Minecraft’s Failed Brother: Scrolls

Mojang, the study that was valued at $ 2.5 trillion by Microsoft in 2015, the studio responsible for the huge success of Minecraft, which has been shipped 70 million copies he is also responsible for another game. That game is Scrolls, one that Mojang would probably rather forget about.

Minecraft’s long-lost brother Scrolls couldn’t have had a more conventional start to life than his older brother. It was designed with a specific plan in mind, for a specific market, by a well-funded development studio and with an eager audience waiting for any opportunity to play it. Minecraft lacked all of these advantages. So why was Scrolls a failure?

Announced in early March 2011, Scrolls was described by Mojang’s creative minds as a mix of ‘trading card games‘and’traditional board games‘, something they felt was missing from the market. In early December 2014 it came out of the Beta development phase and was officially released. Then just six months later, in 2015, Mojang announced defeat. They revealed that the active development of Scrolls would cease, and that they could not guarantee that the servers would work after July 2016.

So where did Mojang go wrong? On the surface, Scrolls had everything going for him, from a development studio literally awash in money to a massive audience that was excited to try everything Mojang could produce. It should have been a sure hit. However, what we have seen is evidence that regardless of the endorsement, no development project is a guaranteed success.

The development behind Scrolls was spread out for a game of its size, not an overly ambitious project, it still spent four years in development or ‘beta’ before being deemed ready for release. The launch itself perhaps hinted that the game was not getting off to a perfect start. The release date was suddenly announced by Mojang on December 10, 2015. Before any period of preparation, they chose to release it just one day later, on the 11th. At the same time, they reduced the price to only $ 5 dollars. Usually the price would go up, or at least stay the same with a move out of beta …

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

Ultimately, however, the problem that caused Scrolls to fail is simple. They didn’t have enough players to sustain the game. As the post that describes their decision to stop development says “the game has reached a point where it can no longer sustain continuous development“This is a clear indication that their player base, along with the profits generated, was not enough. to justify continued spending on the game.

The sudden decision to release the game reinforces this theory, as his hope would have been to generate interest in the game by announcing a change outside of beta. But as the ad showed half a year later, it didn’t deliver the result they hoped for.

We don’t have concrete figures on how Scrolls was sold, other than a tweet from developer Henrik Pettersson that had shipped 100,000 copies on July 21, 2013. This is during the game’s beta period, and we can only assume it grew by 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 here. We would be looking 15,000 players are still playing after a week.. After several months, the figures are described as a retention rate of 3-5% from players. So optimistically, we would be looking 5,000 players playing Scrolls for more than a few months. Obviously this is a percentage that is taken from a game, very different from Scrolls and therefore the rates are likely to be very different. Still, it shows how 100,000 copies doesn’t necessarily mean a healthy player base.

A multiplayer game requires enough players to facilitate matchmaking throughout the day, and at the time of writing, the online player count is around 25. This is no different from 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 too low..

Lack of player retention and overall low player base can contribute to several things, first of all, while Scrolls received mixed to reasonably positive reviews from critics, was plagued with issues with balance, and was lacking or lacking aspects. that for many they turned it into a less than pleasant experience. Released content patches such as ‘Echoes’ were designed to some extent to address this issue, but were too slow or missing.

Second, a lack of clear communication from developers and leadership in moving the game forward. Minecraft, being a very open game, which thrived with a single player mode and a player-led multiplayer mode, did not require leadership from the developers, it grew organically with players creating mods, creating servers and creating adventures themselves. However, with Scrolls being a semi-competitive multiplayer strategy game, the developers had to take a different approach, something they may not have had experience with or expected.

Third, he did not receive the extensive marketing required it as a multiplayer strategy board game. Minecraft was a game that went viral, for a long time it was tea I play on YouTube and as a result Mojang never had to market it. On the other hand, Scrolls did not receive this free marketing and Mojang was not prepared for this. They didn’t anticipate that in order to maintain a steady supply of new players for an online game, you have to market it. Hearthstone, a very similar game from much more experienced Blizzard, is still heavily commercialized with ads, something that Scrolls always lacked.

Finally Scrolls was a strategy game, a competitive game. Mojang might have expected the larger Minecraft community to keep Scrolls marketing-free, but the communities largely disagreed. The initial success of Scrolls came from excited Minecraft players who tried it out, but what they found was a very different kind of game. The scrolls needed a different audience, but Mojang did not seek this audience.

Scrolls wasn’t necessarily a bad game, and it has found a small but devoted fanbase dedicated to keeping it alive. Maybe they will. In the end, though, what we’ve seen is a studio that doesn’t appreciate the full scope of what needs to be done to produce a successful multiplayer game. Maybe doing it for free would have been the way to go …

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