Minecraft turns quick profit; Polytron questions MS policies [Updated]

Update: Polytron, following up on Mojang’s reporting of Minecraft figures based off of Xbox Live leaderboards, tapped Microsoft on the shoulder and questioned them as to whether or not the leaderboards are a legitimate gauge for sales numbers. As it turns out, just as the Fez developer had earlier alleged, they are not. “Hey so, Microsoft got back to us about sale[s] figures,” the studio tweeted. “Turns out the leaderboards ARE inaccurate!”

Quickly following that news was another statement by the dev elucidating that Microsoft showed no favoritism towards Mojang in terms of handing out sales data. But that doesn’t mean the studio believes the entire playing field is even. Earlier, Polytron expressed its discontent over Minecraft being granted the ability to receive free post-release content. Sticking to its guns, Polytron stated that favoritism was shown by the publisher in the way of “the free updates.”

Still, Poly, in a tweet directed at the media, called upon caps lock to underscore its belief that Microsoft’s actions were “NOT A SCANDAL.” It should also be noted that Polytron extended public congratulations to Markus Persson for having a successful launch on XBLA. Further details can be found in the primary story below.

Original Story: An hour was all it took. Within 60 minutes of Swedish developer Mojang’s XBLA port of its mega-popular PC world-building title Minecraft releasing yesterday, a profit had been turned. Studio owner Markus “Notch” Persson relayed the news over Twitter earlier today: “Well then. Saw the official sales numbers for the first 24 hours of Minecraft Xbox 360, and it’s very, very good. Profitable in an hour.”

After selling in excess of five million copies to date over on the PC, according to IGN, Minecraft managed to smash “all previous digital sales records” on the Xbox 360, Microsoft revealed in a statement that surfaced shortly after Persson’s tweet. Microsoft, who published the Arcade version of the game, said that no other release in the history of the platform had garnered as many sales as Mojang’s debut effort did in its first 24 hours of availability. The publisher declined, however, to identify just how many individual sales that record equated to.

Yet not everyone was silent on that matter. After having some public discussion over Microsoft’s policies regarding the divulging of precise sales numbers with Fez developer Polytron, Persson gave a ballpark figure. “It seems it sold over 400k copies in 24 [hours],” he tweeted. The creative brain behind Minecraft apparently had to rely on leaderboard participation in order to extrapolate that number, a method which he admitted “might be off.” If his calculations are correct, that would mean the port, developed in part by 4J Studios, has already brought in more than $8 million USD in revenue.

While Notch had to do a bit of homework on his own to reach that 400,000 number, his earlier seemingly innocuous mentioning of receiving sales data inadvertently caused a bit of controversy in regards to Microsoft’s sales reporting. As mentioned, Polytron struck up a conversation with Persson and was none too pleased to hear that Mojang possibly got preferential treatment from the big boys up in Redmond, Washington. How did you get those stats from MS?” Polytron inquired of Persson over Twitter. “We still dont [sic] know exactly how much Fez sold almost a month later. You get stats in 24 hours?”

In a tweet that came later, the studio that finally released Fez to critical acclaim last month after many years in development claimed that the wait for a comprehensive sales report from Microsoft typically lasts for months. “Standard [procedure] is: you find out how much you sold when you get your first check 3-4 months later,” Polytron claimed over Twitter.

Persson expressed surprise and sympathy in response to his fellow developer’s impression that Mojang was getting the first-class treatment from the publisher that it so coveted: “What? Really? I thought it was standard procedure! That sucks.”

Not done yet, Polytron tweeted at Notch once more about another perceived XBLA injustice. “You’re also getting free updates,” the developer complained, “which is something every other developer on the platform is told is simply not an option.”

The Mojang boss then replied that permission to release free updates on Xbox Live Arcade was not easily granted, and was ultimately only done with a stipulation: the developer can only release a certain amount of them. “We had to fight for that,” Persson replied, “and we got a limited number of them. Not sure why they don’t like it.” Fair points, to be sure. Still, Mojang is getting them while its competition isn’t. As a result, true or not, a perception has been created that Mojang’s wants are being catered to while other developers are being told its Microsoft’s way or the highway.

It’s far from the first time that Microsoft has come under fire for not allowing developers to distribute free content add-ons for Xbox titles. Valve’s Gabe Newell famously blasted the console holder over the matter back in 2010, calling Xbox Live “a train wreck.” At the time he identified his own assumption that Microsoft would eventually allow its development partners as many free updates as they wanted on the platform as a failure. Of course, Newell was referring to disc-based 360 releases, which are allowed a limited number of free updates — a number that fluctuates depending on the game and developer — but his point still stands.

An XBLA Fans request to Polytron for clarification on the matters of Microsoft’s sales reporting, free title updates and the developer’s apparent feeling of being slighted by the publisher have gone unanswered as of publication time.

About Nick Santangelo

Nick has been a gamer since the 8-bit days and has been reporting on the games industry since 2011. He is not to be interrupted while questing his way through an RPG or desperately clinging to hope against all reason that his Philly sports teams will win any given game he may be watching. Find Nick Santangelo on Google+ and Twitter.