A few weeks back a big announcement swept the gaming community. It was an announcement I feared for some time: Minecraft was sold to Microsoft for $2.5 billion. It isn’t earth-shattering, but it’s big news if you’re familiar with the parties involved. And as someone who has spent decades using Microsoft’s products, and dozens of hours (hundreds?) playing Minecraft, I feel like I’m familiar. With a community of millions of players, and the attention of an audience that ranges from age zero and up, it seems like nothing can stop this game from going on as far as its world does. Or will it?
You see, my prediction is that we’ve already seen “peak Minecraft”. Thousands of players are going to stop playing this addictive “game” and move on. In fact, I already did! Here’s 7 reasons why I stopped playing Minecraft. Not that you care.
7. Everyone Loves an Underdog
When Minecraft started it out, it was a hip, random project made by an even hipper, more random dude. Notch is a pretty unique guy, even for software development. Generous and kind? Yes. But he’s a bit of a character. Combine the charisma of a goofy scandinavian nerd with the peculiarity of a new game that looks like it was built out of parts left over from 1986, and you’ve got a recipe for fascination. At least, it seems like that’s what happened here. There was an astonishing rise in popularity of this game. “Viral” is probably the best word for it. People seem to know what that means these days.
How is this a reason the game is going to flounder in its adolescence? Everyone loves an underdog! That’s how! And Minecraft isn’t one! Now that practically everyone on earth owns a copy, it isn’t new, exciting, or intriguing anymore. There’s nobody to root for. The novelty is gone, the honeymoon is over, and it’s time to sweep up the confetti. At least that’s how I feel. This experiment has run it’s course, and the outcome is disappointment.
6. Where’s the API?
According to the depressingly out-of-date Minecraft Wiki article on the topic, there’s a fantastic Plugin API coming soon! Or is it? I can’t even remember when the last time was that I heard something meaningful about this one. There was promise of a sort of flexibility that would knock the socks off of traditional game modifications. It would’ve give even casual developers the tools they needed to do almost whatever they could imaging with the Minecraft world. But alas…empty promises, and an acquisition by you-know-who have left this looking pretty doubtful. After all, why let people generate their own plugins when you could charge people for the same content block by tiny block. The other shoe is about to drop, and I don’t want to pay for it.
5. Where’s the Focus?
Every time a Minecraft update is released I excitedly download the newest version, give it for a spin, and put it away again after realizing that it’s just more bits and bobs stuck on to keep people interested. No real story added, no real substance, no real mission, no real quest. Just a giant, lonely world filled with blocks of crap you didn’t want or need. Sure, you can build to your heart’s content in creative mode, but I’ve exercised my imagination enough, it’s your turn guys.
That sounds pretty harsh coming from a guy that loves the hell out of the idea behind this project. But where are all of the game features? It’s a giant blank canvas…I get that. By why can’t it be a game? Where is the focus on it becoming something more than just a giant sandbox? And now that the product is on the workbench of another organization, what can I expect as a fan? Anything? I’m done waiting.
4. It would be so cool if they added…
How many times have you said to yourself, “it would be so cool if they added,” followed by some fantastic idea you only wish would come to life? Well some people have had those wishes come true. But it’s pretty safe to say that you might as well write your idea down down on a piece of paper and stick it someplace other than the suggestion box, if you catch my drift. I’ve never seen a community of people so passionate about something, that they were willing to give up perfectly good ideas for entire games of their own for free, just to make this one project even better, only to have those suggestions fall on deaf ears. That isn’t how you treat a group of fans this awesome. I’m out.
3. It Really Is Just a Bunch of Blocks
I hate to rain on the parade of the millions of creative young people out there who have thrown countless hours into this, instead of doing their homework, but really, it’s just a bunch of blocks. I’ve made some stuff I thought looked pretty neat, but the thing I found more and more often was that, at the end of the day, it’s all just so…blocky. I can’t get passed it. Fans went as far as programming custom shaders into the experience to add realism, but why? It’s fundamentally completely devoid of any visual features that one might dub “real”.
Say what you want about the sense of isolation or the miraculously entertaining terrain generator, or the music, or the interesting inventory mechanics. And go ahead and argue that it isn’t even supposed to be realistic. That’s fine too. But at the end of the day, you can’t polish a turd. It’s just a bunch of blocks, and I’m tired of looking at them.
2. Where is the record button on this thing?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and you have to hand it to Minecraft for making it easy to capture some really cool images of what’s going on inside your own little world. When they added Twitch.tv integration, it just got even better, and the game is still #7 on the list of games by viewers on that site. Where is the drawback here? I mean…they just added a cinematic mode too. What could possibly be wrong with this formula? Well it’s all an afterthought, that’s what’s wrong with it.
There was a time when every video on YouTube seemed like it was about Minecraft. Kids were buying equipment to stream the game to their friends, and some talented artists made entire movies with it. It’s a giant lost opportunity (one of many). If the video community had been embraced as soon as the popularity was clear, maybe they could’ve salvaged this aspect of the experience. But for a game that was just purchased for $2.5 billion, the fact that it’s only #7 on the Twitch.tv list should say something. I, for one, have already lost interest, and I think others have too.
1. I’m Not For Sale
Let’s be honest here. What Microsoft did wasn’t buy a small game studio and its intellectual property. That’s what they wanted it to look like, sure. But what they really did was attempt buy the hearts and minds of millions of gamers. THAT is what this is allllllllllll (enough L’s?) llllllll about. Losing the console war are we? Tablet sales down across the entire industry? Oh I have a way to pad the old wallet: let’s buy the most popular game we can find and just say it’s our product! The owner even wants out! Perfect! Oh! And we can make the release of the next version *exclusive* to Windows and XBox One! It’ll be the most eagerly anticipated sequel that I do not want.
“If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I’ll probably abandon it immediately.” –Notch
And sure it’s easy to paint Microsoft as the villain here. But you know what, Notch? Who do you think you are, just pawning off these gamers to Microsoft as though you somehow own us too? Where is my cut? Where’s my percentage of the $2.5 billion you made, in part, off of people singing your praises? Maybe we should’ve noticed something was afoot when you didn’t name it “Yourcraft”. Oh and one more thing, you’re a hypocrite. Thanks for Nothing, Notch. Thanks for starting this project and not having the constitution to see it to a fitting end. And thanks for leaving us all in the lurch in the process. Good day, sir. I hope the anonymity you wish for is a blast.