Mojang announced a new version of Minecraft at Minecon this weekend, the Windows 10 edition. It was a weird announcement, although seeing as Microsoft bought Mojang last fall it makes a certain kind of sense. Back when it was rumor rather than a confirmed event I speculated that, merchandising and non-game franchise rights aside, Minecraft 2 seemed the logical next step, but instead we’re getting the same game trimmed down with no mod support and an eight-person limit on multiplayer. Win 10 Minecraft will be in beta for an unspecified period of time, and part of the plan is to work around those limitations, but it seems a long way to go when the current version of the game will work perfectly fine on Windows 10 already.
The confusing thing about this announcement is — why? What’s the point? I’ve already got a version of Minecraft that will run just fine on Windows 10 and it’s called Minecraft. The new engine is faster than the old one, sure, but the losses far outweigh the gains. Oh boy! I can beta-test a game that doesn’t do as much as the one that already runs fine while allowing mods to enhance its playability with as many friends as can fit on a server! But someday it might maybe do all these things, so um… Maybe later?
No, this is not a particularly good idea unless there’s more going on under the surface than is apparent. The bits that aren’t being downgraded are just treading water, maintaining parity with something that already exists in a form that works. Minecraft Windows 10 Edition is a simple duplication of effort with no real advantage to the user-base that’s been explained in any way other than “Isn’t this neat?” Yes, it supports controllers and touch-screens. That’s nice, I guess, and some people do prefer this kind of game with a gamepad. There are even a few features in Pocket Edition that haven’t made it to the standard version yet, although not to the point that the losses are offset.
Porting Minecraft to a new engine isn’t a bad idea at all. Java was always a bit feature-limited, but it was also where the game started when it was just an idea Markus Persson was hammering into shape, using the engine he was familiar with. The time to consider engine migration was a couple years ago, though, rather than today, and not tying it to a specific platform while dividing the userbase between those on one version instead of the other. It’s free to everyone who owns PC Minecraft, but do you really need to have two versions of the same game hanging around the hard drive? Windows 10 Minecraft is an idea a few years late, with limited functionality compared to the Java version and an indefinite wait to know if (Not when. That would be a different, more upbeat article) its losses can be restored. The way to split the Minecraft community would have been with Minecraft 2, but remaking the same thing in a lesser version on a restricted platform? That’s not the future Minecraft needs at all.