Minecraft Stakes Next-Gen Claim
Mojang on Thursday announced that its popular game Minecraft soon will be available to users of the Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita consoles.
"Apologies for the delay, but putting Minecraft on new consoles is a serious business," explained Owen Hill, Mojang's chief word officer.
All three editions are due to arrive in August.
"Minecraft is unique amongst most other games," Ted Pollak, a senior analyst for the gaming industry with Jon Peddie Research, told TechNewsWorld.
"People are choosing to play it over titles with incredible graphics because of the creative aspects and game play," Pollak explained. "This highlights the importance of these characteristics and consumers' desire for nonlinear experiences. It's such a phenomenon that it's almost a required title for any serious platform."
A $4.99 Upgrade
Priced at US$19.99, the Xbox One Edition of Minecraft will bring "significantly bigger worlds and a greater draw distance" than the Xbox 360 Edition offers, Hill noted.
It also will include all the features from the most recent Xbox 360 title update.
For at least a year after the game's release, users who have bought Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition from Xbox Live Marketplace or played online with the disc version will be able to upgrade to Xbox One Edition for $4.99, Hill said.
"Players with Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition saves will be able to import their worlds to Xbox One," he noted. "Unfortunately, you won't be able to transfer saves from Xbox One to Xbox 360. We can make worlds bigger without too much stress, but shrinking them causes all kinds of problems."
Cross-platform play will not be possible between Xbox 360 and Xbox One. However, "many, but not all, of the DLC skins and texture packs you've purchased for Xbox 360 Edition will be available for use in Xbox One Edition," Hill said.
'Significantly Bigger Worlds'
As for the $19.99 Minecraft: Playstation 3 + Vita Edition, it will include all the features from the most recent Playstation 3 version, including online play on Vita.
"This means everyone who has bought Minecraft: Playstation 3 Edition from PSN will get it on Vita for free," Hill said.
Mojang is working with Sony Computer Entertainment to enable upgrades from the Blu-ray disc version of Minecraft: Playstation 3 Edition to Minecraft: Playstation 3 and Vita, he added.
Finally, Minecraft: Playstation 4 Edition also will be priced at $19.99 and will bring "significantly bigger worlds and a greater draw distance than Playstation 3 + Vita Edition," Hill said. It will include all features from the most recent Playstation 3 version.
Those who have bought Playstation 3 Edition from the Playstation Network will be able to upgrade for $4.99. An upgrade from the Blu-ray disc version of Minecraft: Playstation 3 Edition to Minecraft: Playstation 4 Edition is in the works.
'One of the Clear Runaway Hits'
"Minecraft has been a huge success on Xbox Live and the Xbox platform," Lewis Ward, IDC's research director for gaming, told TechNewsWorld.
"It did phenomenally well as a digital download," he added. "In some quarters, it was the top-selling game on Xbox Live."
So successful was it, in fact, that the game eventually was offered on disk. "That doesn't happen very happen," Ward said.
The game was "one of the clear runaway hits on the indie side on consoles in the last three years," he concluded. "It was effectively inevitable that it was going to come. I'm not surprised, and would assume it's going to be a popular game on eighth-generation consoles as well."
'A Canvas for the Imagination'
Minecraft is "a genuine phenomenon in gaming, to the extent that it's become a platform in itself -- not just to established gamers but as far as achieving a sizable following among kids and families and even among schools, as a tool for self-expression and problem-solving, or simply a canvas for the imagination," Steve Bailey, senior analyst for games with IHS Technology, told TechNewsWorld.
It makes sense for Mojang to make it cheaper for existing PS3/Xbox 360 owners to upgrade to the PS4/Xbox One versions, he added.
"In essence, it's not going to be a greatly different game, apart from providing slightly bigger worlds with slightly greater fidelity," Bailey explained. "For most games, this would sound like poor value for the money, but that's exactly the point: Minecraft is the kind of user-defined experience that you'll be dipping in and out of for years, potentially, and so you'll want to be able to access it across all the gaming-capable devices in your life."
Offering existing owners the chance to pay a smaller upgrade fee to access Minecraft on next-generation hardware also stands to benefit Sony and Microsoft, he added, as it encourages migration to the newest consoles.
"We've seen this tactic used before with Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 late last year," Bailey concluded, "so it's fair to say that users are coming to expect this lack of friction."