It's hard to imagine an indie game being more successful than "Minecraft." Self-published, the game has brought in millions for its creator, Markus "Notch" Persson, and the company he founded, Mojang Specifications. It arrived during a time when people were questioning whether PC gaming had a future and did a good job showing just how bright that future would be. Considering its enormous success, you would think that "Minecraft" would head to the same place other successful indie games have gone: Steam. Valve's digital distribution service seems like it'd make a perfect home for the title, but so far "Minecraft" has remained solely on the game's official site. "Notch" explained why in a recent blog post.
He started by saying that he's a big fan of the service. "Steam is the best digital distribution platform I've ever seen," he wrote. "I've spent incredible amounts of money on it, and I own a crazy amount of games on it. It runs great, offers great services like that shift+tab stuff, and it remembers my credit card details so there’s no barrier for me when I want to buy a game." He did admit, however, that he has some qualms with the way the offline mode and DLC works.
But the big reason that "Minecraft" hasn't arrived on Steam are its strict limitations regarding in-game purchases. "We (probably?) wouldn't be able to, say, sell capes or have a map market place on minecraft.net that works with steam customers in a way that keeps Valve happy. It would effectively split the Minecraft community into two parts, where only some of the players can access all of the weird content we want to add to the game."
Valve is very strict about its policies regarding what publishers are able to sell within their games. "Dragon Age 2," for example, was recently removed from Steam because it included an in-game DLC store which circumvented Steam all together. It seems "Notch" is concerned that the same fate would befall "Minecraft."
Personally I wouldn't mind a Steam-specific version of "Minecraft." I don't generally play very much multiplayer in the game, and would appreciate the addition of permanent achievements. Hey, maybe we could even have a non-Java version? Man, I hate Java.