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How a Minecraft influencer brings advertisers to the platform

When it comes to branded activations, Minecraft has historically lagged behind other Metaverse platforms like Roblox and Fortnite — but that could be changing soon. This Friday, Minecraft influencer Toby “Tubbo” Smith officially launches TubNet, a Minecraft server featuring unique content and items tied to advertisers like Kraft and Sony Pictures.

The server was originally scheduled to open in August, but the team at TubNet — an independent company backed by esports organization Misfits, who signed Smith in February — pushed back the launch to November to strengthen privacy. In the meantime, the server has already done several brand activations and invited up to 1,000 players at a time from Smith’s Discord server to participate in open beta tests and community showcases. With around 90,000 users, the TubNet Discord server is one of the largest Minecraft servers in the world.

“We have a commercial agreement between Misfits Gaming Group and TubNet that allows us to bring endorsement deals to TubNet,” said Ben Spoont, Misfits CEO. “Misfits is an investor in TubNet, so we own shares in TubNet.”

TubNet’s biggest challenge in integrating advertisers was doing so without violating Minecraft developer Mojang’s End User License Agreement (EULA), whose strict policies restrict the presence of branding logos directly in-game.

“As a platform, Minecraft isn’t inherently as open as Roblox, both politically and technically,” said Devon Thome, co-founder of metaverse development studio MELON. “On Roblox, our modelers can create the craziest things ever and just import them natively into the platform. There’s some downscaling and such to achieve that – but in Minecraft it’s very specialized. They not only work with policy constraints, but also with technical constraints.”

To circumvent Minecraft’s EULA guidelines, TubNet initially considered using in-stream overlays to create the appearance of in-game branding logos for users watching TubNet gameplay on Twitch, but ultimately decided that even this technically non-negotiable branding method circumvented the guidelines too closely. Instead, TubNet opted for a strategy of creating in-game locations tied to advertising partners without explicitly including their logos or branding.

“For Kraft Lunchables, there’s something built into our game called the Snack Shack,” Spoont said. “Obviously we are fully compliant with Mojang rules and regulations, so you won’t find the Kraft brand there. However, the Snack Shack ties into the Kraft advertising they are doing around the server.”

TubNet’s in-game activations like the Snack Shack are supported by shoulder content in areas outside of the game like the server’s Discord channel, which allows for more direct referrals to TubNet’s advertisers, Spoont said, adding that the company was direct Communicating with Mojang as the official launch of the server approaches. “They support us and have provided some help, and they are also looking forward to our server launch,” he said.

As an added incentive to increase engagement, users who play mini-games like Snack Shack also get access to unique game items to use elsewhere on the server, making TubNet’s branded experiences one of the server’s most popular elements. “Ironically, the game we made for Kraft is currently our most retained game on the server,” Smith said.

Ultimately, Smith believes the continued success of his Minecraft server depends on its ability to include brands without making the server feel like a giant commercial. At the moment it is entirely possible for a player within TubNet to spend their entire time on the server without ever seeing an ad, and Smith hopes it stays that way. This casual approach naturally fits with Minecraft’s brand-restricting EULA.

“A lot of the branding is completely removed from the Minecraft component, and that’s where the multi-platform strategy comes in,” Smith said. “The Minecraft component is really all about creating cool activations, mini-games and experimental stuff that TubNet’s userbase will naturally enjoy, more than ‘here’s a brand we’re going to scream in your face.’ “

How a Minecraft influencer is bringing advertisers to the platform

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