Mojang Winding Up Scrolls

When Minecraft made a squillion dollars, rather than plough into a sequel, developers Mojang Specifications realised they could fund making whatever games they jolly well pleased. Scrolls [official site] was their first whim, a battling collectible card game. And, since Microsoft bought Mojang, it might be one of their last too.

The most recent Scrolls content update ‘Echoes’ will be its very last, Mojang have announced, and it sounds like the servers will shut down eventually, though not for a while: they’ll keep going until July 1st, 2016, at the very least. The game only officially launched out of beta in December 2014.

Mojang explained in last night’s announcement:

“The launch of the Scrolls beta was a great success. Tens of thousands of players battled daily, and many of them remain active today. Unfortunately, the game has reached a point where it can no longer sustain continuous development.”

Mojang say they’ll continue to keep an eye on balance, but June’s Echoes update will be the final blast of content. As for the servers, Mojang say they’ll keep them running until July 1st at the earliest, and “All future proceeds will go towards keeping Scrolls playable for as long as possible.”

One can’t help but wonder how much this decision is influenced by Mojang’s new owners, Microsoft. Scrolls servers could probably be paid for indefinitely with a couple nanoseconds of Minecraft profits, though watching your game slowly wither can’t be the most fun. Either way, continuing to run it for a while year is better than the month or two most closing games tend to give.

It’s pretty clear that Microsoft’s interest in Mojang was the rights to Minecraft, and the studio’s founders left soon after the acquisition. Mojang’s only other ongoing project is Cobalt in collaboration with Oxeye Game Studio; I wonder how much of Mojang will remain after that.

55 Comments

  1. Artist says:

    …And so it began..!

  2. mukuste says:

    I think the biggest problem with this game was that it didn’t go free to play. You just can’t maintain a meaningful population for very long with the up-front paywall in this genre, especially given that Hearthstone exists.

    • Cross says:

      If an up-front paywall means less grinding for the actual content you want, i think a paid card battler stands a fine chance.

      • mukuste says:

        That may be your opinion, but this game shutting down so early seems to show pretty clearly that it didn’t really work out for them.

        • d32 says:

          .. and this may be your opinion ;)
          Anyway, Scrolls provided something Heartstone didn’t: single player. That’s why I could enjoy the former and not the latter. But singleplayer and always online just don’t go well together.

          • mukuste says:

            It shutting down isn’t just, like, my opinion, man.

          • mukuste says:

            And Hearthstone does have solo adventures, Curse of Naxxramas being the first one. There’s a second one now, I hear.

          • Silvarin says:

            It is shutting down and it is not free to play. Those are facts. How these facts relate to each other, is up for discussion. Any conclusion you draw from this is opinion, when not supported by data.

    • trashmyego says:

      The major failing of Scrolls wasn’t a paywall, but a complete lack of publicity and advertisement. The game was forced into release directly following the buyout without a word, an Android release was done just as silently and the iOS version scrapped without mention. This game was thrown away the moment Microsoft bought Mojang. The whole intention of the project was to provide a long form development without any rush, riding the profits of Minecraft. And it was working, the amount of content within the game was amazing for something forced into an early release. The paywall was also intention, Scrolls has a game economy that is actually kind to its players. They never sought to monetize a player’s time with scant rewards like the shithole that’s HS.

    • SaintAn says:

      I’d much rather have a card game that costs money than a F2P scam like Hearthstone and all the other F2P games. But this game is also a scam since it costs money for packs.
      My old PS2 version of Yu-gi-oh seems to be my only option for a good card game that isn’t a scam.

  3. rustybroomhandle says:

    Sadly, the opening paragraph sums it up. Mojang will never again be the company it set out to be (and could still have been). The only projects that will thrive there now are ones that are profitable and “add value” to Microsoft shareholders. So, Minecraft.

    • GallonOfAlan says:

      And I wonder how long it will be before even the mighty Minecraft starts to wane. I think it has started already.

      • Niko says:

        Don’t underestimate how popular it with kids.

        • aepervius says:

          Or with some adult. One of my favorite stuff in minecraft is to use industrial & magic mods, and then build long way of automated stuff which interract with each other in such a way that you start with raw materials and end up with crated up complicated goods.

        • pullthewires says:

          Kids are fickle, or more accurately to my mind, kids grow up and change and the next generation will have its own cultural touchstones, which often kick against those of previous generations seemingly just to assert themselves. Minecraft is and will remain popular for years to come, but is unlikely to recapture the zenith it achieved some point over the last year or two.

    • skyturnedred says:

      Most likely there will be games based on the Minecraft franchise, like Minecraft Karting or something (just an example). They paid more for the name than the actual game.

    • Matfink says:

      I reckon Minecraft carries their hopes of getting HoloLens widely adopted.

      • rustybroomhandle says:

        *THUD*

        Wahwassat? Oh… it’s just the sound of that plan falling flat and crushing the remains of Kinekt at the same time.

