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Mojang Testing a Minecraft ''Realms'' Subscription Service

Minecraft developer Mojang is looking to expand on its popular block-building sandbox sim by offering a stable, subscription-based service called Minecraft Realms. It will be focused on families instead of the core gamer, a place where parents and their kids can play without the hassles of setting up servers and loading special mods.

"Our customers [for Realms] are parents who are tired of trying to act as server administrators on behalf of their kids," said Mojang CEO Carl Manneh. "Minecraft Realms will be a simpler kind of service, aimed at families and kids. In the future we aim to offer certain profiles with mods that are certified to work without crashing, but this will still be a safe and easy way for kids and families to play Minecraft online."

Don't expect to see a Minecraft MMOG, at least not in the beginning, as Mojang plans to enclose each subscriber into their own little world. They will have full control over their personal realm, choosing who can or cannot visit. Anyone invited to join will need a copy of Minecraft and an obvious Internet connection.

"There has been a great demand for this service," Manneh said. "We have never tried to sell anything to our gamers except the game itself and a little merchandise, so it'll be very interesting to see if the community will be prepared to pay for a service like this."

It gets better. If the subscription service becomes popular, Mojang may consider building portals between the different user worlds. At that point, the game would definitely become an MMO, but with tools that would allow parents to prevent strangers from invading and building naughty things like boob mountains or huge phallic symbols. Still, a Minecraft universe would simply be awesome.

Pricing is still up in the air, although Mojang will likely gravitate to the $10 to $15 per month subscription fee. Although Minecraft PC has around 10 million paying customers and soon equally as many on mobile, the studio believes most of its revenue going forward will stem from Minecraft Realms, which has a potential to bring in current and new customers alike.

Just think about it: If 10 million gamers paid a one-time fee of $25 for a copy of Minecraft PC, how much money will Mojang rake in if they're paying $15 per month. Tons. "If we look ahead, I do think [Realms will] be the biggest source of income in the future, and to bring in more money in total than the game itself," Manneh added.

The good news is that none of this is a pipe dream: Minecraft Realms is now in private alpha mode and is expected to enter beta in May. Multiplay will serve as the Realm's host and will probably dedicate more than 100,000 servers. A version for Minecraft Pocket Edition is also in development and will likely go into beta along with the PC version. This mobile edition will be hosted by Amazon.

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