Minecraft fans have another surprise coming in the highly anticipated Discovery Update: the Minecraft Marketplace.
The new in-game store will give Windows 10 and Pocket Edition players access to an assortment of digital goods created by and for members of the Minecraft community. It won’t replace the existing in-app purchases offered by Microsoft; it supplements them.
In fact, those in-app purchases paved the way for this latest evolution. When the mobile game received its first paid add-ons skin packs two years ago, it wasn’t even possible to play as Alex, the default female avatar; only Steve was available.
“When we released the feature to [let players] upload a custom skin, we also said let’s add … some premium content,” said John Thornton, executive producer for Minecraft Realms.
It was a successful move that led to subsequent content drops: more skin packs, followed by texture packs and starting in late 2016 world packs. “We felt like the Pocket Edition was an opportunity to get players content because it’s really hard to get any unique content on Pocket Edition,” Thornton said.
While Minecraft Marketplace will be available to players on Windows 10 Edition, Oculus (which uses the Windows 10 release), and mobile devices, it’s the latter group that stands to benefit the most. Where PC players have easy ways to find and install free mods, Pocket Edition players are stuck with what’s sold in-app.
That’s why the Minecraft team is placing a heavy emphasis on content curation. With only nine community creators in the Marketplace when it launches Sphax, Blockception, Blockworks, Eneija Silverleaf, Imagiverse, Noxcrew, Polymaps, Qwertyuiopthepie, and Razzleberry Fox it’s easier to ensure a certain level of quality across all releases.
Instead of relying on real money, the new online storeuses its own currency Minecraft Coins that players can buy in packs of 300 (for $1.99), 840 (for $4.99), and 1,720 (for $9.99). All currency and purchases carry across all versions of Minecraft that include Marketplace.
Using a custom form of currency like Minecraft Coins comes with some advantages. On the player side, it gives the Marketplace team more flexibility to set prices that fall outside of standard app store pricing denominations: $0.99, $1.99, $2.99, etc. It also lets creators set their own prices on whatever they’re selling.
“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.”
On the creator side, Minecraft Coins makes it easier for those providing the content to see how their income breaks down. Turning builders into businesses is one of the goals with Marketplace, and transparency is essential for creating a trust in these relationships.
“We share in all the revenue with them and we wanted a system that was really easy for us to go through and track,” Thornton explained. “What had been sold, how much it had been sold for, and how to pay them out fairly in a way that was accountable and auditable.”
Since every app store operates differently, a coin-based system just made more sense. A 30 percent cut of every sale goes to the app store in question this is an industry-standard and the lion’s share of what’s left goes to the creators.
“Minecraft needs to take some cut on this because we have a big team of people doing the curation, we have a big team of people building the store, we have servers that we’re running 24 hours a day to serve all this content. There are real costs of goods associated with every creator we bring into the program,” Thornton said.
“But we wanted to make sure they were getting paid fairly. The easiest thing to say is: over half is getting paid to the creators. The contracts that we have written with them are more precise than that obviously, but that’s what we’re sharing.”
There’s an intention to add more creators over time, but never in an “all are welcome” sort of way. A completely open Marketplace would pose a challenge to continuing curation, especially since one of the goals is to let committed content creators turn their Minecraft work into an income-generating business.
“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,” Thornton said.
“We have no plans to do anything that’s not curated, I want to be very clear about that,” he added. “We plan to scale our team up to review everything as it comes in.”
The Discovery Update will be coming to Windows 10 Edition and Pocket Edition with Marketplace and a number of other new features sometime this spring.