​Tired of Minecraft? New Marketplace livens up game options

Video Games

by Stephen Shankland April 10, 2017 6:39 AM PDT @stshank

Every now and again Microsoft adds new ways to freshen up its massively popular game Minecraft, like the ability to reskin your character with a Power Ranger look. But the number and variety of modifications is about to dramatically increase.

That's because Microsoft on Monday announced the Minecraft Marketplace, which will let nine high-end Minecraft shops sell their customizations to tens of millions of Minecraft players when it launches later this spring. The result will be an easy way to buy and install new adventures, worlds, quests and skins that are more of a departure from what Microsoft has offered.

For example, players will be able to explore the floating amusement park islands of Blockworks' Skyfair map, complete with a giant creepy clown head, or take part in QwertyuiopThePie's interactive two-spaceship duel.

"We want to provide a stage where these creators can show off their content to the broader community -- and an opportunity for these creators to make a living," said John Thornton, executive producer of Minecraft Realms. The new options should help keep the Minecraft flywheel spinning, he said, with the new choices keeping players engaged, customers buying, and creators actively building even more tweaks.

If you're a player, that's great. If you're a parent worried about how much time your kid already spends in Minecraft -- uh-oh.

Microsoft has been refashioning the mobile and Windows 10 versions of Minecraft to make customization easier. That's what lets players use the Minecraft Marketplace to pick a new skin, map or texture pack, buy it with the new Minecraft Coins virtual currency, then download and enable it.

The game's adaptability has been a big selling point -- especially since Minecraft can be rebuilt into any number of learning tools. Indeed, until now, making custom minecraft worlds for museums is the main way Blockworks' group of 60 experts made money. Now they expect the Minecraft Marketplace to become the company's cash cow, said James Delaney, Blockworks' founder and managing director.

"Hopefully this will be our main operation," Delaney said.

Minecraft offers distinctively blocky virtual worlds players explore, mining resources to build equipment and weaponry to better survive nightly attacks of monsters called mobs.

It also offers a creative mode better for flights of fancy without any worries about fending off hostile mobs like creepers, elder guardians, ghasts and wither skeletons. The infinite resources of creative mode make it possible for dedicated players to create elaborate constructions like a Minecraft reproduction of Wintergatan's marble machine music.

Most Minecraft customization so far has taken place with the Java-based version that runs on Windows and Mac personal computers. But the Marketplace is available only with the more widely used Minecraft Pocket Edition for phones and tablets powered by Google's Android or Apple's iOS software. That "Bedrock" version -- also the foundation of the Windows 10-specific version of Minecraft -- has been less adaptable.

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