Gregory Bylos has made a lot of money out of Minecraft over the past several years. Mineplex, his company, manages a server network that caters to fans of the immensely popular construction game. Bylos and his team have created a variety of Minecraft modes, challenges, and maps that allow players from all over the world to collaborate on building. You can play Castle Siege which transforms Minecraft into a fantasy war game or Super Smash Mobs which recreates the Nintendo fighting game series Super Smash Bros but in Minecraft.
It is extremely popular. Mineplex is visited by over one million people every month to enjoy its community features and modifications. Bylos says that Mineplex has been used by 25 percent of all PC Minecraft accounts purchased in the past eight months. This is a huge number: 100m users are registered and there have been over 14 million PC sales.
But there is a problem. Mineplex may, along with hundreds of other Minecraft server suppliers, be violating the End User License Agreements (EULAs) issued by Mojang, the game's creator. The once benign Swedish studio has begun to take a stand and there is now a split in the once peaceful Minecraft community.
Mojang posted a statement to its website on Thursday 12 June, in response to Twitter disputes about how server companies can monetise custom Minecraft content and services. Owen Hill, a Mojang spokesperson, explained that servers providers can accept donations from players as long as they are not exchanged for power-ups or items that will give players an advantage in the game world.
Mojang also stated that players could be charged entry fees and personalisation items such as silly pets and cool hats, but not for items that could affect gameplay like powerful swords and potions. Mojang wanted to stop servers offering customers a “pay-to-win” model.
The server providers refused to allow it, and the Twitter storm began. Within days, a hashtag #saveminecraft was created, which was seen by more than 500,000 people. There were many unfavorable comparisons between Mojang, Activision and monolithic publishers of video games like Electronic Arts and Activision. These latter are often criticised online because they have restrictive digital rights management.
Many Minecraft fans were frustrated by the simple fact that these terms, although they had been in Mojang's Minecraft EULA since its inception, had not been enforced over the past three years. Mojang has always promoted a laissez-faire mentality. It had encouraged Minecraft to be an open platform that could be customized by players and servers. Now it was tightening its grip. People were furious.
Two days later, Marcus “Notch” Persson, the creator of Minecraft and founder at Mojang, posted a blog defense of his company's position. He wrote that some privately-run Minecraft servers charge extra for items and xp boosts. Some of these servers even charge quite a bit. I don't know how many emails we received from parents asking for their hundred dollars back after their child spent it on an item pack on a server that we have no control. We didn't allow it, but we didn't stop because we are so overwhelmed with other work.