Every once and a while, a video game takes the world by storm. Since 2017, it’s been Fortnite Battle Royale, a game that earns an average of more than $100 million a month and has been played religiously by every millennial celebrity you can think of. Before Fortnite, however, there was Minecraft.
A PC game created by Markus “Notch” Persson of Swedish game developer Mojang in 2009, Minecraft started out merely as a project inspired by games such as Dwarf Fortress and Dungeon Keeper. It’s set in a blocky universe where you are left in a randomly generated world of your own. In the initial version of the game, you were given a small amount of land to explore and had the ability to place and break blocks. However, the game evolved into a survival simulator that included gathering resources and fighting back against monsters known as “mobs.” The game grew from there, with the addition of nearly infinite world generation and plenty of biomes, caves and structures to explore and the implementation of multiplayer servers.
By the time the game left its beta stages and had its first official release in November 2011, the game had already become widely popular. Seven months prior to release, it was estimated that Mojang had earned €23 million (or U.S. $33 million) with more than 1.8 million copies sold. By November, it had reached 4 million purchases and 16 million registered users.
Its popularity has left an impact on the gaming industry that we know today. The concept of playing games and providing commentary for videos known as “Let’s Plays” skyrocketed because of Minecraft, thanks to endless amount of content in the game or even content that could be added thanks to modifications. It has been referenced in many games following its release and has even been an influence on some others, including the hit 2D adventure game, Terraria. There is even a yearly convention known as “MineCon” that brings together the Minecraft community to play and talk about the pixelated universe and its future.
In 2014, Microsoft purchased Mojang for $2.5 million. Upon his company being acquired, Persson left to pursue a more quiet life away from the responsibility of being in charge of Minecraft. Since then, the game’s popularity has died down, but the game continues to be worked on and expanded in various ways.
In addition, the game has had a few spin-offs. Minecraft Story Mode, created by Telltale Games in partnership with Mojang, is a point-and-click episodic adventure game based in the Minecraft world. There’s also Minecraft: Education Edition, a game built for classroom use that gives teachers tools to teach kids about core STEM topics, such as math, chemistry, arts and poetry. Upcoming spinoffs include Minecraft Dungeons, a dungeon crawler game that can be played in parties of up to four people, and Minecraft Earth, an augmented reality mobile game that will let players build and interact with the world around them by building Minecraft-style structures and objects.
There’s also “Block By Block,” an initiative started by Mojang, Microsoft and UN-Habitat that uses the “creative mode” in Minecraft as a way to plan projects for public spaces and get community members involved. According to its website, it has helped revitalize urban neighborhoods in more than 30 countries, impacting the lives of more than 1.5 million people, with the help of more than 25,000 people, including children, women, elders, refugees and disabled individuals. The project has contributed more than $6 million to help UN-Habitat’s mission of making cities inclusive, safe and sustainable.
As of May 2019, the PC version of the game, combined with sales from mobile, Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo platforms, has reached more than 176 million copies sold. That makes Minecraft the best selling video game of all-time. It recently surpassed Tetris, a game that has sold more than 170 million copies since its release back in 1984. And through its continued impact on the gaming industry and beyond, Minecraft will continue to grow and prosper, one block at a time.