Mojang have announced a new Minecraft subscription service, the Marketplace Pass, which grants access to a catalogue of “150+” community-created Minecraft thingy-ma-bobs. Skins, adventure worlds, survival spawns, mashups, bizarre textures – with a Marketplace Pass, the wider monetisable universe of Minecraft is your (rented) oyster, except that this being Minecraft, the oyster looks like a weird underwater trapdoor. Here’s a trailer.

Minecraft x Marketplace Pass

The new Pass is only available for Minecraft: Bedrock Edition, however, not the Java game, as per Minecraft’s usual church-and-state division between the older versions beloved of modders and the multiplatform editions devised under Microsoft’s reign. If you prefer to play Minecraft with friends, you can take out one of Minecraft’s existing Realms Plus subscriptions, which nets you everything in the Marketplace Pass plus a personal multiplayer server with space for 10 users.

Going by the announcement post, current Marketplace Pass offerings include Spark Universe’s Furniture: Modern 2, which harbours more flashy armchairs than I ever dreamed possible, and 4KS Studios’ Hacker Tools, a secret base full of overpowered weapons.

As with subscriptions at large, you’re only procuring temporary access to all these things – once the catalog refreshes, and once your subscription ends, you’ll need to buy any removed worlds, texture packs, skin packs, or mash-up packs individually if you want to keep playing with them, though the packs themselves won’t be automatically deleted from local storage. Each monthly catalogue refresh does, however, include some time-limited character creator items, which are yours to keep forever once redeemed – this month’s options include a swanky pair of boots, a leotard and a crown. If you end your Marketplace Pass subscription, you’ll have 18 months to download any world templates you’ve saved to cloud storage.

A Marketplace Pass costs $3.99 a month. Given that Minecraft is a game in which you can more or less build anything you want, and given that there are over a decade’s worth of mods and other add-ons freely available for the Java edition, I would probably not take them up on that. But I am an older block-hopper who still forgets that Minecraft today encompasses a sprawling industry of professional creatives who earn actual incomes by selling texture packs that, for example, make Minecraft look like Dune or the interior of a goat. If you’re on Bedrock and you buy a lot of packs, $4 is not a huge ask, though the unanswered question here is how much Microsoft are paying the creators of the packs they’re bundling up for cheap.

The news comes at a precarious time for the subscription biz in general. An Ubisoft executive recently observed that players don’t feel “comfortable” with game subscription services, while Larian’s CEO is of the opinion that a wholly subscription-driven games industry would be “savage”, because it would give platform holders far too much control over what gets made. Microsoft’s Game Pass is perhaps the best-known and most popular subscription service, but there are signs that its growth is slowing, partly because there are only so many Xbox consoles in the wild.

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