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How Mojang is creating a sustainable future for Minecraft Exclusive
How Mojang is creating a sustainable future for  Minecraft
March 22, 2013 | By Mike Rose

"Pretty much from when we started the company, we've been getting feedback from players, and players want to connect and play multiplayer," says Mojang CEO Carl Manneh.

So rumbles on the success of Minecraft, the sandbox open-world indie behemoth that has nearly sold 10 million copies of its PC and Mac version alone, and more than 20 million copies across all its versions, including on mobile and Xbox 360.

But Mojang is far from finished with the popular title. It continues to put out regular updates for the game, and as revealed this month, has big plans for a new subscription service called Minecraft Realms on the way.

It's currently possible for Minecraft players to set up their own servers, or pay for a third-party service to host a server for them, but as Manneh notes, those less tech-savvy players will no doubt hit plenty of bumps and issues along the way, and may not be able to find the solution online.

"We've consistently gotten a lot of feedback from players, and now lately a lot of parents that have kids, and they basically say that they're tired of being server admins at home, and sorting our their children's issues with Minecraft servers," he laughs.

He continues, "We've been thinking about this for quite some time for several reasons: Because Minecraft grew so quickly, we had to handle a lot of other things, so the the servers have been delayed. Now we've been developing it for probably half a year, and we're getting close to releasing it, so that's exciting."

This is what Minecraft Realms boils down to: rather than offering a service that isn't already available elsewhere, the Mojang team is aiming for ease-of-use as its main sell point.

"This will be a one-click option in the Minecraft client that offers access to the server," Manneh adds, "and allows you to invite friends without any technical knowledge around setting up the server."

Minecraft Realms.jpg

As part of this accessibility charter, Manneh notes that Minecraft Realms servers will not provide many of the current elements of the game.

"The goal is to keep it very simple - so that will also limit a lot of features," he says. "It won't be very feature-rich, at least from the beginning, so we're really targeting the middle of the market to try and solve the problem for the normal Minecraft player who just wants an easy way to connect with friends."

He adds that, for those players who want to add lots of mods and make tweaks to their server, "Minecraft Realms will not be your option, and you should continue with your third-party host. It will not be possible with Realms to add tons of mods, at least from the get-go."


But there's more to Minecraft Realms than meets the eye. While the short-term plans provide more casual players with a method for easily playing online with friends, the infrastructure and the work involved is setting Mojang up for a connected future.

"It's definitely something that will add value to all our games, and the infrastructure that we're building will hopefully be able to be used by other games that we're making too," Manneh notes.

"One idea that we have with Minecraft Realms is that you connect servers to servers, so that basically makes it an MMO in theory," he adds. "So you can connect your servers through a portal in Minecraft to your friends' servers, and then you have the possibility to add an endless amount of worlds connected to each other."

Of course, to get something up and running on this potential scale, Mojang is going to need a hell of a lot of servers. Is the team ready for such a large scale ordeal?

"We've obviously tried to make some calculations, but it's extremely hard," Manneh answers, "because we know there is a demand for this kind of service, but we don't know how big the demand is."

"But we do have to keep that in mind in order to scale the business, and provide enough servers for if this is a very popular service. We could need tons and tons of servers. That's something that we're working with our providers - Multiplay for the PC version, and Amazon for the mobile version."

There's another side to Minecraft Realms too -- the potential profits. If the subscription service does indeed prove popular, it's not difficult to imagine that it will not only bring in more money that Minecraft sales alone, but will in fact become Mojang's main source of income.

"Obviously with the business model behind Minecraft, you pay for it once, and then never again," says Manneh. "That isn't sustainable for a very long period of time unless, you know, Minecraft will sell forever, which has never happened before with any other game."

"So we definitely have to think about how to sustain our business going forward, and this is one way. If we build an attractive service that people are willing to pay for, that's definitely a big source of income for us potentially for a very long period of time."

Minecraft Realms is currently in closed alpha, with plans to hopefully launch it sometime in the next few months.

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Michael Kolb
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Um I'm pretty sure Minecraft will sell forever, this the only game I'd actually say that. Realms sounds like an ambitious prospect though. I can see easily connecting servers using something similar to Nether Portals. :P

Xavier Sythe
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Bob Johnson
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Great, but what's the price? The $10-$15/mo that I read about sounds nuts.

