Why is Minecraft so popular?

At first glance, Minecraft looks unimpressive.  With its blocky graphics, it looks like a backward step to something created in the 1980s on an 8-bit computer, such as a C64 or Spectrum.  Yet, Minecraft is the biggest selling video game, ever.  It has sold in excess of 240 million copies (all formats) and has an estimated 125 million active users.  The next bestselling game is Grand Theft Auto V with a ‘measly’ 150 million estimated sales.  Minecraft has also won numerous awards within the gaming industry.  So, how did it all begin, what’s it about and why has it been so successful…

Minecraft was created by Swedish programmer Markus Persson, using Java, and was first made public in 2009, before its full release in 2011. Its blocky, retro look meant the game had modest requirements, regards PC specifications.  Therefore, you didn’t have to have a gaming PC to play.  It soon became very popular and built a loyal community. 

Minecraft is essentially a sandbox, open-world, 3D video game in which players can explore, build, play and create blocks out of different materials in a large procedurally generated world.  There are many types of things you can do in Minecraft such as farming wheat, hunting animals for food, mining for precious ores and finding treasure chests hidden around the map.

 The main goal of the game is to survive and explore the “overworld”.  Depending on the game mode, you can play alone to craft your own adventure while warding off computer-controlled enemies, or cooperate with, or compete against, other players in the same world.  Game modes include a survival mode, in which players must acquire resources to build the world and maintain health and a creative mode, where you have unlimited resources and access to flight.  Players can modify the game to create new gameplay mechanics, assets and items.  The only possible limitations are that of the player’s imagination. 

Minecraft became so popular that Microsoft bought it from Mojang in 2015 for £1.5 billion.  This has helped with its development.  The game is now available on Windows 10 PCs, Xbox One consoles and also Nintendo’s Switch console.  Windows 10 PC gamers are able to download Minecraft for free from the Windows Store if they already own the PC version.  Mojang developed a new version of Minecraft to adapt to the console environment with full controller support.

On the surface, the game has changed little over the years.  Although, new features for better gameplay, improvements on existing features to make them more user-friendly and the polishing of visuals are among recent updates.  By avoiding too much tinkering, the game has never lost its identity. 

Functionality, accessibility, community, identity and virtual endless game scenarios, have all contributed to its success.  It’s also a game anyone can quickly pick up without much prior knowledge and you don’t need lightning reflexes or deep concentration to play.

The appeal and popularity of Minecraft have had an immense impact on world culture.  Even today, at schools, colleges, and universities all over the world, you can find students spending hours mining for resources and building shelters in Minecraft. 

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