December 1, 2022
Mojang developer Erik “Grum” Broes reminded server owners at the beginning of the month that Minecraft players were not allowed to charge them perks. It sparked a vocal backlash from the community--particularly the moderators and patrons of the game's largest servers. Mojang updated the rules regarding server monetisation shortly thereafter. It relaxed certain criteria but forbade the sale of non-cosmetic features. Notch intervened and defended himself against criticisms that he was "literally worse than EA".
Evidently, Mojang's response to these concerns has not been a positive one for the Minecraft multiplayer scene's largest communities. Is there any truth to their concerns? I have compiled a list of arguments in favor and against the new EULA and am largely in agreement about Mojang's plans. Let me tell you why.
"...we don't want our players to be exploited, or to have a frustrating experience unless they pay."
This is Mojang's summary of the new rules. It is the core of the whole thing. This is why they have now introduced these rules. Notch stated in his blog post that "I don't even know how many emails I have received from parents asking for their hundred dollar back that their child spent on an item package on a server we don't control."
The key word in the statement is "parents". Minecraft appeals to a wide audience. Kids make up a large portion of its popularity. It's why YouTube videos with silly antics become successful businesses and why teachers find Minecraft a valuable tool for education.
Despite all the great things that kids do, they don't have the same healthy cynicism or disdain for microtransactions. Server operators are taking advantage of this enthusiasm. Children will be more inclined to participate if they are shown a tiered system and the people having more fun with their toys.
Bjorn Jeffery is the CEO and cofounder at children's developer Toca Boca. He speaks out in Polygon's excellent investigation of the effects of free play on children. "There are many developers doing things that they must know and feel are wrong. It is a predatory business and it is very lucrative. The most exploitative Minecraft servers can be the same.
This exploitation is not aimed at a small group of shady predators. This applies to some of most popular servers in the community, PCGamesN recently revealed. They compiled a list of the most popular game servers and found paid-for weapons, unbannings, and currency, all unlocked with real money.
"Mojang has allowed us to develop and run custom gameplay experiences through fair revenue models for years."
This is a popular argument, one that was posed by Mineplex director Sterling in an open letter to Notch. It implies that Mojang have changed their minds and are now more restrictive about their monetisation rules. There is truth to this. Mojang did not enforce the old EULA that Minecraft made server monetisation illegal. Server monetisation was accepted as a normal practice and server owners assumed everything would be fine.
However, inaction is not the same thing as encouragement. I cannot find any examples of Mojang supporting server monetisation. This argument is more than just odd to me. Mojang did not do anything, and while it was beneficial in some areas, it also led predatory practices. This doesn't mean that the status quo was wrong, but that Mojang were wrong. They should be condemned for taking so long to intervene; for allowing pay to win practices to pervade their multiplayer section for so long.