Cross-platform mods is the biggest new Minecraft feature in years, but there are still concerns

Keyart for Minecraft: Bedrock Edition Marketplace add-ons.
(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Minecraft may technically fall into the games-as-a-service category thanks to nearly 15 years of continued support and updates, but the legendary survival-crafting game indubitably evolves significantly slower than the biggest players in the same live service space. It's not often that the Minecraft status quo is shaken up in any meaningful way, but that's exactly what happened on Feb. 20, 2024.

Mojang Studios announced a new category in the Minecraft: Bedrock Edition Marketplace for "add-ons," which are unlike anything else previously offered in the cross-platform storefront. You see, add-ons are — for all intents and purposes — full-blown mods, able to fundamentally change Minecraft as a game with new features, mechanics, content, and more. Yes, modding has long been a part of Minecraft's history, but this announcement dramatically closes the gap between the modern, universal Bedrock Edition and the powerful, legacy Java Edition where most Minecraft modders thrive.

It's a huge step forward for Minecraft as a whole, but a lot of questions remain, alongside some lingering concerns. Mojang has a chance to make Minecraft: Bedrock Edition better than ever for all players across platforms, but will the developer be able to walk the line between creative freedom and monetary motivation?

A brief recap of Minecraft's new reality

This is an example of just one of the first add-ons now available in the Minecraft Marketplace.

You may be asking, "What are Minecraft add-ons?" to which I'd respond, "Please read my in-depth announcement post detailing Minecraft: Bedrock Edition's new add-ons." Alright, I'll still summarize, but the previous post does go into more detail than I will here, simply because this article is more focused on my insight rather than the announcement itself.

Minecraft: Java Edition maintains such a powerful hold over the Minecraft community despite its limited availability on just Windows PC, macOS, and Linux, largely due to the existence of mods. There is a huge, incredibly healthy community of modders creating free, creative mods for Minecraft: Java Edition that add new content, revamp huge swathes of the game, fix issues or improve features that Mojang hasn't, and basically anything else you can imagine. Minecraft's mod library is among the largest of any games, but it is mostly limited to one version of Minecraft.

Add-ons are fully cross-platform and work with any world or online server, and that's just awesome.

The modern Minecraft: Bedrock Edition, which is available across practically every modern gaming platform, does technically support mods in a limited capacity on Windows PC and mobile devices (and Xbox, in the past), but it requires more effort and provides you with less control and far fewer options than the Java Edition. Add-ons completely change that. Offered directly through the Minecraft Marketplace, add-ons aren't your usual mods — They work across all platforms, all worlds, and all online servers and Realms. They even sync to your Microsoft Account and follow you across devices.

Minecraft: Bedrock Edition add-ons are easy to install, fully embrace the cross-platform philosophy of Minecraft, and make mods accessible to all players, not just those with the technical know-how to manipulate game files. This one addition to the Bedrock Edition shrinks the divide between the Minecraft versions by an unknowingly large amount, and that's solely based on the possibilities alone.

An ocean of creative possibilities for Minecraft

This add-on brings ten proper pets to Minecraft, letting you make new best friends.

The current Minecraft Marketplace is already a solid place for extra Minecraft content. You can download skin packs, texture packs, mini-games, and even full-blown DLC in the form of adventure maps for franchises like Avatar: The Last Airbender, Jurassic World, Sonic, and more. There was a very definitive limit to what Minecraft creators could do in the Marketplace, though, until now.

Add-ons remove a lot of those restrictions. Now, you can inject new content directly into the base game (including your existing worlds), and even change existing features or mechanics. This is in stark contrast to existing adventure maps, which often dramatically change Minecraft but only within that adventure map. Add-ons afford creators and players far more control over how their Minecraft is shaped; the new possibilities for the world's best-selling game are practically endless, just as we've already seen with Minecraft: Java Edition.

We're only just now seeing what's possible with add-ons, I feel.

You can actually go check out the first batch of add-ons in the Minecraft Marketplace right now, including multiple free options. These early add-ons add dragons and other new mobs, bring new challenges like mutated hostile mobs and bosses, expands existing mechanics like wool and TNT, add tons of furniture, craftable items, and other features, and even introduce new mechanics like player gravestones, interconnected fast travel portals, and more.

Future add-ons will undoubtedly get more creative, too. We may see subtle add-ons that simply change various parts of the game or expand individual mechanics, all the way to full-blown conversion mods that utterly transform Minecraft into an altogether different experience. I'm excited to see the possibilities, but this is when the questions and concerns begin.

Relying on Mojang to balance freedom and profit

Some great Java Edition mods are already available as Bedrock Edition add-ons, but you'll have to pay for them here.

One of the greatest divergences between Minecraft: Bedrock Edition's add-ons and Minecraft: Java Editions is monetary. For the latter, no Minecraft modder can charge for their creations and earn revenue off the Minecraft brand, as all mods come from third-party sites and are unofficial modifications. Add-ons don't share this restriction — finally, talented modders can be directly supported by their hard work, as they're able to attach a price to add-ons offered through the official, first-party Minecraft Marketplace (which is approved by Mojang).

