Minecraft Single Player New Update Will Update My Old Game Failed Brother of Minecraft: Scrolls

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Failed Brother of Minecraft: Scrolls

Mojang, the acclaimed studio 2.5 billion dollars by Microsoft in 2015, the studio responsible for the smash hit Minecraft, which was sent over 70 million copies is also responsible for another game. That game is Scrolls, a game Mojang is likely to forget.

Minecraft’s lost sibling, Scrolls couldn’t have had a more conventional start to life than its big brother. It was designed with a specific plan in mind, for a specific market, by a well-funded development studio, and with an already eager audience waiting for any chance to play it. Minecraft did not have all these advantages. So why was Scrolls such a failure?

Announced in early March 2011, Scrolls was described by the creative minds at Mojang as a mix of ‘collectible card games‘and’traditional board games‘, something they saw as lacking in the market. In early December 2014 it left the Beta development phase and was officially released. Then just six months later in 2015, Mojang announced defeat. They discovered that active development on the Scrolls would be discontinued and that they could not guarantee that servers would be up and running after July 2016.

So where did Mojang go wrong? On the surface, Scrolls had everything going for it, from a development studio literally flush with cash to a massive audience that was excited to try anything Mojang could produce. It should have been a surefire success. However, what we have seen is evidence that despite the support, no development project is a guaranteed success.

The development behind Scrolls was extended for a game of its size, not an overly ambitious project, it still spent four years in development or ‘beta’ before it was considered ready for release. The release itself probably gave a clue that the game wasn’t having a perfect start to life. The release date was suddenly announced by Mojang on December 10th, 2015. Leaving behind any build period, they chose to release it just one day later on the 11th. At the same time they lowered the price to only 5 dollars. Usually the price would go up, or at least stay the same with a move away from beta…

Then there’s the highly publicized lawsuit with Bethesda over the word Scrolls trademark. Of course, this is not necessarily a sign of poor development, but it again indicates problems with planning and development behind the scenes. It would certainly have been an unnecessary strain on the management team.

Ultimately though the issue that caused the failure for Scrolls is simple. They didn’t have enough players to support the game. As the post describing their decision to stop development says “the game has reached a point where it can no longer sustain continued developmentThis is a clear indication that their player base, along with any profits generated was not enough to justify the continued spending on the game.

The sudden decision to release the game reinforces this theory, as their hope would have been to generate interest in the game by announcing a move out of beta. But as can be seen from the announcement half a year later, it did not give the result they hoped for.

We don’t have any concrete figures on how Scrolls was selling, other than a post from developer Henrik Pettersson that it had shipped 100,000 copies on July 21, 2013. That’s during the game’s beta period, and we can only assume it grew with release. But is 100,000 copies enough to support what is essentially a multiplayer board/card game?

Assuming a very rough one week retention rate of 15%, based on the PC gaming figures from here. We would ask 15,000 players still playing the game after one week. After a few months, the numbers are described as a player retention rate of 3-5%. So we would optimistically watch 5000 players who have been playing Scrolls for more than a few months. Obviously this is a percentage taken from a game, very different from Scrolls and so the rates are likely to be very different. However, it does show how 100,000 copies doesn’t necessarily mean a healthy player base.

A multiplayer game requires enough players to make light matches around the clock, and at the time of writing the number of players online is moving around 25. This is no different than when they announced the cessation of development. The number of copies sold for Scrolls could have been considered a success for a single-player game, but ultimately for an online game like Scrolls the active number of players is more important. Unfortunately, this number was very low.

The lack of player retention and overall low player base can contribute to a few things, firstly, while Scrolls received mixed to fairly positive reviews from critics, it was plagued by balance issues and lack or otherwise in aspects that for many made him one less than pleasant experience. Released content patches like ‘Echoes’ were designed to some extent to fix this, but came too slowly or were absent on their own.

Second, a lack of clear communication from developers and head in moving the game forward. Minecraft being a very open game, a game that thrived with a single player mode and guided multiplayer, did not require developer leadership, it grew organically with players creating mods, creating servers and creating the adventure itself. However, Scrolls being a multiplayer and semi-competitive strategy game meant that the developers had to take a different approach, something they probably hadn’t experienced or expected.

Thirdly, he did not receive it extensive marketing wanted as a multiplayer strategy board game. Minecraft was a game that went viral, for a long time of game on YouTube and as a result Mojang never had to market it. Scrolls on the other hand didn’t get this marketing for free and Mojang wasn’t prepared for it. They didn’t anticipate that in order to maintain a constant supply of new players for an online game, you need to market it. Hearthstone, a very similar game from the much more experienced Blizzard is still heavily ad-marketed, something Scrolls has always lacked.

Finally Scrolls was one strategic game, a competitive game. Mojang probably expected the large Minecraft community to support Scrolls without marketing, but the communities largely disagreed. The initial success of Scrolls came from excited Minecraft players trying it out, but what they found was a very different kind of game. Scrolls needed a different audience, but Mojang didn’t ask for it.

Scrolls wasn’t necessarily a bad game, and has found a small but dedicated fanbase dedicated to keeping it alive. Maybe they will. Ultimately, though, what we’ve seen is a studio that doesn’t appreciate the full scope of what it takes to produce a successful multiplayer game. Maybe it would be the way to make it free to play…

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