mod developers and stay independent.

Cordero W
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What? Game developers actually making a game for the love of making games rather than for profit? Say it ain't so. Not to mention, the money Notch is sitting on is just enough for a small indie studio to last for quite a while. A company like EA couldn't live off it, but that just shows the ratio of success : employee numbers.

Alan Winthrop
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Mojang has enough money to hire away a team of EA's best to make a mod manager in game store or whatever EA would have in mind, so I don't really see how EA could possibly offer value to them.

However, I think Mojang is much smarter in their development approach because they cater to their audience rather than trying to create a game that is everything to everyone.

Kyle Redd
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In all of EA's existence, I cannot recall a single partnership with or acquisition of any developer that genuinely resulted in better games. I truly hope (and expect) that Persson will not even entertain the idea of joining with them.

Christian Schmidt
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Really? Because you don't have to look very far. Valve chose EA to publish Portal 2 on consoles. I thought the PS3 version was the best personally (cross-platform multiplayer, free Steam copy, etc).

brock w
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Well, even if better games resulted because of a partnership or acquisition, EA would've just destroyed the company and game afterwards.
Westwood for example. They were making good games, and I think one sequel they wanted to make was even better than the first(C&C Renegade 2), but EA just f'ed them over and killed the company.

Eric McVinney
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To shake the devil's hand and say you're only kidding. Yea, I have a feeling Mojang would do that :P

Mojang is, or has been for a some time now, in a situation where they can hire not the number of programmers but the top quality of them in a small amount to get their updates out the door faster.

Adam Bishop
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How much money did EA lose last year? How profitable was Minecraft? I'm not sure EA is the one to be offering business advice here.

brock w
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He had to reinstall windows because his kid screwed up on a mod manager? Either that mod isn't trustworthy, or they don't know crap about using that stuff..
Mojang could possibly teach the industry, but they will refuse to listen, just like what has happened with DRM.

Not sure how I like the gold analogy either, that was a finite resource, not everyone could get some because of that, Indie games are pretty much an INfinite source as long as you can get ideas. And really, it's only smart to make it easy for people to mod it, it gives more life to the game that it wouldn't otherwise have..

Arne Evertsson
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Just wanted to comment on "making Minecraft and its mods and installations something that's a more commercial and predictable product". Let's hope that helping hand doesn't come from Blizzard. Blizzard wants me to remove memory from my computer in order to install Starcraft II.