Mojang, the developer behind Minecraft, has made big changes to its policies on companies being able to promote their products using Minecraft. It could make a video like this, depicting a Verizon mobile phone, a thing of the past. In a blog post titled "let's talk about promotions in Minecraft", Mojang said it wants to continue to "empower [Minecraft's] community to make money from their creativity" but isn't happy when an "unrelated product becomes the purpose of a Minecraft mod or server". This is meant to curb some of this.
Specifically calling out ad agencies, corporations, non-profits and politicians, Mojang is clamping down on the fairly common practice of using Minecraft's aesthetic as a promotional tool. Here are two scenarios that are now banned:
- Build a Minecraft mod or server that promotes unrelated products in playable form; e.g., if you are a restaurant chain, you can't market your restaurant by releasing a mod that includes your restaurant built out of Minecraft blocks.
- Build a Minecraft map or mod that markets a movie or TV show; e.g., if you're a movie studio, you can't make a map that uses Minecraft blocks to build out the fictional world of the movie or its characters, and you can't make an official movie trailer out of gameplay footage from that map or mod.
And while fans are allowed to build whatever they want in Minecraft, even a virtual McDonalds, they cannot accept money from McDonalds in order to build it. They're only allowed to make money from monetising the video on YouTube.
The full set of guidelines are available here, but they would seem to ban videos like the one featured in the GIF above, in which popular Minecraft streamer CaptainSparklez worked with Verizon to build a working mobile phone in-game:
In the video's description, it mentions it's "sponsored by Verizon". Though it doesn't outright say money exchanged hands between CaptainSparklez and Verizon, it's likely. Given this video would seem to fall under Mojang's idea of "companies or organisations that are using Minecraft to sell their products or promote their causes", CaptainSparklez wouldn't be able to publish this video any more.
Mojang didn't respond to my request for comment or clarification on this.
Though the world might not miss a Minecraft mobile phone gimmick, there are a ton of creatives who make their living (or part of it) by using Minecraft as an art tool. Fans immediately started worrying about their favourite artists when Mojang published this tweet today, wondering if a source of income was disappearing.
— Clément Gillard (@tnemelclement) May 31, 2016
SethBling also published a Verizon-sponsored Minecraft mobile phone video.
Dragnoz is a well-known Minecraft creator, having frequently collaborated with BlockWorks, a group dedicated to building massive worlds within Minecraft.
One of those recent collaborations was visualising Disney's Tomorrowland film:
The video was "commissioned by Polaris on behalf of Disney".
Though Dragnoz declined to comment to me, he issued one public response:
"Thank you very much for everyone wishing me a peaceful rest," they said on Twitter. "I have no plans on dying just yet :P"
A number of bigger Minecraft creators, including Blockworks, have not yet publicly commented on the changes. Polaris, a subsidiary of the Disney-owned Maker Studios, didn't respond to my request for comment, as of this writing.
It's possible many folks are waiting to see what the fallout of these changes truly are. Right now, that's a little unclear, and that's making people nervous.