      • GallonOfAlan says:

        Ah yes, Hololens*

        *contains absolutely nothing to do with holography.

    • horsemedic says:

      I adored Scrolls and do not adore Microsoft, but this seems unfair. Last time I logged into Scrolls, after launch, it had players in the low triple digits. I don’t know why, but it never caught on and the news of its demise—while sad—doesn’t surprise me at all.

  4. JustAPigeon says:

    I always hated the “card” design of this game. Who wants to play a game with too-long scraps of tatty paper? Card games hold some kind of tactile aesthetic, even digital ones too somehow, traditional playing cards and hence TCG cards are just the right size to make playing with them nice. I don’t know why.

  5. kizu says:

    The main problem why Scrolls is in position it is now is mostly how Mojang went with its marketing. Or, you could say, there was no marketing at all. No ads (except for the facebook ads as I heard, but had not seen those, and that Humble Bundle), no press covering (I wonder if they had sent press releases on all the stuff? Is that why there was no Wot I Think at RPS, for example?) and so on. So, without just any marketing they just didn’t get enough new people.

    The saddest thing that the game itself is great and the latest Echoes update and patches made the game to be in its best form.

    • BurningPet says:

      Yeah, i saw this theory surfacing lately.

      And please,, Notch has 2.2M followers on twitter. Mojang has additional 1.1M on twitter. They got 11M likes on their facebook page. 3.8 millions more on their official forums. Their minecraft webpage see a monthly traffic of 47 millions unique visitors (!). all of them have repeatedly promoted Scrolls.

      10M people have downloaded Minecraft on android and seen that Scrolls is another game made by Mojang.

      EVERY pc/mobile magazine/blog has written about Scrolls, most more than one time.

      Most popular youtubers have played scrolls at least one time.

      So, No, Marketing was definitely not their problem.

      • horsemedic says:

        Lots of social media followers ≠ marketing campaign. Scrolls didn’t have one. I don’t know if one would have made a difference, but to argue otherwise because Notch has lots of twitter followers isn’t impressive.

        • BurningPet says:

          Yeah, you are right. having followers isn’t a marketing campaign. talking to your followers, however, is definitely a marketing campaign.

          A marketing campaign is essentially getting exposure of your product to your target audience.
          An advertising campaign is essentially a marketing tool of paying money to get that exposure.
          Social media is (in business sense) essentially a company tool to communicate with its audience.

          Sending a Newsletter, Twitting, Posting on facebook, Sticking a banner on your website, etc = Marketing campaign.

          Ad campaigns are the least effective of the marketing tools. Think of organic Social media as a preacher shouting stuff on a podium to an invited audience. Think of Ads as paying another preacher to shout stuff to random people that walk a certain street you think your audience might walk through.

          To reach the level of exposure Scrolls got from all of their Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, Webpage traffic, Forums, Reddit, Youtubers coverage, Media coverage etc., they would have had to pay sums in the millions, possibly dozen of millions, but only with far lower conversion rates.

          Scrolls did have a marketing campaign, just not in the form of paid ads (although i am pretty sure they also had some of those), which is only but one tool the marketing team has.

          So what’s impressive is to actually suggest that an Ad campaign would have made any difference.

          • kizu says:

            Did you follow the social media around the Scrolls, or are you just speculating based on the numbers for Mojang’s social media accounts? When did you last heard of Scrolls there? How often did Notch and Mojang accounts mention Scrolls after its release?

            There is a great screenshot summing it up: link to imgur.com (taken from the Scrolls Reddit: link to reddit.com).

            Yes, social media can be a substitute for the marketing. If only they were used for this. The fact is: Mojang didn’t do anything other than mentioning Scrolls here and there casually to promote it. And no, Scrolls didn’t get any exposure close to its release and post-release events. Yes, during beta there was a lot of hype, but come on. We’re talking about the actual released game with an actual post-release expansion. How many medias did cover the release and the update?

          • BurningPet says:

            Are you trying to imply Scrolls didn’t get exposure in Mojang social media? on Youtube? on the gaming Media?

            Have you done the research, or are you simply relying on anecdotal evidence from reddit?

            The exposure Scrolls had received could have satisfied most games, including some AAA titles. Simply put: The game didn’t fail because of lack of marketing.

          • horsemedic says:

            The Scrolls Social Media Campaign:

            link to twitter.com < three dozen tweets in two years from notch—mostly about the copyright dispute or to tell people that he doesn't work on Scrolls

            link to twitter.com < and the official Mojang twitter account weighing in with a whopping 5 tweets

      • trashmyego says:

        That’s still avoiding general knowledge for many casuals and gamers at the end of the day. They had no active presence with publicity at any point throughout development. Being written about once or twice by publications is nothing for a game that was being regularly updated and expanded, they’re disjointed things most readers will overlook because of a lack of context. And the overlap isn’t exactly that strong between Minecraft players and those who’d be interested in Scrolls. The game never appearing on Steam or GOG was a huge set back, but then the game wasn’t even set to release anytime soon before Microsoft bought them out. Then it was forced. The Android release was done without peep shortly after. No attempt was made to garner interest if they didn’t bite with the initial alpha/beta releases and with any game in open development you have to keep regularly reminding people that the game exists and that it’s becoming something. So, yes, this is a failing of publicity tied with the fact that MIcrosoft tossed the game aside the moment they took over.

