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"6. There Was No Publicity"
This is wrong, teamfortress guys posted about it and it got really popular.


That's in the same vein as the Rock Paper Shotgun example I think. 'No publicity' means no official, paid-for, high profile previews and interviews and so on.

Thanks for the comment.

Ned White

"The lesson to take away from Minecraft is not ‘we should all be making low-fi sandbox games’. The lesson is that marketing stories and resonance are increasingly important because the Internet is built to spread them."

When you think about minecraft this way it is easy to ignore the fact that minecraft is really fun. I think that your idea about the media story is interesting, but I also think it might be short sighted to ignore the importance of minecraft's use of game mechanisms that engage with the player's creativity. Most mass market video games are based on the assumption that players want to experience games as stories, so they make games based on stories that they know people will buy. What is lost in this equation is the actual experience of playing the game. zombies like to be pushed along at a steady pace, guided from one element of the story to the next. People like to engage with the world around them creatively. The gameplay of Minecraft gives individuals the tools to make there own stories and this is what makes it so great. Minecraft allows its players to engage with it at their own pace and with their own assumptions. They are not required to play the game in any one way.

you also talk alot about 'low fi' aesthetic choices, but I would argue that minecraft is only low-fi because low-fi games run faster, something of utmost importance when a game is procedurally complex. If Notch thought that realism was more important than gameplay he could have made graphics a priority, but he didn't and people with money should learn from that decision.

Games that allow users to engage with them in infinitely complex ways are way more engaging than games with pathways. What is important here is that complex games that are easy to learn are more interesting and fun to play than simple games that are simple to learn, or complex games that take forever to learn.


Thanks for the comment Ned.

I did point out in the article that the first reason Minecraft works is that it's fun. While I don't give a great deal of credence to the 'players build their own stories' interpretation of why games are fun on not (because I think that thinking of games in terms of stories in that way is a huge mistake), the fact that the game is compelling to play cannot be ignored.

That said, that's not all there is to it. There are games produced every week that are great fun, but they die in obscurity. What makes some stand out while others die on the vine has a marketing story component. It is not always the case that freedom is the best solution and thus more freedom in games will always make a game more popular, for example. It is the contrast between Minecraft and many more cinematic games that restrict freedom that makes it so much more of a story. If every game were doing that, it would not be a story.

By the way, I agree that the technical need to keep the game lean is a significant factor in why the game was low-fi, but I think Notch *also* managed to tap into a desire among PC gamers who care in the process.


First of all, this is the finest thing I've read about MineCraft (and I've read a lot about minecraft ;-) ).
I don't think you can downplay the story-telling appeal of minecraft. It is as much a youtube sensation as it is a gaming sensation. Each of those tens of thousands of Minecraft youtube videos are stories told by the players. In narrative-driven games, the narrative often feels grafted-on.

Minecraft has its own emergent narrative.

I play MineCraft. My 9 year old daughter plays it too. There's a 30 year gulf between us but it connects with us in the same way.

More minecraft musings here ... http://walterh.posterous.com/tag/minecraft


I dislike how not one section of this article talks about how Notch took both the design and initially the concept from Infiniminer (an open source game with virtually identical graphics).

Notch himself has spoken about it so the fact that not a reference to it is here is disappointing.

Either way, I disagree that Notch was not lucky. True, he made the best of his resources and (I must stress this is not fact) apparently made several viral posts on high profile websites; perhaps that is more than luck. However, Notch was lucky that the concept was there in the public domain, essentially, ripe for the plucking. Notch was also lucky that people are so open to indie games and spin their recounts of building cubes into epic tales of adventure.

Where I think this article succeeds is by stressing that people feel that they are one of Notch's peers, of sorts. He's quit like Garry from GMod in that respect. I think a lot of gamers (perhaps mistakenly) think Notch is "one of them" but that's expressed very eloquently here anyway.

I just think it's tragic that the developers of Infiniminer who released their work for free have received not a sliver of gratitude from those millions of sales.


Rock Paper Shotgun did an interview with Zach recently on the subject of what might have been. The most interesting quote is this:

“The act of borrowing ideas is integral to the creative process. There are games that came before Infiniminer, and there are games that will come after MineCraft. That’s how it works.”

So it is in the creative arts, software and games generally. As Zach says, everything has its heritage. It's not a positive or a negative, it's just a part of what game development is about.

The difference between the two is not just a matter of luck. All success has an element of luck in the moment, but it's really built on everything that comes before or after that moment, not just the moment itself.

The rest of the RPS post is here:

Thanks for the comment.

Tomasz Wesołowski

This article so much deserves a paragraph about Infiniminer.

Still, indeed a remarkable article.


Trying to attribute minecraft's success to anything in a larger quantity than pure luck is folly. As you have already noted in the article, the game - still in beta - is not easy to access or play. If it had not gone viral, it would have never gone viral. Games are not predestined to do well or poorly, regardless of how well they are designed.


I think you need to ask yourself why it went viral though. That doesn't just happen randomly.

Martijn Hoppenbrouwer

Great article!
Tip: @Notch has 232.000 followers, not 89.000

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