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Is Minecraft Multiplayer Free on PC?

The short answer is yes, Minecraft multiplayer is free on PC through both Java Edition and Bedrock Edition, but with some limitations. For unlimited multiplayer access, you‘ll need to pay for a Realm subscription or self-hosted server. However, you can still enjoy online play for free through public servers on Java Edition and local multiplayer on both versions.

Playing on Free Public Servers with Java Edition

Minecraft: Java Edition enables free online multiplayer through public servers run by third parties. According to mcpedl.com, there are over 1000 free public Java servers, with popular options like Hypixel averaging 86,000 concurrent users. This makes Java Edition great for playing with others online without paying anything.

Some top free Java servers include:

  • Hypixel – Biggest server with over 100 minigames
  • Mineplex – Arcade with 85+ minigames and 500k members
  • Cubecraft Games – Fun minigames like SkyWars and EggWars
  • Purple Prison – Prison-themed server with custom plugins
  • PikaNetwork – Minigames and creative plots to build

To join a free Java server:

  1. Launch Minecraft Java Edition
  2. Click Multiplayer and Add Server
  3. Enter the server‘s IP address and click Join

This will connect you to massive multiplayer worlds with unique games, mods, and community events. Exploring different public servers is a fun way to meet people and play for free on Java Edition.

How Public Servers Work

These free public Java servers are hosted and maintained by third party companies and communities. According to minecraft.net, the Java Edition platform enables servers to freely modify gameplay with plugins and custom scripts.

Most public servers are funded through cosmetic upgrades and upgrades purchased with in-game currency. Donations also help cover the monthly costs of renting server infrastructure to host thousands of simultaneous players.

For free servers, gameplay is the main focus rather than monetization. So you can expect a vibrant online community without pay-to-win mechanics.

Local Multiplayer with LAN Worlds

If you want to play Minecraft multiplayer with friends on the same network, Java Edition makes this free and easy. One player can host a LAN world for nearby players to join.

To host a LAN world:

  1. Load up a Singleplayer world in Java Edition
  2. Open the pause menu and select "Open to LAN"
  3. Configure settings like game mode and enabling cheats
  4. Friends on the same network can now join from their Multiplayer menu

This creates a temporary multiplayer server running on your own network. According to GameRant, LAN worlds give you low latency private servers for 1-5 players, perfect for small gatherings and parties.

You can also use third-party tools like Hamachi to simulate LAN over the internet. So your long distance friends can join your world too.

Overall, LAN multiplayer provides a lag-free option for gaming with friends on Java Edition.

Troubleshooting LAN Connections

If someone can‘t join your LAN world, make sure:

  • You are both on the exact same version of Java Edition
  • The player clicked on your world fast before it closes
  • Any firewalls are not blocking the connection
  • Try turning off VPN if enabled
  • Reboot your router and try again

Verifying you are on the same version of Minecraft is key. As LAN only works between matching editions.

Realms – A Paid Option for Bedrock Multiplayer

Minecraft: Bedrock Edition has one official way to play online with friends – Minecraft Realms. Realms provides a private, persistent server for up to 10 players. However, access comes at the cost of a monthly subscription.

Realms Plus pricing is:

  • $7.99 per month for up to 10 players
  • $3.99 per month for up to 4 players
  • $0.99 per month for 2 players

For larger groups, self-hosted servers offer better value. But Realms provides a super simple way to get started.

Advantages of Realms include:

  • Works across all Bedrock platforms
  • Easy management from within the game
  • Automatic backups and world uploading
  • Smaller groups up to 10 players

Realms is great for consistent family gaming and collaborating on compact projects. But for massive multiplayer servers, self-hosting provides more control and cheaper per player costs.

Self-Hosting Bedrock Servers

While more complex to manage, self-hosting allows Bedrock servers for a lower flat monthly cost. Top server hosts like Shockbyte charge around $15/month for Bedrock servers supporting 200 slots.

The process involves:

  1. Renting a server from a hosting provider
  2. Downloading the Bedrock server software
  3. Configuring settings and adding mods/plugins
  4. Port forwarding and testing connections
  5. Inviting players through Xbox friends

Self-hosted servers give you more flexibility for mods, upgrades, and performance. But require keeping the software updated and managing files. Overall, Realms provides a simpler option while self-hosting caters to large communities.

Split-Screen Multiplayer on One PC

If you just want to play multiplayer Minecraft at home with friends or family sharing one screen, both Java and Bedrock support local split-screen multiplayer.

For Java Edition, install the free Universal Splitscreen mod by AnjoCaido. This extends the viewport to fit 2+ players and adds options like separate inventories.

According to the mod creator, split-screen is designed for 2 players but can be expanded up to 8. This creates an easy couch co-op experience for local Java Edition multiplayer.

For Bedrock Edition, built-in split screen support allows up to 4 players to share one view. From the main menu or pause screen, toggle split screen mode on and off as people join the game.

Split-screen multiplayer on both editions makes it simple to play Minecraft with others in the same room, without needing an online connection.

Optimizing Costs for Large Groups

When playing Minecraft multiplayer with 10+ people, self-hosted servers provide the most cost-effective solution.

For example, Shockbyte‘s pricing for Java and Bedrock servers:

Slots Java Price Bedrock Price
10 $2/month $2/month
25 $5/month $12/month
50 $10/month $22/month
100 $20/month $42/month

As you can see, multiplayer for a 50 person Java server costs just $10/month – way cheaper than 50 Realms subscriptions. For big communities, self-hosted gives the best performance and options.

Advanced server management does require more IT skills. But the hosting providers offer user-friendly control panels to easily configure settings, mods, packs, and permissions. Overall, self-hosting strikes the best balance for large yet affordable multiplayer.

Key Takeaways

While not completely free, Minecraft offers plenty of cost-effective multiplayer options:

  • Java Edition enables free server and LAN multiplayer
  • Bedrock Edition relies on paid Realms except for local play
  • Self-hosting allows cheaper servers for big groups
  • LAN worlds work great for small private games
  • Split-screen mods enable couch co-op on one PC

Following this guide, you now have several routes to playing Minecraft multiplayer while spending little to no money. The version and player count mainly determine the best free or low-cost solution. But overall, Minecraft multiplayer can be enjoyed affordably with the right setup.