  6. GallonOfAlan says:

    Well, I’m basing my comment on the fact that I have a 12-year-old and an 8-year-old who with their entire set of friends spent two years doing nothing but playing MC and watching MC videos. I don’t think any of this extended group of kids play it any more though. Visible development seems to have stalled under the wing of Microsoft so I just wonder if the kids coming up in the next 5 years warranted MS spending a billionty dollars on it.

    • Baines says:

      Hadn’t people been complaining about development slowing or even stalling out even before Microsoft became involved?

      • aepervius says:

        It has become so much worst that it has become a running joke.

        • GallonOfAlan says:

          You’d hope that they’re rewriting it in C++ or something, or integrating proper mod support.

          • Artist says:

            So, somehow you heard about C++ and tried to say something smart. It failed miserably…

          • GallonOfAlan says:

            Did my first development in C++ in the mid 90’s. Somehow you thought you’d have a little snipe and ended up looking like a cunt.

          • Distec says:

            /polite clapping

  7. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    It’s a shame, as I think Scrolls has been slowly but steadily becoming a better game.

    It’s at this point a more fair (and probably cheaper) proposition than most, since the microtransactions within the game aren’t necessary at all. To balance that out there’s a (rather small) cost to acquiing the game, but hey, there’s a demo version for people to try it first.

    What may have done them in is trying to sort of follow the same process as Minecraft with ‘early access’. When I purchased the game in early beta, it was not worth the price (then 15 euros). And given the small development team, the game improved very, very slowly.

    It is, of course, wholly possible that there are not enough people who find this type of gameplay enjoyable.. but I find that unlikely. What I do think may have turned people off is that it doesn’t feel like a ccg but more like a tactical turn-based game with card game mechanics. And that most people who looked at Scrolls either were interested in Mojang or a ccg.

  8. Haggard4Life says:

    They recently said they wanted to release a mobile version this year. I guess that’s not happening now.

  9. Suopis says:

    It is a shame. I really loved this game. Played for months during beta. It has a great tactical feel and the art style is really neat.
    I stopped playing since I could not input the time needed to accumulate enough gold and to trade with players for scrolls I wanted. Especially when there were no auction house to automate this process.

    Logical step from my point of view would be to go free to play. It would increase the player base and who knows maybe it would survive longer than a year that way.

    Also add hats. Hats always solve everything…

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Then you must have stopped playing quite a while ago. An auction house-type system has been in the game for quite some time now, and gold and scrolls have become much easier to acquire.

      That’s not to say I didn’t stop playing over the same issues, I simply tried it again at a later date.

  10. ts061282 says:

    Really pales in comparison to HS. In particular, the arbitrary 3/5 pillars scenario. Who cares about a pillar?

    • horsemedic says:

      I don’t know, I never cared about HS’s cereal box cartoons enough to make the game any more enjoyable. The 3/5 pillar mechanic made every Scrolls match a rolling tactical battle, and much more interesting to me than HS’s derivative mechanics.

  11. Kefren says:

    This is why I won’t pay for any game that has built-in online requirements. Wouldn’t it make more sense to at least remove that at the end, and sell it as a standalone game on GOG and Steam? I remember some other online game a year or so ago, with “cardboard” standup counters. It was good fun (the part you could play for free). I told the devs if it was available as an offline standalone I’d buy it in an instant. As it was they never got any money from me and I’ve moved on.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Dez says:

    Maybe they’re ramping down development on Scrolls so they can work on next sequel instead? I’ve been waiting on Elder Scrolls VII for a while now!

  13. MrNash says:

    Not at all surprised. Mojang will be a Minecraft factory until the end of its days under Microsoft.

  14. LCinn says:

    I quite liked the game, but it somehow didn’t really work for me as a f2p ccg. I play games like Magic and Hearthstone to relax and have some quick fun. Scrolls always felt a bit too slow and involved for a quick play.

  15. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    Given the money already sunk into the game by players, it seems the ethical thing to do would be to open source it so that servers could continue to run.

  16. aliksy says:

    Not surprised. Wish they hadn’t sold to Microsoft.

  17. Easy says:

    A low down dirty shame. I love the game, though I admit I do not play enough of it and am thus 1/100000 responsible for its demise. I love it more than any of the CCG around, and I have tried pretty much all of the current gen ones in early access. Shame ,shame, shame.