Carl Chavez
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I don't think it's nuts at all, considering the electricity for a server running 24/7 can cost that much (or more) per month in many areas of the world. Also, that single price is for a server that multiple people can use, so the cost can be split among all of them.

Carl Chavez
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Here's the math:

$15/month is 50 cents/day or 2 cents/hour.

If one uses a low-cost 300W power supply for a desktop computer, they use 0.3 kW/h at maximum.

In the United States, the average cost of electricity is 9.83 cents/kWh, so the cost for a 300W power supply at maximum draw would be 2.95 cents/hour, which is $21.23/month.

There are ways to get the cost down, of course. I live in Hawaii now, where the cost of electricity is 44 cents/kWh. If was still using a desktop computer as a server, a Minecraft server would cost me 20 cents/hour, or $142/month! I now use a Mac Mini as a Minecraft server, which draws only 85W max. It costs me 1.7 cents/hour, but that's still $12.24/month, but if I add the cost of the hardware, it's definitely over $15/month.

Bob Johnson
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1 Minecraft server does not equal one machine.

Also not all servers would be in use at all times even at peak hours.

Please redo your math to reflect this. Thank you.

Miguel Fernandez
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I think the cost of electricity for the servers is really a trivial component of the real expenses. I'd have to imagine that the combined CapEx for the equipment, and especially all of the associated OpEx would be orders of magnitude greater than their electrical bill.

Jannis Froese
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Ok, here's the math:

I pay $9/mo for a 1Ghz, 1Gb RAM vServer. If I switch to the new series I get twice for about the same money. The server I has never made problems for 5 players, right now dynmap is running too. Said Minecraft server only uses 512Mb of Ram. So let's say for $10 you can get four 5player servers running, which is $0,50 per player (I guess it's actually cheaper, I don't know the actual demand). Of course if you have enough small servers on one machine, not all will actually be used at the same time which could dramatically reduce costs.

TL;DR: $0,50 per player or lower is reasonable if you go by the actual costs. Of course that's not even how our economic system works, so just forget about that and wait till Mojang announces their price.

Carl Chavez
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Oh, I see what you two mean.

I was calculating the cost for the use case of a family or gaming group to run a computer 24/7 that runs a single server instance.

You're both calculating the cost for the use case of a company to run a single computer that will support multiple server instances that can be rented to groups.

I think we're both right for our respective use cases.

Bob Johnson
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NOt sure there is much right about your post. ;) It didn't back up why you think $10-$15/mo ain't nuts.

Your math for a home server doesn't ring right either.

Your Mac Mini isn't going to be running at 85W 24/7. It idles at 11W. It will probably idle 2/3rds of every day at least if you even leave it on 24/7. And even when in use it isn't going to hit 85W on a consistent basis. So your calculations for how many kwh your server will use are highly over inflated.

YOu also forgot to split the costs of running your server amongst all your friends using your server. Or consider that all your friends are paying nothing if you aren't charging them.

Yes you have the costs of your machine that hosts your server to consider. But you own it. You can use it as your primary computer even if it is hosting a Minecraft server. You can turn it into your private media server while it also a Minecraft server.

Also a Mac Mini is still going to be worth $300 in 3 years. Thus the other $300 of the initial cost is depreciation which would be split over 3 years or 36 months which would be $8/month in hardware depreciation costs. This for a computer that you can use for other things while it also hosts a Minecraft that your friends can use your for free.

Last most folks don't live in Hawaii so they have electricity rates 5x lower as you stated which makes electricity costs really really low.

btw, A really quick search on the internets shows that you can rent a Minecraft server for $5 per month for 1-4 players. I would guess they probably aren't based in Hawaii. ;)

Tim Borquez
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I think that if the service costed anything more than 5 bucks a month a lot of people wouldn't be interested

Carlo Delallana
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Nobody thought Minecraft would be this big of a deal. Also, nobody thought a paid app on iOS/Android would still be a viable business model...yet Minecraft defies common wisdom.

I'll reserve judgement until Mojang releases stats on the service.

Antti Makkonen
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I Really hope that this will work. My only concern is that subscription model games seems to be dying out. With the exception of Eve Online.