Last week I did my 2nd CodeClub session where we tried to use a Minecraft server in the class (see Setting up a CraftBukkit based Minecraft server on OSX (Nov 2013) )
And it was a painful experience.
There where a ton of technical probs and most (if not all of them) were caused by the fact that MineCraft is not open source and needs to have a 'call home' function to make sure the clients have a valid license (i.e. there is an authentication step when connecting to a Minecraft server which forces the clients to be online, and introduces a number of issues).
This got me thinking about the hidden costs of the 'Minecraft closed' world, and how much more of an impact it would have if it was open source (and freely available to more kids).
Some will say that Minecraft would had never happened (they way it did) if it was done on an open source model, but I'm not sure that I buy that argument.
I think Minecraft success had a lot more with its author's vision and execution capability, than with the fact that they were able to make some money in the beginning by selling they game.
What I think happened, was that by the time Minecraft started to take off, there were a lot more people involved that didn't want Minecraft to be open, and were much more confortable with the closed 'pay per use' model that we currently have (including the revenue streams it created).
Please note that I'm not saying that the Minecraft authors and programmers should NOT be paid for their work, OF COURSE THEY DO.
But I bet that if they could talk with their 'past self' they would realise that they are already making a lot more money than they though possible (and would be happily be happy with in the past). Which means that after a while, the issue is NOT about making 'enough money', but it is about making 'more money' (for them and all management involved).
Unfortunately what is great for Mojang (and its investors/directors) is not what is best to the rest of world, because I think that Minecraft could had make a massive difference in how kids learn about programming and learn about how computers work (at the moment they are learning about how to be a great player in a 'Digital version of Lego')
It would be great if all kids I know, could easily have access to Minecraft client and server, but unfortunately at the moment they don't (and in a way, by pushing/promoting Minecraft in CodeClub and the kids I'm teaching, I'm also acting like a Minecraft sales person (and putting pressure on the kids parents to buy that game))
What really hurts is the missed opportunity of really helping a generation to fall in love with programming (and these opportunities don't come around very often). Can you imagine if Progamming Minecraft was part of the official UK curriculum for kids?
We are also missing the opportunity to teach kids the value of sharing and open collaboration