Just what is it about Mojang‘s Minecraft that captured the hearts of over 20 million people? Is it the simplistic charm? The retro graphics? The appeal to imagination and creativity? Or, does it run deeper, touching on man’s constant struggle to battle the elements while reshaping the world around him? Whatever the reason, one can’t argue that Minecraft has taken the world by storm. The real question is how an indie title like Minecraft reached such enormous popularity in such a short time.
While Minecraft’s creative mode allows near-boundless creativity to bloom, the real fun happens while playing Survival Mode. Being pursued by hissing spiders and rattling skeletons through all manner of dark caves deep underground can test even the most stalwart of heroes’ claustrophobic resolve. Being forced to harvest materials after having started with nothing but your bare hands and a goofy grin has Survival players bursting with glee the moment that first diamond block is finally uncovered. The only thing better is sharing that moment with a friend while playing together online. This leads one to ponder just how well Minecraft would have done if it launched on consoles rather than PC.
With mixed reviews and differing opinions on Minecraft’s Xbox 360 debut one can’t help but wonder how well an indie title like Minecraft would have done if it set out to launch on Xbox Live from the start. The online world of the PC gaming community differs greatly from the enclosed, regulated console versions–a topic Sony pulled no punches on during their PS4 announcement last week. A game like Minecraft sweeping the world has made console designers and game developers take notice in that there is a vast, infinite, untapped market of sociability between gamers out there, a concept that has been significantly breezed over or swept under the rug completely until now. The best console gamers have had to look forward to are the verbal abuses relative to their respective matronly figures on voice chat and achievements announcing proof. We’ve come from trading tall tales (and floppy discs) in the schoolyard to Facebook apps linking these gaming accomplishments in our own personal news feeds, but somehow this is barely scratching the surface. Console designers realize that they’ll always be behind PCs in terms of technology, power, and community, but it doesn’t mean they have to take it lying down. Hearing PR reps addressing these issues and stating how they don’t want to just take things to the next level, but rather construct a new world entirely has the gaming community as a whole extremely excited.
Minecraft, an indie game in the purest sense, is proof that you don’t need an established audience of console gamers on a specific platform using a controlled marketplace to become popular. Word-of-mouth still exists and it’s more powerful than ever.