Minecraft's Notch revealed in behind-the-scenes tale

The frontiers of gaming may not be a post-PC zone, and conditions are great for independent developers

By , IDG News Service |  Software

Goldberg: One very important thing about "Minecraft" is how early it was released, in a very early alpha stage. The first version is an extremely simple game compared to what "Minecraft" is today. But yet Markus was able to release it as he wished and he had people trying it out and giving feedback, so he discovered how people would appreciate this game. That is hard in the more controlled environment of an app store, for example, where you've more or less finished the game before you show it to anyone but a small group of beta testers. So I doubt that "Minecraft" would have developed the way it has if it was originally a mobile game. I think it's very important that it was developed for PC and for online.

Larsson: Just to add to that, it's also interesting to see how the big platform owners, primarily Microsoft and Sony, are really scrambling to accommodate things like this in the future. One of the new things with the Xbox One, which I find most interesting, is how the barriers to entry for independent developers are now being lowered. It's much less costly to have a game published on Xbox Live, and much easier. There's much less of a vetting process going on. That shows that they're very much aware of this, and trying to make it easier. Everyone wants to be the platform where the next "Minecraft" is created.

IDGNS: Mainstream success has been the double-edged sword for many an artist. Can Mojang keep its indie credibility?

Goldberg: They've clearly made an effort to keep their focus. What I find most notable is that there is no "Minecraft 2" and there is no "Minecraft in Space," there are no followups. They made the promise that those who bought the game early on would receive all future updates, and that has been happening so far. When they create new games, like their second game, Scrolls, it's something very, very different from "Minecraft." So they're not taking the easy way to cash in on their success like some other successful game makers often do. They do try to extend their game as much as they can, but they have not compromised the original ideas around which the company was founded.

Larsson: There's something really interesting going on right now where Mojang and Markus are trying to come up with something to follow "Minecraft." Markus canceled development on his next big game quite recently. It's the classic question of the difficult second album, isn't it? How do you follow a massive success like this? It's very hard to feel sorry for Markus, he's done very well for himself, but the pressure of how to follow "Minecraft" must be extraordinary.

(The interview transcript was edited and condensed.)

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