The latest in the saga of Telltale Games' back catalog on digital marketplaces has seen Minecraft: Story Mode bizarrely reach a price of $99.99 per episode on the Xbox 360 online store. Telltale Games shut down in September 2018 following lengthy discussions of mismanagement, developer dissatisfaction, and more, a move that was shocking at the time but turned out to herald the many other high-profile industry layoffs that would soon follow.
As it turns out, the issue at Telltale Games was more of a canary in the coal mine than many would have expected, with widespread layoff issues plaguing the video game industry ever since and causing workers to rally towards unionization and greater protection of their livelihoods. For Telltale, though, the story didn't end with its closure, as GOG.com announced that the studio's catalog would be removed from the website in late May. This process took away licensed products like The Wolf Among Us and Batman: The Enemy Within, but allowed those who purchased the games previously to keep them in their library. As the murky status of what happens to licensed digital games once a studio closes down continues to be tested, though, some truly baffling conclusions appear to have been reached by digital distribution platforms.
None is more strange than the decision made by Mojang. The developer found itself in a complicated situation regarding the Xbox 360 versions of Minecraft: Story Mode, and decided to deter people from buying the game by listing it at an absurd $99.99 per episode. Removing episodes from sale meant that players who had already purchased the game would not be able to download their remaining episodes, which would obviously be an issue for people who had purchased Minecraft: Story Mode before the Telltale Studios closure and subsequent licensing issues. Mojang wrote on the company's Facebook page about why this is happening:
"To assist existing customers, all the downloadable Episodes for the two Minecraft: Story Mode titles are temporarily re-listed but, to deter new purchases, they will be re-listed at a very high price! The price shown is a real list price, please do not buy the content, if you do, you will be charged the amount shown. This is simply the only mechanism available to facilitate players being able to download their remaining episodes prior to servers shutting down."
Yes, if players are unfortunate enough to attempt to purchase a now-hundred dollar episode of Minecraft: Story Mode, they'll end up charged for the amount. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear the Xbox 360 marketplace has anything better in place to handle the issues currently being faced by Telltale Studios' developed games, so Mojang might have found the only solution for the time being.
If nothing else, the absurd price of Minecraft: Story Mode on Xbox 360 is a perfect example of how unprepared the industry was for a time when digitally distributed games had their licenses called into question, either by revocation or studio closure. There simply isn't anything in place to protect consumer's digital purchases right now, and developers have to go out of their way to construct elaborate situations just to preserve the ability of fans to continue to access the games they have already paid for. That's an issue that's going to need to be addressed, and soon, as more consumers make the move to primarily digital video game collections.
Source: Minecraft: Story Mode/Facebook