I'm not going to patronise you by going on too much about the success of Minecraft.
Much has already been written about Mojang's runaway hit. Everyone has seen the sales figures. And we can't miss the piles of merchandise and books in every retailer: from GAME to Primark.
Earlier in the month, Minecon, the annual celebration of all things Minecraft, took place. Present were a record-breaking 10,000 fans – the event was all the evidence you need about the scale of Minecraft's popularity.
The response from the fans who attended has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Craig Fletcher, founder and CEO of organisers Multiplay. That's the main measure by which any show should be judged.One of the great things about this job is taking a moment and seeing so many people having such a great time.”
It's been six years since Minecraft launched and if Minecon showed anything, it's that the fanbase is growing and it isn't going anywhere.
All this over a single game. It's the kind of popularity that any game maker would dream of.
With Minecraft, the mentality has always been that Mojang is a game studio and Minecraft is our main game,” Mojang COO Vu Bui told MCV in an exclusive interview.
We have focused on creating a game, and that has lead to many other things. There's merchandise, which is huge (see Top Toys), there's a movie in the works, and there's the new Telltale spin-off project. We are still developing the game. We haven't stopped. Those other things exist concurrently. It's important to not forget what your mission is. Ours is to make Minecraft the most amazing game we can and make it so that as many people as possible can experience it. All the other things move alongside of that. They're not less important, but they're not Minecraft's core.”
The culture surrounding it is huge. In fact, several YouTube personalities are making a living recording themselves playing the game.
One such online celebrity is VikkStar123 – aka Vikram Barn – whose Minecraft-focused YouTube account boasts 1.8m subscribers.
I decided to start covering the game shortly after my friends introduced it to me,” he says. I saw the success of these videos and it prompted me to try other Minecraft content out.
With millions of players and creators producing unique playable content, mods and minigames within the game itself, there is always something new to try out. ”
"Will Minecraft be as popular as it is now in 20 years?
I don't know. But there's no sign of it slowing down.
We're not worried."
Vu Bui, Mojang
All of the above is impressive, but what now? How do you follow-up the biggest game in the world – one that does not really require a sequel?
First, Mojang's Bui wants to bring the game to any and all platforms.
If I had my way, we'd be on everything,” he says. Everyone wants that. We're getting there. I'm pretty excited – there's nothing I can talk about specifically, but we want to continue to be available to all players. And sometimes that means being on new platforms because everyone uses something different.”
Microsoft had spent $2.5bn for Minecraft and its studio, and it is putting the game to good use. First it will be part of a push for Windows 10, while at E3, Microsoft showed a special Minecraft demo using the AR technology, HoloLens.
All those reviews saying HoloLens is mind-blowing and like being in the future are correct,” Bui says. It really is a special experience.”
Bui adds that working with Microsoft has significantly helped Mojang.
We've said a lot of times that things are going great and that we're really happy,” he says. It's surprising to some, but opportunities have opened up for us as opposed to the other way around. Minecon is the first time we are able to show people. We're all still the same 50-person team in Stockholm – now we just have more teams that we work with. And we work together to achieve goals. That brings us extra resources, extra things that we did not have the ability to do before. Minecraft in Education is really huge, for example. Mojang is a tiny company, and education is a complex thing. Having that partner like Microsoft allows us to do things that previously would have been much more difficult.”
Mojang's Minecraft in Education programme is something of particular interest. Teachers around the world are already using the game as a teaching method.
I don't really see a limit to our ambition for Minecraft in Education,” Bui says. What I want is to inspire and enable people to use MInecraft in ways that they think will enhance education. It's about us listening to the people who are already doing it. They're just doing it, trying it out, and figuring out what adventures and journeys they go on in this process and what results they get out of that. Then we can start to think what can we actually do to help people? Because they are going to do it with or without us, right? We aren't creating Minecraft in Education – it's happening. What we want is to inspire it to go further. I guess we'd eventually run out of schools to go into. But there is really no limit.”
The desire from Minecraft fans for some kind of fiction has been there for a while and we'rejust super proud and excited that Mojang wanted to work with us. This isn't The Story of Minecraft, this is A Story, it's one interpretation of a universe full of limitless possibilities."
Job Stauffer, Telltale Games
For all its educational benefits, Minecraft is entertainment. And now it's getting its own storyline with Telltale Games' Minecraft: Story Mode.
In late 2012 we were working with [developer] Gearbox and the idea was stirring about doing a game based on Borderlands,” Telltale's comms boss Job Stauffer says. The idea of making something based in another game IP started there.
We had two candidates in mind. One was Borderlands – it's so completely rich and full of characters and lore and a universe we could kind of take and run with it and fill in certain gaps.
On the other end of the spectrum was Minecraft. We are all big fans, and it's this complete cultural phenomenon. And it was a completely blank slate where we could build any kind of story we wanted to as long as we could stay within the logic and the rules of the Minecraft universe.
The desire from Minecraft fans for some kind of fiction has been there for a while and we're just super proud and excited that Mojang wanted to work with us and bring the first foray into it that. They could work on with us, but still develop something that wasn't official in anyway. This isn't The Story of Minecraft, this is A Story, it's one interpretation of a universe full of limitless possibilities.”
All of this should give confidence in the future of Minecraft. In the media, we have a tendency to look upon huge successes like Minecraft as bubbles waiting to burst. But Mojang's Bui doesn't see an end in sight.
It's tough to say ‘bubble' because that term is loaded,” he says. Bubbles will eventually burst. I don't know if that is what this is. It's hard to tell. No-one is able to predict