Gaming History: When Minecraft Was the Most Important Thing Ever | MojoPlays

VOICE OVER: Riccardo Tucci WRITTEN BY: Robert Flis
Some games are released to huge hype and become instant classics. Others don't deliver and are quickly forgotten. Some fly under the radar and become cult favorites over time. And a few games redefine everything, shaking up our notion of what video games are and how they should be made.
How Minecraft Broke the Internet

Some games are released to huge hype and become instant classics. Others don’t deliver and are quickly forgotten. Some fly under the radar and become cult favorites over time. And a few games redefine everything, shaking up our notion of what video games are and how they should be made.

Minecraft is one of those games, and it has repeatedly defied the odds and changed the gaming industry in profound ways since its official release in 2011. WatchMojo selected Minecraft as the number one game that broke the internet and we’re here to tell you that it broke a lot more than just that.

With over 200 million units sold and 126 million active users as of May 2020, Minecraft has cemented its legacy as the best-selling game of all time. Arguably no other game in history has had such a profound impact on gaming culture. In fact, its influence has reached well beyond gaming, infiltrating pop culture as a whole and continuing to dominate the market more than a decade after its initial release. But how can a game as old as Minecraft still have such an impact? To answer that question, we need to go back and look at the game’s humble beginnings before it became the behemoth that it is today.

Minecraft started as a side project for game developer Marcus “Notch” Persson in 2009. Initially, it was made available to the public on internet forums and quickly gained popularity – first among fellow programmers and then to an increasingly wide audience. By the following year, the revenue allowed Persson to quit his day job and hire a team of people to work on the game, leading to an official release in November 2011.

One of the most interesting things about the earliest versions of Minecraft was the direct role that players had in suggesting improvements and shaping the game’s direction. Its appeal to many age groups and sandbox-style gameplay meant that there was something for literally anyone to appreciate about the game, and that translated well beyond just playing it. Fans were scrambling to find any kind of Minecraft-related content they could consume, and one of the main hubs for that content was YouTube.

Minecraft’s role in helping YouTube become the juggernaut it is today cannot be understated. At the time of the game’s initial release, YouTube was not yet widely known as a place to consume gaming content, but as walkthroughs and commentary videos related to the game began to gain popularity on the platform, it became clear that there was a ferocious demand for this type of content. By May of 2012, over 4 million Minecraft videos had been uploaded to YouTube, and that number has climbed exponentially, with the game reportedly generating over 100 billion views in 2019 alone.

Almost overnight, entire channels dedicated to the game sprang up and started commanding huge numbers of viewers. Influencers like PewDiePie and Ninja would arguably not exist today had it not been for the surge in popularity of gaming content on the platform caused by Minecraft. Streaming in general has been transformed by gamers uploading videos showing off their creations and sharing tips and tricks with fellow fans. Minecraft’s popularity effectively laid the foundation for streaming platforms like Twitch and set a precedent for more recent games like Fortnite which have become hugely popular among livestreamers.

But Minecraft’s popularity on YouTube didn’t stem only from gameplay videos. It spawned an entire generation of meme culture through parody channels and became a hot topic on other platforms like Reddit. With the emergence of every new social media platform 2010, has come an endless stream of Minecraft content. It was in many ways as much of a cultural revolution as a gaming revolution, especially with the younger generation of players who adopted the game as a brand - spawning merchandise in the form of clothes, toys and other items. Minecraft studio Mojang even went as far as to create MineCon, an annual convention and livestream event dedicated exclusively to the game and its community.

The game’s popularity grew to the point where Mojang and Minecraft were bought by Microsoft for $2.5 billion in 2014. Microsoft had been in the console gaming world with the Xbox for over a decade at this point and had a good understanding of the direction the industry was heading in. At the time, the seventh generation of consoles was making huge leaps in graphics and visual presentation, but that’s not what Minecraft was all about. It was the rise of online play, which made the purchase really interesting.

One of the most profound ways in which the gaming industry has changed since the early 2010s has been the emergence of the “games as a service” model. Titles like Fortnite and Destiny have had huge success leveraging this type of model, where games are ever changing and offer players the ability to build a “life” for themselves within the game and experience events as they happen in real time. Some developers choose to give away the core games for free and instead charge microtransactions to unlock certain items or features. But before this model was adopted by AAA titles and popularized on consoles, Minecraft was doing much the same by continually offering its players something new through constant updates. In this sense, Minecraft is the real granddaddy of “Games as a Service” and that’s the main reason why it’s had so much staying power over the years.

Minecraft quietly entered the scene like a Creeper in the night and quickly became one of the most dominant forces in the gaming industry. While it was not the most talked about game in 2019, it nearly doubled the amount of views generated by the next most popular game on YouTube - (you guessed it) Fortnite. The game’s resurgence in popularity has been staggering, with creators like PewDiePie introducing it to a new generation of gamers while sparking a sense of nostalgia in those who may have stepped away from the game at some point. Those rediscovering Minecraft today after a prolonged break will find a totally different game, full of new features and design elements that were gradually introduced over the years.

Minecraft’s lead developer Jens Bergensten has called it a “never-ending game” and says there’s no need for a sequel. The team at Mojang feels that they’re 10 years into this journey and are hoping for 20 more to come, which is not surprising seeing as how the game continues to find new audiences and grow its fanbase. Minecraft’s longevity stems from it being equal parts revolutionary and evolutionary. At its essence, it is more than a video game, it’s a platform in itself where people can go to express their creativity, socialize with others or spend time alone. No two people’s experience with the game is identical. For all these reasons, Minecraft is responsible for breaking not only the internet, but the gaming industry and our entire relationship with video games.

What do you think about Minecraft? Are you a fan of the game or do you think it’s overrated? We want to hear from you so leave a comment down below and tell us your opinion.