In an effort to broaden Minecraft's audience and draw in families and younger gamers, Mojang has announced a new initiative called Minecraft Realms. At its core, Realms is a monthly subscription service that gives players a private, tightly-controlled Minecraft server, providing "a safe and easy way" for children to enjoy the hugely-popular title. Pricing has yet to be finalized, but Games Industry International suggests it will fall somewhere between $10 and $15. For that fee, players will take ownership of their own Minecraft world with full control over who else may enter and build alongside them. Thankfully only one person needs to pay for a Realms account, so your friends and family members won't have to part with any cash to get started — all they'll need is a copy of the game and an internet connection.
"In the end I think this will get Minecraft new players, since there is a viral aspect of Realms," Mojang CEO Carl Manneh told Games Industry International. "Kids will probably invite friends who don't have Minecraft yet to play with them." Manneh says his company has seen "great demand" for this type of service, with parents rarely having time to play the role of server administrator for their kids. If Realms proves successful — and Mojang thinks it may eventually bring in more revenue than the core game — Manneh says the developer could install "portals" that let gamers jump between different worlds.
Minecraft's loyal community has already produced similar functionality (not to mention other stunning work) through mods, and Mojang seems intent on formalizing those efforts. For now, the service is in private alpha with a beta targeted for May. And don't forget: you'll eventually be able to wander through Minecraft worlds with the Oculus Rift.