Minecraft cracks down on in-game paid advertising

Changes to Minecraft's Commercial Usage Guidelines that primarily impact “advertising agencies and corporations” are not the sort of thing that we normally worry about around here. But Mojang's Owen Hill, who's formerly of this parish, said in a blog post today that it's enough of a “hot topic” to bring to wider attention, to let people know that the changes “won’t affect the usual server and video monetization.” 

“The number of Minecraft players has grown massively over the past few years. In fact, it’s now so big that Minecraft has become a viable place for companies to advertise unrelated products or for organizations to promote their causes,” Hill wrote. “We want to empower our community to make money from their creativity, but we’re not happy when the selling of an unrelated product becomes the purpose of a Minecraft mod or server.” 

The full, very dry Commercial Usage Guidelines are available here, but the short version is that ad agencies, corporations, non-profit groups, and politicians are not allowed to create Minecraft content that promotes their product or service. “If you are a restaurant chain, you can’t market your restaurant by releasing a mod that includes your restaurant built out of Minecraft blocks,” Hill explained. “If you’re a movie studio, you can’t make a map that uses Minecraft blocks to build out the fictional world of the movie or its characters, and you can’t make an official movie trailer out of gameplay footage from that map or mod.” 

Fans of these things “are still free to build things in Minecraft that represent or celebrate” them, however, and this is where the policy might get a little hazy. The new rules state that you may “build products or movie environments that you are a fan of into a Minecraft mod/map/server so long as you have not been asked to do so by the entity who makes the product or by someone they have hired to promote their brand or products; likewise, you can express your support for a political candidate in a map/mod/server, but not if you have been hired to promote them.” 

But If a sponsored YouTuber, for instance, starts promoting one of his sponsor's products on a Minecraft server, is he doing so as a fan, or a paid employee? I don't know how likely it is to happen, and I would guess that even the appearance of impropriety will be enough to trigger consequences. But as the saying goes, if something can go wrong, it will. 

Mojang appears to be hoping to cover that sort of eventuality with a catch-all clause at the end of the guidelines. “If something isn't covered by these Guidelines that probably means we don't want you to do it,” it says. “In any case if it isn't covered please don't do it without getting permission from us.”

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.