The monetization rules that govern Minecraft servers have led to a public spat between the game’s creator and his community.
It’s also led to some public bickering with the press.
Mojang recently confirmed its intention to enforce details in its end user licence agreement (EULA) for Minecraft that while permitting those who run a Minecraft server to take donations and fees for that service, prevent them from selectively charge variable fees for access and cannot charge for the sale of digital items that give players an advantage.
The rules have always been present but have not until now been enforced by Mojang.
The worry is that this proposed tightening of the rules will lead to the loss of jobs, as the game’s biggest servers are now routinely run by full-time paid staff whose salaries are funded by payments that are now being blocked.
Mojang is of course well within its rights to enforce its EULA – and note that it doesn’t profit from this satellite business itself directly – but many have questioned the spirit of the change of tact and even compared the company to big-money rivals like EA.
“If you make mods, they have to be free. If you host a server, you can charge for access to your hardware, but not for individual elements in the game,” creator Markus ‘Notch’ Persson said in a personal response. “Once YouTube and streaming got bigger, we added specific exceptions saying you can totally monetize video content about the game.
“Some privately run Minecraft servers do charge for in-game items, for XP boosts, for access to certain game modes. Some of them even charge quite a lot. I don’t even know how many emails we’ve gotten from parents, asking for their hundred dollars back their kid spent on an item pack on a server we have no control over. This was never allowed, but we didn’t crack down on it because we’re constantly incredibly swamped in other work.
“Someone saw that the EULA says you can’t charge for these things, and asked one of the people working at Mojang about it. That person said that yes, it is indeed against the rules, and then everything exploded. A lot of people got the impression that we’re changing the EULA somehow to only now disallow these things, but they were never allowed.”
The developer later tweeted an email exchange with Polygon, claiming to be aggrieved by the nature of the questioning. “Your questions seem hostile and force me into a defensive position, so I will answer in vein,” he answered, before proving a string on one-word answers.
However, not everyone is convinced that it’s the non-issue Notch would have us believe.
“Somewhere along the line, your values around having a completely open platform changed, and Mojang put up that ‘huge EULA’,” the MD of Minecraft server Mineplex Gregory Bylos said in an open letter to Notch.
“However, even then, Mojang didn’t come out and tell everyone that you didn’t like the large multiplayer servers that were springing up, you continued to endorse and support us.
“One example of many clear indications that you supported our servers and business models was that Mojang has invited us onto panels and to exhibit booths at Minecon. Last year included a panel called ‘Running a Server‘ that talked about how to run a professional multiplayer server and where revenue models were explicitly discussed.
“Looking at the revenue models Mojang has proposed, there are both economic and experiential issues with all of them. We will either not be able to sustain our revenue to be able to keep up with our costs, or we will need to become so focused on developing cosmetic revenue-driving items that we will ruin the experience for our players.
“I have asked people to leave their jobs to come work for Mineplex full-time, as I know is the case at the majority of the other large server networks. I can not, or rather will not, fire those people to try conform to rules that I truly believe will do nothing but harm us, Mojang, and the Minecraft community as a whole.
“We have always felt like we were partners. It is disappointing and disheartening to feel like Mojang does not see the incredible value of servers that are adding so much content to the game and keeping players engaged and interested in it.”