Microsoft has declared that beginning in 2021, you’ll have to create a Microsoft account in order to play the game. Up until now, players with a Mojang account created through Minecraft: Java Edition were tied to a different authentication system than Minecraft: Bedrock Edition, which is what you get if you buy Minecraft through Windows 10 or play it on a console.
Microsoft’s public justification for this move is that it will improve the Minecraft experience for everyone. With this shift, Microsoft will finally implement two-factor authentication and offer improved parental controls. Players will also have the option to block others in chat or to ignore invitations from certain people.
This Has Nothing to Do With Safety
Security improvements and anti-harassment tools are always welcome, particularly two-factor authentication. That said, there is no reason why these changes had to be implemented via a mandatory Microsoft account. Players have been asking for things like two-factor authentication for years via tools like Google Authenticator, especially after Microsoft added the ability to spend real money in the Minecraft Marketplace.
There is a genuine improvement that Microsoft could offer Java Edition customers in exchange for compelling them to switch, but Microsoft explicitly isn’t offering it. According to the Minecraft Java Account Mitigation FAQ, “Java Edition will still only allow you to play with other players who have Java Edition.” Microsoft even admits that this is strictly an account front-end change in the FAQ, when it states: “There will be no changes to Java Edition besides the account move and the new security features. Java Edition will still be available, supported, and updated just as before!”
The good news is, PvP and modding in the Java Edition will remain completely unchanged. The bad news is, Microsoft has so little to offer, the company attempted to pre-empt the problem by hanging a lantern off it.
Spoiler: Your reward for doing this (in-game, at least) is a… free cape. Microsoft has not revealed if players will have any input into the design of their cape, or if literally every single player will receive the exact same model.
Minecraft Java players who migrate may be forced to choose new usernames if your old name is already taken or if it violates Microsoft’s naming policies. You will be able to retain your Minecraft Java name for in-game use.
Microsoft is likely making this move for several reasons. First, running one centralized login system is probably simpler than running two of them. Second, Minecraft’s player base skews young. As Chromebooks become a larger part of the educational curriculum, Microsoft can no longer count on the idea that people will just “encounter” the Microsoft ecosystem. Satya Nadella has made it clear that Windows is a secondary priority at Microsoft compared with growing Azure and that means growing the number of backend services that can run on it.
Now that Microsoft has bought Bethesda, I’d bet $1 it’ll only be a matter of time before the same thing happens again. Bethesda is another company with a devoted fanbase courtesy of series like Fallout and The Elder Scrolls. Integrating players into the Xbox ecosystem is a way of creating brand stickiness. If you’re used to logging in with your Microsoft account (the theory goes), you won’t think much of signing up for other products and services that use it.
People aren’t going to like this shift, but there’s no choice short of cracking the game. Microsoft’s FAQs are very clear. If you don’t switch to a new account, you will no longer be able to play Minecraft at some point in early 2021.