Minecraft is one of the biggest games in the world, if not the biggest. How could a small indie game with no funding and only one developer become the phenomena it is today? Let's take a trip down memory lane together, and find out 👇
If you're an avid Minecraft player, or know the way around the game, you can skip this part. Before we look through the history books, let's summarize how this epic game is played out. Minecraft is arguably the most influential of sandbox games. The player is dropped into a large randomized open world (actually infinite!) with biomes such as mountains, forests, caves, plains and oceans - with no specific goal or objective. Progression can only be reached through an Achievements system. The world consists of cubes, or blocks, which you can destroy, remove, build or replace. It also has a night/day cycle. Depending on the set difficulty level, players need to eat and defend themselves from hostile mobs during the night.
Through various Game Modes chosen at the start of each new game, players will experience a different adventure. If you just want to focus on building amazing things, you should choose Creative Mode. If you want a real adventure, boom, Adventure Mode is for you. If you want "the real deal" struggling for survival, Survival Mode is the perfect fit. These various modes makes the game even more replayable.
Alright, now you know how the game is played out. It's time to learn how it all started. Minecraft is the brainchild of the Swedish programmer Markus "Notch" Persson who previously worked at the video game developers King and later jAlbum. Before laying all of his focus on Minecraft, Notch developed a few prototypes during his off-hours, inspired by popular games at the time. Among the prototypes were RubyDung, a base-building game, and Infiniminer, a block-based mining game. I think we all see how the ideas behind Minecraft were being formed.
The first edition of Minecraft, called Java Edition, was made by Notch during a weekend in early May 2009. The game was initially released to the public in May 17 on the TIGSource forum, a forum for Independent game developers. After feedback from his peers, Notch updated the game to, which nowadays is called, the Classic version. A few more updates were released during the next couple of months, the Indev and Infdevs versions, before the first major update, Alpha, was released June 30 2010. It was around this time that Minecraft was beginning to pick up speed.
Notch quit his daytime job to solely focus on Minecraft. With the money earned from the game, he founded the now legendary video game company Mojang, together with his previous colleagues Carl Manneh and Jakob Porser. At this time, Minecraft was constantly updated and calibrated. New items, blocks, mobs, resources, game mechanics - and the much loved Survival Mode was added. In December 30, Minecraft entered the Beta-phase. In preparation for the full release, Mojang hired new employees as the game, and the amount of people who played it, grew at a rapid pace.
A vision takes over the world
The full version of Minecraft was released on the 18 November 2011. And it was an immediate success. You didn't see that coming, right?! From this time on, Minecraft was really only heading one way. And that way was up. To focus on the direction of the game and taking a more overall lead, Notch stepped down as the Lead Designer and hired Jens "Jeb" Bergensten, who took full creative control of the game.
As the player base grew, so did Mojang. Tying up deals with more partners and developers was a must to support and push the limit of the ever increasing Minecraft. Over the next couple of years, several new editions and updates came out, including the "Adventure Update", "Pretty Scary Update" and "The Update that Changed the World". Slicker design, more types of mobs, biomes, objectives, items and game mechanics were added. One of the biggest allures of Minecraft was that it was constantly changing and updated - with more things to do and experience. Nothing has changed to this day.
After all the success and imprint of Minecraft in the hearts of so many gamers, Mojang and the ownership of Minecraft's intellectual property was bought by Microsoft in 2017, for almost a record amount. It was suggested by Notch himself on Twitter, looking for a corporation to buy his shares.
Minecraft continued to develop and added more of literally everything. Boss fights, a much larger underground element, additional dimensions and areas. The game was introduced to various new consoles and platforms during the years. Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo, the Pocket Edition for mobile. Even virtual reality got a piece of the Minecraft cake. Basically, if you own an electronic media machine of any kind, you can play the game.
Game Modes and Spinoffs
Due to the popularity of Minecraft, several game modes and spinoffs were, and still are, being made - to keep the re-playability and freshness. Gamers play Minecraft for a variety of reasons - all with different goals and aims. Some like to focus on building amazing things in Creative Mode - the Eiffel Tower and Taj Mahal is among the ambitious creations. Some like to survive on the highest difficulty as long as possible in Survival Mode or Hardcore Mode. Some want to discover all the secrets and Easter eggs and some want a more story-based adventure in Adventure Mode. There're tons of things to do!
Minecraft is also highly customizable. The modding community has made a wide variety of new maps, mobs, items - everything you can think of! Another aspect of Minecraft is the Multiplayer Mode where several players can meet and play in a single world. Surviving by fighting off mobs and build stuff together sounds pretty fun, right?
Many spinoffs have also been made to the versatile game. A majority of them by or together with Mojang. The most famous spinoffs include Minecraft: Story Mode, an episode and story-driven standalone game developed by Telltale Games and Mojang. Minecraft Dungeons, a dungeon crawler where up to four people can hack and slash through various caves, exploring and finding treasures. And Minecraft Earth, where augmented reality is implemented into the world. Mojang and Microsoft sure knows how to freshen things up.
The train that keeps on going
Nobody in their right mind could ever had predicted the massive cultural impact that Minecraft has had. Few games can boast the incredible rise, and more impressive, the constant relevance it has had since the beginning. The main game and its various spinoffs are played more than ever, and updates keeps them fresh in an ever-changing world. Minecraft has won multiple awards and has, more than once, been called "One of the most important games of the decade" by several acclaimed reviewers.
Critics have praised the original "blocky" graphics, the freedom to play precisely how the player chooses to, the enormous open world, the constant updates, mods and changes made, the complex crafting system, the ability to engage people of all ages, the transformations into mobile, console and virtual reality and perfect balance between an adventure game and sandbox. It's no wonder that Minecraft is reported to have been sold in over 200 million copies with over 125 million monthly active players. Crazy numbers right there.
As the early funding was player-based, Minecraft was one of the first indie games to truly use Youtube and other similar media platforms to market itself successfully. Many of today's biggest gaming influencers used Minecraft to exert themselves on their respective channels, to gather and sustain viewers. The story of Minecraft is a great example of synergy in the world of gaming.
It's safe to say that, nowadays, Minecraft is more than just a game. Its impact on our society and the popularity it holds, has seen it being transformed into movies, documentaries, novels, physical merchandise and music. It is applicated in education, planning of infrastructure and habitat studies. Almost wherever we look, Minecraft's imprint is visible. So, the question is, what does the future hold for the phenomenon that is Minecraft?