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Is Minecraft Mobile Ever Free? A History and Full Analysis

Minecraft has cemented itself as one of the most influential and beloved video games of all time. Since its release in 2011, the sandbox adventure game has made its way from PCs to consoles, virtual reality devices, and even our smartphones and tablets. This has left many gaming enthusiasts wondering – is there a way to download and play Minecraft mobile for free? Or does Mojang require you to make a purchase?

This comprehensive guide will trace Minecraft‘s pricing journey on mobile platforms. We‘ll analyze whether there have ever been free options, why Minecraft isn‘t free permanently, and what alternatives you can try if unable or unwilling to buy the Pocket Edition.

The Rise of Minecraft: A Brief History

Let‘s first understand how Minecraft was developed for mobile devices and evolved into the phenomenon it is today:

  • 2009 – The original Minecraft is released for PC. It quickly gains traction for its open sandbox gameplay.

  • August 2011 – Minecraft Pocket Edition debuts exclusively on Xperia Play for $6.99, selling over 1 million copies.

  • November 2011 – Minecraft mobile released on iOS App Store for $6.99.

  • October 2012 – Minecraft PC sells over 10 million copies.

  • July 2013 – Minecraft Pocket Edition comes to Google Play Store for $6.99.

  • 2014 – Pocket Edition userbase grows to over 21 million players.

  • 2017 – Minecraft mobile downloads exceed 50 million worldwide. Total sales across all platforms top 122 million.

  • 2022 – Minecraft enjoys over 140 million monthly active users with over 238 million copies sold globally.

Minecraft‘s availability on smartphones and tablets has played a key role in its unparalleled popularity. Pocket Edition has driven over 57% of Minecraft‘s lifetime sales.

Was Minecraft Mobile Ever Free?

When released in 2011 for $6.99, Minecraft mobile was only available as a paid version. But over the years, Mojang did experiment with free trials and demos:

  • Minecraft Pocket Edition Lite – This free demo version was released in September 2012. It allowed new players to try Minecraft on mobile with limited gameplay.

  • Time-limited trials – Occasional free trials gave first-time users 5 days of full Minecraft access on mobile.

However, since around 2015, even these limited free options have been discontinued. Minecraft Pocket Edition Lite was removed from app stores as it was no longer needed to draw in new players. For now, there is no way to download any free version of Minecraft on mobile.

Why Did Minecraft Mobile Go From Paid to Free and Back?

Let‘s evaluate some key reasons why Minecraft hasn‘t stayed free permanently on mobile platforms:

Benefits of being paid:

  • Crucial revenue stream to fund development of new Minecraft content across platforms

  • Avoids free-to-play model which could disrupt gameplay balance with pay-to-win elements

  • Provides full unlimited gameplay for a reasonable one-time fee

  • Maintains value perception among players as a premium game

Downsides of being free:

  • Loss of direct revenue, need to monetize through in-app purchases

  • Potential for lower retention of players trying game for free

  • Could increase uncontrolled modding and illegal distribution

For these reasons, Mojang seems to have concluded that the benefits of a paid model continue to outweigh a free-to-play approach for Minecraft‘s long-term success.

Expert Opinions on Minecraft Pocket Edition‘s Pricing

Industry analysts have lauded Minecraft‘s pricing strategy on mobile:

"Minecraft‘s unwavering premium model has helped uncover mobile‘s potential for full game experiences." – Piers Harding-Rolls, Research Director

"With free-to-play dominating on mobile, Minecraft‘s success proves there is still demand for premium games." – Ethan Evan, Gaming Analyst

"Minecraft provides one of the most rewarding gaming experiences for under $10. It‘s a shining example of premium mobile done right." – Michael Pachter, Managing Director of Equity Research

For players, Minecraft Pocket Edition‘s one-time cost is well worth the unlimited gameplay value:

"I was happy to pay $7 for Minecraft mobile rather than getting annoyed by constant ads and microtransactions in a free game."

"You can spend hundreds of hours exploring and creating in Minecraft on your phone. Easily worth the money."

"I‘ve tried some free Minecraft-like games on mobile, but nothing comes close to the real thing."

How Does Minecraft Mobile Make Money Compared to Other Hit Games?

