Minecraft Too Expensive? Notch Says “Just Pirate It”

Minecraft Piracy

Minecraft Piracy
[Header image courtesy of Zedig]

Markus “Notch” Persson, the creator of the huge hit Minecraft, is known to make jokes quite often, especially on his Twitter account. However, when he told a Twitter follower who said he couldn’t afford to purchase Minecraft, Notch seemed to be quite sincere in his suggesting of pirating the game. Is he mad? Perhaps not.

Given the amount of people trying to contact Notch through his Twitter account asking for help or asking questions, it’s unlikely that you will ever get through to him. Andres Leay, probably thinking the same thing, contacted Notch stating that he could not afford to buy Minecraft and wanted to know if he could get a free account before he resorts to piracy. Surprisingly, Notch actually got back to Andres and said to “Just pirate it.”

"Just Pirate It" Notch

The suggestion by Notch comes as a bit of a shock considering that recent statistics released by TorrentFreak have proven that game piracy for PC games especially is still very much a big problem. Many developers are missing out on a lot of revenue due to people preferring to pirate their game rather than purchase it.

Markus Notch

This is not the first time that Notch has stood in a controversial light when it comes to game piracy though. During the Game Developer’s Conference in March of last year, Notch famously argued that “piracy is not theft”.

“If you steal a car, the original is lost. If you copy a game, there are simply more of them in the world” Notch stated. “There is no such thing as a ‘lost sale’. Is a bad review a lost sale? What about a missed ship date?”

It seems those sentiments still live on inside the Minecraft creators mind as he now openly tells followers who cannot afford the game to pirate it just so they can play it. The views of Notch seem to be of the thinking that if you have a good game that someone cannot afford and therefore they cannot play it – that is a missed sale. However, if they then pirate the game and then, as Notch says, buy it in the future when they can afford it – then you have gained a sale. A person who has played the game will usually go on to spread the word about how good the game is and encourage friends to buy it too.

It’s for reasons such as this that the free-to-play model has been widely adopted in the last year or so by many games. Marketing in this day and age is dominated by word of mouth via the vibrant social networks – Twitter, Facebook etc. You need people to play the game so they will then use these channels to spread the word and effectively do the marketing for you, provided they like your game. Thinking in this way, Notch’s suggestion to pirate the game doesn’t seem so insane. Mind you, it’s not like he has to worry about sales considering that Minecraft has sold over 4 million copies since its launch last November.

There are 18 comments

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  1. Novack

    “…Many developers are missing out on a lot of revenue due to people preferring to pirate their game rather than purchase it…”

    A phrase like this coming from a mainstream studio would be just fine. Expected bullshit from the usual suspects.

    On the indie scene on the other hand, we have the luxury of thinking by ourselves. Independent thinking, as you may call it. And by exercising it, and doing a little bit of research from other independent thinkers, you’ll find that such statement is an absolutely unbased assuption.

  2. wisnoskij

    I was equally as surprised as Novak. Normally you see the “piracy is theft” in quotes (meaning someone crazy said this and we do not necessaries support this) and the more reasonable argument as the actual opinion of the article.

  3. GF

    That argument is quite reasonable until you have a game/program that has litte replay value. A pirate would never purchase that. Also on mobile devices people will not buy the game after they pirated it.

    For GLBasic.com, I took this idea to make the SDK totally free and only sell upgrades to all the mobile platforms and the 3D engine. I think it is a good strategy, because there’s absolutely no reason to pirate the SDK for private use anymore. However, once you start making money with mobile games, your conscience will urge to to buy the full version.

  4. wisnoskij

    “That argument is quite reasonable until you have a game/program that has litte replay value. A pirate would never purchase that. Also on mobile devices people will not buy the game after they pirated it.”

    Why specifically mobile devices?
    And I don’t buy that replay value has anything to do with it. Weather they replay it or not they already have a pirated version. If they actually plan to play the game again buying it only adds more work, while if they are buying it simply because they enjoyed the pirated version so much and want to pay for that (and own the game for collection purposes) then that makes a lot more sense for a motive to me.

  5. Chris Priestman

    Just to point out, IGM DOES NOT support piracy. However, personally, I do not think Notch is completely bonkers in his ideas, controversial as they are. I was merely trying to point out the significant shift in marketing trends and touch on the possibility of new thinking, albeit not as radical as Mr. Persson’s.

    Now, as to the quote you pointed out Novack, I was referring specifically to AAA developers but perhaps did not make that clear enough. I am merely reiterating what they claim, which is a missing revenue, however, I do know that it doesn’t really affect them a huge deal compared to their overall sales normally. Plus, there are indie game developers who HAVE had their games pirated a lot. Some reporting that of people playing their game some 95% had pirated it, or some figure close to that. That has affected these people a lot – that is a huge loss for these developers.

    @ GF – I totally agree with you, the news focuses on PC games, specifcally Minecraft as well – a game that is arguably infinitely replayable. The idea you have put into action is a very good one, I think, and is the kind of thing marketing tactic that I was trying to refer to, you’re discouraging piracy by making it pointless – Notch also did something similar with the free alpha version of the game, but the problem is you still need to make a purchase to get the full game so it doesn’t quite work. A few years ago though, these ideas would not have been in anyone’s head and they certainly wouldn’t have thought it would work.

