Although I've been making a concerted effort to keep up with the indie PC gaming scene, I have to admit that Minecraft has completely passed me by. An alpha version of the multiplayer sandbox building game was released earlier this year and has been updated continually since. Less than a month ago, those updates culminated in the first beta release.
Alpha and beta releases tend to be free, but that hasn't been the case with Minecraft. The alpha cost €10 (about $13), and the price increased to €15 for the beta. Those actually represent discounts on the final game's €20 price tag. Plenty of folks want to get in early, it seems, because Minecraft has already sold over a million copies. That's a stunning total for a PC exclusive that's not even finished. It's even more impressive when one considers Minecraft's nontraditional gameplay and relatively basic graphics.
Looking at Minecraft's success, I can't help but wonder if its payment model has potential for other independent developers. Asking gamers to shell out for what amounts to alpha testing doesn't seem unreasonable if they'll end up getting the full game at a discount. Without that initial dose of funding, Minecraft might not be the game it is today.