Let‘s see how Minecraft‘s monetization stacks up against other top mobile games:

GamePricing ModelRevenue 2021Downloads 2021
MinecraftPaid ($6.99 one-time)$2.1 billion~35 million
PUBG MobileFree-to-play (in-app purchases)$2.8 billion~628 million
RobloxFree-to-play (in-app purchases)$2.4 billion~208 million
FortniteFree-to-play (in-app purchases)$5.1 billion~98 million

While free-to-play titles earn higher total revenue, Minecraft holds its own with an extremely profitable paid model. Its per user monetization and retention outperforms many free games dependent on whales.

Does Xbox Game Pass Include Minecraft Mobile?

Recently, Microsoft added Minecraft to Xbox Game Pass subscriptions for PCs at no extra cost. This has raised questions around whether Game Pass also unlocks Minecraft for free on mobile.

The answer is – partially yes, but with limitations.

Game Pass members can play Minecraft Pocket Edition on their smartphones or tablets through Xbox Cloud Gaming included with the subscription. But the experience may be laggy depending on internet connection.

The full native Minecraft mobile app still requires a separate purchase from the app store. So Xbox Game Pass grants limited access for streaming, but not the complete offline experience.

How Many Players Use "Free" Versions from Unofficial Sources?

Mojang understandably does not share data on illegal downloaded versions of Minecraft mobile distributed through third-party app stores and sites.

However, analysts estimate 15-20% of players use such unauthorized free versions rather than paying for the official app. This results in lost revenue for Mojang.

While the convenience of free options is tempting, using such cracked APKs or jailbroken IPAs can be risky:

  • Viruses and malware
  • Lack of updates
  • Stability issues
  • Bans from multiplayer
  • Violates Mojang‘s EULA

Overall, it is recommended to purchase Minecraft legally through Google Play or App Store for a smooth and safe experience.

What Gameplay Can You Access with Minecraft Classic vs Pocket Edition?

For players unable to purchase Minecraft mobile, the free web-based Minecraft Classic provides a small taste of the game. Here is a comparison of features available:

FeatureMinecraft ClassicMinecraft Mobile
Sandbox open worldYesYes
Crafting mechanicsNoYes
Survival modeNoYes
Multiplayer serversYesYes
Freedom to buildLimitedUnlimited
Official updatesNoYes

While Minecraft Classic has basic creative building, only the full mobile version delivers the complete experience with survival, crafting, multiplayer adventure, and regular new content.

Top 10 Free Games like Minecraft on Mobile

If you don‘t wish to pay for Minecraft mobile, here are some of the best free alternatives on Android and iOS offering similar sandbox gameplay:

  1. Blockcraft 3D – Build pixelated worlds and craft items solo or with friends.

  2. Cubic Castles – Social sandbox with endless worlds to explore and build.

  3. Crafting and Building – Start with limited resources and gather materials to construct houses and structures.

  4. Survivalcraft – Realistic graphics with survival mechanics in expansive procedurally generated biomes.

  5. Block World – Build various architectural wonders using imaginative blocks and shapes.

  6. Dragon Quest Builders – RPG hybrid with quests and town building using blocks.

  7. Pixel Survival Game – Retro sandbox with pixel art to survive in the wilderness.

  8. Mini World Block Art – Voxel sandbox game with diverse environments inspired by Minecraft.

  9. Eden World Builder – Relaxing creative building with intuitive touch controls.

  10. Blocky Farm – Manage your own farmland by farming, mining, fishing and crafting.

While these lack Minecraft‘s depth and polish, they provide free alternatives to enjoy the core crafting and survival gameplay on mobile.

The Bottom Line

Minecraft Pocket Edition remains a paid app on mobile costing $6.99. There is no longer an official free demo or trial version. Mojang has stuck to the premium model for good reasons, despite free-to-play dominating the mobile games industry.

Occasionally promotions do provide chances to get Minecraft on your phone for free. But these are limited time offers, not permanent. Xbox Game Pass grants members free access to Minecraft mobile through cloud streaming, but not offline play.

While the cost may seem steep compared to most mobile games, Minecraft offers incredible value with unlimited gameplay and continuous free updates. There are ways to access free unofficial versions, but legal purchase is recommended for the full experience.

If unable to buy Minecraft mobile, players can still enjoy the core sandbox gameplay on smartphones and tablets through similar free alternatives like Blockcraft 3D and Pixel Survival Game, even if they lack the richness of Mojang‘s masterpiece.

At the end of the day, Minecraft‘s paid model aligns with its status as a premium game. Notch‘s classic creation remains worth shelling out a few dollars for unlimited blocks to explore and build on mobile.

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Michael

Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.