Over a decade since it was first released to the general public – and with around 140 million users worldwide – Minecraft has to be considered one of the most successful game titles of all time. It has served as a gateway experience for many young children getting into gaming and is still loved by many much older players today.
But, with the gaming world moving more towards more competitive, player vs. player (PVP) games – at least as far as media attention goes – is there a way that Minecraft can make a similar jump? With the success it has enjoyed there would seem to be no particular need to, but could Minecraft become a successful esport?
League of Legends, Dota 2, and even FIFA have all enjoyed huge spikes in sales thanks to the exposure that being a recognized esport brings. These are the types of games that are now featured on online sportsbooks such as BetOnline, with people betting on the outcome of events. Could Minecraft emulate that success? Or does the very nature of the game mean that it will have to be happy with just being one of the best 3D sandbox games of all time?
A Brief History of Minecraft
The original version of Minecraft first saw the light of day in 2009. Markus Persson apparently developed the prototype block-building game – with RPG elements – over a single weekend and uploaded it to online forums to get some feedback on his creation. Surely, even the proud owner of the game could not have foreseen just how popular it would become.
Minecraft went into beta testing a year later and by the end of 2011 the first-ever version, known as the Adventure Update, was released to the general public. There have been regular updates ever since and in 2014 Microsoft announced that it would be buying Mojang for $2.5 billion. That deal included all intellectual property connected to the game.
There have been a number of different editions released over the years as well, concentrating on specific areas of the game. But, even though there is the potential for competitive Minecraft (there is, after all, a survival mode), the game has never been perceived as an esport.
Although it is not normally thought of as a competitive game, Minecraft has had its own championships and tournaments over the years. These have been organized by Microsoft, Mojang, and Twitch and have had a fairly loyal following – if not the wider media attention of other esports events.
Community group Noxcrew has been successful in organizing monthly championships, for example. Featuring 40 competitors in 10 teams, the events see creators face off in mini-games within the Minecraft universe. Esports organization Method have also attempted to get wider esports visibility.
But there is no doubt that Minecraft is not considered in the same way as some of the other titles. With no real or professional leagues or big events, it has been difficult for Minecraft to break free from a reputation as a player vs. environment (PVE) game (albeit a very good one) rather than a PVP.
The main drawback to Minecraft becoming a successful esport would seem to be the nature of the sandbox game. Unlike titles such as CS:GO, League of Legends and Overwatch, Minecraft was never designed to be a competitive game. There were some combat tournament aspects developed in the early days, but Mojang has always been content with the game being a more casual, creative affair.
However much some Minecraft fans might want the game to become a competitive esport, it would also need an esport organization willing to put the money into developing that business. Although many games do rely on their communities to evolve in this way, it is not clear if there is such a demand within Minecraft communities. Mojang certainly doesn’t seem too bothered about it following that path.
Another problem is that the events and competitions that have been organized in the past have come with their own criticisms. The makeup of the teams has not created intense competition, but rather an interesting spectacle that was able to highlight the creativity that the game provides. There needs to be the very best Minecraft players competing against each other for a viable esport community or scene to take off – and that doesn’t seem to be happening.
Minecraft as an Esport
There is no doubt that there is a competitive element to Minecraft that many players enjoy. It hasn’t needed high-profile leagues and events to foster that, but that is what Minecraft as an esport would need.
Although the sandbox element of the game has been put forward as a reason why Minecraft is not able to develop as an esport, it is also one area that allows some hope for the future. The very fact that gamers can do just about anything within the game means that there could be an element that is developed to suit the needs of an esports community.
It doesn’t look like we will be seeing Minecraft esports events any time soon though. Non-traditional gaming companies have been attracted to esports thanks to the amount of money and profile attached. Minecraft might be one of the biggest games in the world but it does not have that element yet. It is something that could slowly develop over the next few years, but it will be the desire of the community and an organization with deep pockets for that to happen.
For now, it seems as though Minecraft gamers and developers will have to make do with it only being the multi-billion dollar industry it is today.