Monday, October 24, 2011

Minecraft: Is Notch crazy?

Obviously he's not completely crazy, but lately Notch has made a number of strategic decisions that call his judgment into question.

1. Lawyers. Really?

In his blog Update on the “Scrolls” lawsuit, Notch says that:
Lawyers have been sending papers back and forth, threatening each other with deadlines and court dates.

He's pissing money away and wasting his time fighting with Bethesda over the name of a game that's a long way from release? Spending money on this is a horrendous waste, just change the name of the game and be done with it.

Below I'll argue that Mojang shouldn't even be making the game, never mind getting embroiled in a legal dispute over its name.

2. Selling out with an Xbox 360 exclusive.

As I said in Mojang is no longer an indie developer, in selling out by entering into an agreement with Microsoft for Minecraft to appear exclusively on Xbox 360, Notch gave up his freedom and accepted PR guidelines that control what he is "allowed to say."

What I didn't discuss is the effect of Notch's decision on gamers. Microsoft paid a lot of money to Mojang so that PS3 and Wii owners won't be able to play Minecraft on their consoles.

Prior to this deal, Mojang had been very responsive to gamers. But when faced with choosing between Microsoft's money and gamers owning PS3s or Wiis, Notch chose to take the money and thus disempower owners of the other consoles.

(I play Minecraft on PC under Linux. I'm not a console owner and don't care for them, but I don't like exclusive deals since they enrich the partners by disempowering certain groups of potential customers.)

3. MineCon: The Stake in the ground.

MineCon was set up to celebrate the official release of Minecraft on November 18, 2011. The date of release was a completely arbitrary choice on Notch's part. Given that Mojang already has great cash flow without having "officially" released the game, I don't see the advantage to declaring an official release date and putting artificially created deadline pressure on Minecraft's development.

4. Dance with the one that brung you.

Why do another game (Scrolls) at all when Minecraft still isn't finished, and is a now infamous cash cow? Scrolls dilutes Mojang's resources and takes attention away from Minecraft, which could use developer resources beyond what Mojang has assigned.

The Minecraft project would benefit from a few more developers, and particularly, dedicated QA staff.

Minecraft got Notch and Mojang to this point, and it's not yet in the kind of shape that it's appropriate to shift focus away to another project.


  1. I gotta say, I disagree with you on all fronts, except number 4.

    1 - Who really cares? It isn't just about the name of the game. He likes the name of his game, and he wants to prove a point. A big dog like Bethesda can't just bully their desires onto little indie devs. It was a bogus charge on Bethesda's part, and Notch proved it. The finances involved aren't really important, like you said Minecraft is a bit of a cash cow.

    2 - How is it selling out? He wanted to get his game out to a larger market, outside of PC you have to contract with the console developers. I don't understand how this takes him out of the indie game world. Whether the deal was made to be exclusive to Microsoft is not relevant to his "indie cred" and all the nothing that is worth.

    3 - You don't see the advantage to putting a line in the ground because you aren't making a game. Notch has mentioned before he was a little embarrassed that he has allowed the game to be so open ended with its release schedule, now that he was an actual company he needed to act like one, and the first goal of that was to pick a specific goal and release date for the game. Be able to Blizzard "soon" the game only worked when he was a one-man show, now that he has grown up, he had to take it more serious.

    4 - Notch was very hesitant about allowing other people develop code with him on Minecraft, it was his baby and he wasn't sure if he wanted other people to touch it. However he also knew Minecraft wasn't going to last forever. So yes, he hired more people than Minecraft needed (or would be allowed) to work on a new game outside MC. This allows him to be very specific on the MC code (only Jeb and him touch it), while still "developing" another game. I won't say this is diluting the resources for MC because if this other game didn't exist, those developers wouldn't exist either, that game has no impact on MC at all.

    The only part of that I agreed with is the fact they could use a dedicated QA staff. Half because it would greatly speed up the production time of the releases and make them more stable. The other half is because I am actually a QA person and would love to have a job with that company.

  2. I somewhat agree. I agree that they should finish minecraft then think about a new game. Otherwise I disagree with you. I think xbox exclusive is a good idea. Not just because i have an xbox either. I also have a wii. The store on the wii isn't all to great. We wouldn't get DLC. Microsoft is also very strict about multiplatform games and it has to follow very specific rules. Outside of the PC we'd have a stable framerate. Also greifing can be fixed with a few lines of code. So i mostly disagree with you. Also on the wii, would you like to swing the wii remote 4 times a second to break 1 block? We are testing minecraft for notch. He has 3-Million testers right now. The reason it's beta, yet for us, is so we can help him test it.

  3. Well I used to own minecraft on pc loved the game. when that agreement was signed I deleted the program as he obviously does not care enough about his people. I don't own pc anything anymore I run max vista was y I switched to apple I will not buy Xbox because Microsoft wants you to pay them to s*** on you. so the game picked Microsoft over ps3. ps3 is now the largest selling system with ps4 talking about releasing nov 2013