Game Reviews,  The Lazy Designer

Minecraft? Microsoft? (The Builder Generation?)

As I write this it is still only rumor that Minecraft may be sold to Microsoft, so my rambling here might be completely irrelevant (but what is the Internet for anyways, if not to host my rambles?)

Minecraft is a valuable product. I think in more ways than any other game, it has really infiltrated culture. Yes, games like Mario and Pokemon and the like are huge, but I don’t recall them having quite such a hold on kids (that said, I was not a parent during the rise of those franchises, so I may be mistaken). My sons and their friends play Minecraft-themed games all the time. By this, I don’t mean the computer game… I mean they play Minecraft on the playground, in the classroom. They talk about Minecraft all the time. They have Minecraft themed birthday parties. They make Minecraft crafts in the classroom.

As well, when they do play videogames, if the game even remotely resembles Minecraft (i.e., any first person sort of game) they immediately ask, “Can we do the things we do in Minecraft in this game?” Often, there is also an expectation of being able to construct things in the games they play. I believe Minecraft has heavily influenced this.

Will they grow out of playing Minecraft? Yes, I’m sure they will. Even now they don’t play it as much as they did (though partly this is because their mean parents have limited their time with the game). But I think some of the expectations it has created will remain with them. And let us be honest — as adults they probably will take a look at it every once in a while. I still play it, after all.

So… what’s my point regarding the acquisition of Minecraft by Microsoft?

I believe in the right hands, Minecraft is an eternal franchise, capable of generating revenue indefinitely. So I struggle to see why somebody would sell it. On the other hand, 2 billion dollars now is a lot of money! Heck, with that I could fund my undersea base-of-operations, complete with laser-sharks.

My worry is that Microsoft won’t be the “right hands” Minecraft requires in order to persist. Partly this won’t even their fault. Minecraft’s origin story is part of the mythos that makes Minecraft popular. The fact that Mojang is an independent game studio makes that story resonate more. Minecraft becoming just another product sku, as part of a massive corporation, diminishes that story. I suspect it may not end up being the ‘forever game’, I’ve predicted in the past. I hope I’m wrong.

Microsoft believes they can make the franchise bigger and I can anticipate ways in which they can make it work. We’ll see, I guess.

Former lead designer at BioWare (Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights). Creator of Raiders of the Serpent Sea.

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