Minecraft developer Mojang has announced Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta, and in the eyes of players who feared Microsoft's acquisition of Minecraft for $2.5 billion last year, it marks the beginning of the end for what is easily one of the most important games of the last decade.
The general concern here is that Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta will become the leading version of the game, giving special treatment to Microsoft platforms. Additionally, since Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta is built in C++ and not Java like the original PC version it will make it harder, if not impossible, to for users to create their own mods.
Minecraft fans aren't happy about the news. A simple "What the fuck." is currently the top comment on the Reddit thread announcing the news. As another player elaborates, "Microsoft hopes that PE/Win10 Minecraft will eventually become the de-facto default version of Minecraft and the Java version will be replaced slowly. Not 'right now,' since that would cause a shitstorm, but eventually it'll just go away quietly."
Calling Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta "a whole new version of Minecraft" is a bit of an exaggeration and tactical misstep on behalf of Mojang. It's basically the mobile version of the game—Minecraft: Pocket Edition—but for Windows 10, meaning you'll be able to play it on both Windows 10 PCs and mobile devices.
If you already own the PC edition of Minecraft, otherwise referred to as the Java version, you'll be able to download the Window 10 Edition Beta from the Windows 10 store for free. If you don't, it costs $10.
You'll be able to play it with an Xbox controller, keyboard and mouse, touch controls, or some combination of these, which introduces some interesting new ways to create. You'll be able to play it online with Pocket Edition players on Android or iOS devices, and you can find people to play with via Microsoft's online service Xbox Live, though it's not required.
"It is NOT another version of Minecraft!" Tommaso Checchi, who works on Pocket Edition at Mojang, posted in the Minecraft subreddit in a comment that contradicted the announcement on Mojang's official site. "This version IS Pocket Edition. It's based on [Pocket Edition], it's C++, and we mean to keep it on par forever."
Checchi added that Mojang is aiming for feature parity across all Minecraft versions, though the Windows 10 version won't support Minecraft's lively modding scene for now because "C++ is not as reverse engineerable as Java, plus many stores don't allow those kind of mods." In addition, even if the Windows 10 version did support mods, the modding community would have to remake all of its existing Java work in C++.
Pocket Edition is already much bigger than the Java version, by the way. The Java version of Minecraft has sold 20 million copies as of last week. Pocket Edition, by comparison, crossed the 30 million sales mark back in January.
Even Checchi admitted that it would be great to phase out the Java version and have just one version of the game that works across all platforms, but that modding is too important to make that possible right now.
Compounding fear is that, without mod support, It'll be easier to sell downloadable content like Skin Packs (which change a character's appearance), as is the case with the console versions of Minecraft.
Checchi's comments go on to guarantee players that Mojang plans to continue supporting both the other Pocket Editions as well as the Java version of the game, which modders, Linux, and Mac users rely on. Most importantly, Checchi guaranteed players Microsoft isn't making him do anything.
As we've seen recently with Valve's decision to kill a paid mods marketplace on Steam, players are extremely protective of their mods, which extends the life of a game indefinitely with user-generated content.
Much like the internet hate machine responded to paid mods on Steam, this appears to be the player community reacting to what is mostly just a poorly worded announcement by Mojang. Nothing bad has happened yet, but Microsoft is clearly starting to leverage its acquisition of Minecraft.
When Microsoft revealed that it's working on a version of Minecraft exclusive to its augmented reality headset HoloLens, it didn't inspire as much of a negative reaction because it seemed additive, and pretty damn cool.
Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta is also additive in that it will let people take the same version of Minecraft they're playing on their computer on the go with a mobile device, which also pretty damn cool, and a great selling point for Windows 10. On the other hand, players also imagine how it could potentially make Windows 10 the lead platform for the game, leaving the Java version in the dust.
So it's still a little early to cry about Microsoft ruining Minecraft, but is Microsoft trying to get some value out of the game? Absolutely. It paid $2.5 billion for it.