  6. wisnoskij

    You seem to suggest that you believe in a more moderate middle ground but:
    “That has affected these people a lot – that is a huge loss for these developers.”
    is not a moderate middle ground.
    The only people I have seem complaining about that much pirating are developers that do not even offer game demos or any way to prove that the game will work on your computer without either paying for it or pirating it.

    Considering a pirated version of a game = a lost sale like Notch says is ridiculous in all situations. And while this is still controversial this idea is not just held by far left crazies. Entire countries legally allow their citizens to pirate different media.

  7. Ssdtipps

    Actually developers do loose money to pirates. Saying otherwise is extreme. The only question is how much. I am of the opinion that most pirates either would never bought the game, or will buy later. But most doesn’t mean all, and when there are over 1M illegal downloads of Skyrim, it is counter-factual to say they aren’t loosing any money.

    Indie developers are actually the hardest hit by this. The Humble Bundle is famous for making an early “pro-gamer” (as opposed to anti-pirate) stance. Despite that, and the low price tag, there were still more illegal downloads than sales of the games in the first Humble Bundle.

    I agree the big companies are essentially crying over a few leftover crumbs, and that they could do a lot to prevent piracy by being more open about their games. But when Indie developers who have demos, zero DRM, and occasionally even a flexible pricing sytem are having more games pirated than sold, you know that piracy isn’t just a way to test a game and see if you like it. It’s not even a way for the poor to have access to games that are simply overpriced. Piracy is 90% of these things together and 10% of self-entitled jerks who do not care that someone earns their living this way. Ignoring that is just more ammo for the SOPA crowd.

  8. Mike Gnade

    There are a few takeaways from this:
    1. Minecraft is arguably the most successful and profitable indie game of all time. Notch made more money than he ever dreamed on this game.
    2. Most indie developers are scraping by or never really make any money from their games. To steal and pirate off of these innovative developers is just wrong. Most indies don’t use any DRM and it’s a shame to penalize these devs by proliferating a pirated copy.
    3. AAA companies charge $60 for games and most indie devs charge $20 or less. Why pirate/steal from the little guy that’s struggling when you have big publishers making billions and not paying their developers bonuses (Activision)

  9. Griefed

    What a load of bollocks.

    Back up some of your assertions with numbers and state your methodology. Then I might listen to you.

    Until then, you and the developers crying over ‘piracy rates’ are blowing smoke.

  10. Alex Bokan


    I disagree, the statement is that they are missing out on a lot of revenue. Considering the amount of piracy that does occur, if even a fraction were to actually purchase the game instead of pirating it, revenues would naturally increase.

    The statement does not claim that every illegal download equals a sale or anything along those lines, but that PC revenues are lost to piracy. I don’t see that as a controversial claim.

  11. Novack

    @Alex, I understand that, the problem is that is only based on assumptions.

    The main assumption is that a lost sell, mean losses. Thats the first assumption, and thats also a nonsense. A nonsense carefully pushed to the level of truth by the big gatekeepers, so then they have an excuse to -time after time-, go for laws like SOPA.

    And the second assumtion, is that a given % of the unauthorized copies would have bought the software.

    So on one side, all there is, is assumptions lobbied by certain powerful people.

    On the other, reality.

    Reality, what shows? All what is *known*, about unathorized copies, is that they actually works pretty well as publicity.

    Also worth noticing, is that people is willing to pay what consider fair, when they have the opportunity to do so, as the Humble Bundle has proven. So there is actually a model for indies to live from their creations. The real background of this debate are houndreds of millons of dollars invested in lobby by the big players. This has nothing to do with Indies being starving. The real reason behind, is they fear internet, because the Net sets them out of the ecuation.

  12. Seer

    So, if i pirated the game and found it fun, i would recommend it to my friends. But that doesn’t mean i would tell them to buy the game, i would share them my pirated copy and play it together. The cost of Minecraft is actually pretty steep. If it were to be reduced, to about 10 USD, the player base would generally be greater and they would probably be making more money out of more copies sold.

  13. Cory Riesen

    LOL whatever it has sold 10million copies on pc alone! If you wanted it cheaper you should have been more hipster. He told people to pirate it before he had a website for people to download it. A majority of the first 1million were people who heard their friends pirated it, and then notch did a chain of special “updates” that made pirating a waste of time lol

  14. jack

    i know this is an old comment but

    personally i started to pirate games after they started to suck from around 2007

    i pirated all the FEAR games i played them all i loved them

    then i bought them all

    thats what i always do

    remember back in the day where every single game had a demo ?

    now they never make demos because we would know the game would suck and never buy it.

  15. Doctor Dhoosh

    26 Dollars for this? I like the game, but I don’t like it THAT much. In fact, I haven’t payed more than $20 for a game since I ditched the console. I’ll just wait until it goes on sale or something.

  16. afnakfnsn

    I’ve been pirating games since the era of Nintendo Famicom. I recently started using Steam and the convenience and good sales is what keeps me from pirating a game. I hope Minecraft will be added in Steam.

  17. Chris

    Or he could reduce the price of his game buy 50% and still be charging double what it is worth. Nothing about this game requires it to be 26.99 except that people like it. There are better games (by which I mean better in literally every way) for the same price or less (Or free).

    Of course he doesn’t care if you pirate it, he has already made a crap ton of money off a game that looks and feels like it was designed in the early 80s. I get the sandbox appeal, and the game concept is great, I just expect a lot more out of my games when they cost nearly 30 bucks. That is why I haven’t played past the demo, and won’t every purchase or pirate it.

    Let the flaming begin.

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