Why Minecraft is so Popular?
It is not often when a game transcend from from computers to other aspects of popular culture. One of the biggest names in recent history is Minecraft.
Most parents are puzzled by the game that was originally developed by a Swedish man called Markus Persson. He came up with the idea of a three dimensional sandbox world where the player can build almost anything. In 2016 the game has passed the mark of 106 million copies making it the best selling PC game of all times.
If you are not familiar with the Minecraft game, in summary, it is an open ended game where the player is controlling a character to build things by gathering resources and exploring the procedurally generated game world. There are several game modes and the most common is "survival" where the player is tasked to survive as long as possible in a hostile environment. In addition, there is a very popular "creative" mode which gives the player unlimited resources and the ability to fly.
Minecraft was released in 2011 and despite increased graphic performance of modern computers, the visual style of the game is very simplified. The game world consists of pixellated 3D blocks which represent different materials. Most common materials would be wood, stone, dirt, water, lava and so on. By collecting different materials the player can craft new materials and even items. For example, by combining a few pieces of wood and stone in a particular patter gives the player a stone axe.
The question remains though. Why Minecraft is so hugely popular? There are most likely several factors at play, but one of the main reasons might be the very fact the game appears so unsophisticated at first look. Minecraft does not come with much of tutorials or instructions on how to play. It does not have much of rules either. The player is just dropped into the weirdly simplistic world of Minecraft and you need to figure out everything yourself.
A good analogy would be to compare Minecraft with Lego blocks. A typical Lego package comes with very detailed set of instructions, but the real fun starts after you have assembled the proposed design once or twice. In other words, it gives you the possibility to create anything and play the game in any way you want.
Several other factors have definitely contributed the the game's success. First of all, it is platform agnostic. Initially the game was released on PC, but these days it is available on most consoles as well as mobile phones. Because of the open-ended gameplay, Minecraft appeals to boys and girls just as well. You can play it as an action game, building game, farming game etc. and hang out with friends online.
Lastly, the creations of the players acts as perfect marketing material for Minecraft. You can share your creations publicly to other players who can then play your game or modify it to their liking. And then there are the seriously epic creations that gets featured in news around the world. For example one Minecraft player create the whole Kings Landing city from Game of Thrones and another player managed to create a functional 16 bit computer inside the game just by those same building blocks. The cherry on top would be the very prolific Minecraft modding scene that has created almost anything you can imagine, including the very popular Pokemon game that runs inside Minecraft.