This year marks the 10-year anniversary of sandbox simulator, Minecraft. Over that time, the game has changed considerably, adding new features and spawning spin-offs including Minecraft Story Mode and the upcoming Minecraft Earth.
It’s captured the hearts and minds of young and old gamers alike, selling over 176 million copies. So, how has Minecraft achieved its position near the top of the list of the best-selling video games of all time, and why does it still continue to grow?
A Brief History Of Minecraft
Minecraft’s story begins back in 2009 when Zach Barth, the founder of Zachtronics developed and released a freeware title called Infiniminer. At the same time, Markus ‘Notch’ Persson was also making games, namely a base-building game called RubyDung.
When Persson discovered Infiniminer, he realized that it was the game he wanted to make. Combining the idea with his own, he created a demo. It’s recognizable as the descendant of today’s Minecraft, although was at this point unnamed.
When the demo got a great response, Persson moved towards a paid Alpha version and began to add new features. Minecraft’s Alpha sales began on June 13, 2009, and it sold over 1,000 copies within a month.
This led to development increasing, as Persson scaled back the hours spent on his day job and the Mojang brand was founded.
The introduction of survival mode soon followed, turning the title into a more fully-formed game. Sales were strong enough that Persson began full-time development in May 2010, after which updates followed thick and fast.
Persson was joined by game designer Jakob ‘Jahkob Porser, followed by business developer, Daniel ‘Kappische’ Kaplan, and CEO, Carl Manneh. The original team was rounded out by artist, Markus ‘Junkboy’ Toiven, and coder, Jen ‘Jeb’ Bergensten.
By January 2011, one million Minecraft accounts were registered and in November, the Java edition came out of beta and officially released for Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Minecraft Pocket Edition followed around the same time, releasing on Android in October, and on iOS in November of that year.
Since then, Minecraft has spread across a number of platforms. It’s currently available for Windows 10, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Nintendo 3DS. You can also still play the Java Edition, as well as Pocket Edition.
In September 2014, Mojang was bought by Microsoft. They have continued to release free updates to the game, with the latest being the Village and Pillage update in April of this year.
What The Statistics Say
Google Trends has tracked the interest in Minecraft since its creation. By examining the graphs and comparing them to major release dates and updates, we can see how different events have influenced peaks and troughs.
The first major peak comes just before the game was released, as early adopters likely rushed to buy the game while it was still discounted. As we track the curve, we can see there is an increase in December every single year, suggesting that the game makes a good Christmas gift. There are also peaks which coincide with major content updates, especially those which add much-wanted features to the game.
The Horse Update, which brought horses to the game, shows a huge peak in interest at the time. A similar spike occurred with the addition of the Frostburn Update, which introduced Polar Bears, amongst other things.
Overall, the game follows a reasonably predictable curve, with interest gradually tailing off in the last couple of years before a sudden spike, which began early this year.
Why The Recent Increase?
One of the likely reasons for the increase in recent months is the hype created around the 10th anniversary. Promotion of upcoming events began towards the beginning of the year, with a string of announcements being made.
One of the earliest was a teaser of what we now know to be Minecraft Earth, back in May of this year. This was part of a month of birthday celebrations.
As the anniversary came, hype built with nostalgia being encouraged through a social media campaign centered around Minecraft memories. A huge anniversary sale also likely helped draw in some new players who were intrigued by the game.
For those who had not played for a while, there were also many new things to explore. Recent updates, including the Aquatic update back in July 2018, have added a large amount of new content to the game. This, combined with the hype around the brand seems to have pushed interest back up.
The Appeal Of Minecraft
One of the reasons Minecraft has likely held its appeal all this time is due to its content and its cost. Standard pricing for the game is $25 or less, and there are often sales due to the game's age. This means that it’s a cheap option when compared to new release prices, which can be as much as three times this amount.
There’s also the fact that the game is hugely appealing to a younger audience. For parents worried about what their children are playing, Minecraft offers a great choice. It’s entertaining and enjoyable, without being overly violent or scary. If you want to remove the scares completely, you can also put the game on creative mode, turning it into a basic building block simulator.
It encourages creativity and thinking outside of the box. The sandbox environment allows players to create their own stories, with the only limits being their imagination.
You can also play Minecraft entirely alone, or work together with friends, crafting a unique world for you all to enjoy. There are also some challenges within the game, such as defeating the Ender Dragon.
Fans playing out these stories in videos and streams has also helped increase the appeal of the game. Many young gamers have watched creators such as Stampy Longnose and iBallistic Squid build amazing creations and play creative games, all within the Minecraft world.
Minecraft is a game which allows creativity to run wild. For PC players, the modding community adds new aspects to the game, but all players can benefit from the sandbox environment. Thanks to the inclusion of mechanics like Redstone, there are few limits within Minecraft. The ability to truly form your own world with its own rules and resources is appealing to all ages.
Why It Still Sells
Minecraft is inexpensive and appropriate for almost everyone. While very young gamers may get frustrated, those who enjoy the game can benefit hugely from the creativity and critical thinking it helps develop.
It is also still updated, even after 10 years, with all updates being free of charge. In a world of microtransactions, the value of these updates is higher than ever before.
These factors combine to create an appealing prospect for gamers who enjoy creating something new every day or non-gamers looking for that perfect gift.
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