I'm all for this. Modders count among the best developers in the world and their passion for the video games they mod is undeniable. They deserve to be paid for that time and effort. However, not all modders care about being paid and are more than happy to offer their mods for free; conversely, those modders often tend to be individuals working in their free time, and are unlikely to be official Minecraft Marketplace partners.

Plenty of talented modders can't publish add-ons on the Marketplace as it is now, and that needs to change.

That's because Mojang Studios doesn't let just anyone publish products in the Minecraft Marketplace. You have to be vetted and recognized by Mojang, and that often means studios with teams of developers. Mojang will need to open the doors wider for more creators, and ensure that those creators are free to charge as much (or as little) as they feel their products are worth. I want there to be a great mix of free and paid add-ons; around half of the first batch of add-ons are free, but Mojang almost made it seem like that was just to celebrate (and help players test them), not something that players should expect regularly. Don't let that be the case, please.

Of course, creators deserve to be paid for their work. There just needs to be room for plenty of free add-ons, too.

On top of that, I'm concerned about a disparity in power between Java Edition mods and Bedrock Edition add-ons. How comprehensive and flexible are the tools provided to developers? Can Minecraft Marketplace add-ons truly do everything Java Edition mods can do? Are there restrictions on resources, limiting how big a mod can be or how many mods you can use at a time? Do those restrictions change depending on the device you're using?

Concern that add-ons can't compete with Java Edition mods in quality and scope are justified.

Minecraft: Bedrock Edition famously embraces the juxtaposition between its flexible and modern codebase and its strict limitations on third-party content and modification. I'm concerned that add-ons won't go far enough to sway that balance, with Mojang too focused on having a completely equal and safe experience for every player and device — meaning the lowest denominator sets the boundaries for everyone. For example, will Mojang allow for more mature content in add-ons, as long as that content is properly vetted, tagged, and restricted from younger players? Probably not, and that's just the beginning of the potential constraints; where will the restrictions stop?

These questions will be answered in time, as Mojang continues to develop the add-ons feature, expand developer tools, and further outline where the boundaries are. For now, though, it's very likely that Minecraft: Bedrock Edition add-ons simply can't reach the freedom and quality that Java Edition mods can, and that's on top of the fact that Mojang has to convince players that these add-ons are worth paying for (and supporting the creators).

The future of Minecraft is here, but what comes next?

There are so many cool items in this add-on. My dirt shack would definitely look a lot more interesting with some of this furniture.

Add-ons have all the potential to be awesome. It's one of the biggest new features Minecraft has seen in years, and I can't wait to see how it evolves. There are concerns and unanswered questions, but right now all I can do is hope Mojang is listening (and maybe reading this article) and working to make Minecraft: Bedrock Edition as flexible as possible across platforms. I don't think Mojang should stop here, though.

Yes, add-ons should continue to become more powerful and accessible, but there are other areas in which Bedrock Edition is still inferior to Java Edition. For example, I'd love to see full-blown shaders make the jump to the Minecraft Marketplace, too. Sure, texture packs that change the look of blocks and mobs are great, but they're fundamentally limited compared to shaders, which offer more dynamic and higher quality visuals while playing. It's the natural next step after add-ons.

From your iPhone to your Xbox, the Bedrock Edition is now a lot closer to the Java Edition. (Image credit: Jigarbov Productions | Xbox Game Studios)

As a side note, Mojang has directly stated that sideloading mods into Minecraft: Bedrock Edition isn't going anywhere — players can still do that on Windows PC and mobile devices, skirting the Marketplace entirely (but sacrificing luxuries like cross-platform support and online server compatibility) with third-party sites and apps. Unfortunately, console players are left out of this, and that should change.

Minecraft: Bedrock Edition is exciting again thanks to add-ons, but I'm not quite sold yet.

Also, I'd love to see Minecraft: Java Edition's more in-depth and interesting combat system come to Bedrock Edition finally. I'm tired of every tool and weapon in the Bedrock Edition feeling utterly identical. I can't write an article on Minecraft like this without mentioning ray tracing on Xbox Series X|S at least once, too. Look, I actually don't particularly care about ray tracing specifically, but Minecraft at least should be Xbox Series X|S Optimized — and simply testing native 4K resolution isn't enough (although it's a good step forward).

Minecraft: Bedrock Edition is exciting again thanks to the arrival of add-ons in the Minecraft Marketplace, but I'm not totally sold, yet. Mojang Studios needs to prove its working to open the doors for more creators to join the Marketplace, that add-ons can provide the same flexibility and creativity as Java Edition mods, and that players won't be expected to pay for everything of remote quality or interest. One thing's for sure, though — Minecraft: Bedrock Edition is already a better game than it was last week.

Zachary Boddy
Staff Writer

Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.