Ten years of "Minecraft": blocks for blocks to the cultural phenomenon

Minecraft is the most successful and influential video game of our time. But when the worlds kit came on the market, not even his maker knew that it would start like this.



May 17, 2009 marks a dramatic turning point in the life of Swedish developer Markus Persson. On that day, "Notch", the nickname of the self-taught and drop-outs, published in the TIGSource forum the first version of his single-minded construction game "Minecraft". Persson had for the initially still under the project name "Cave Game" developed version 0.0.11a needed only a week's work.

Nevertheless, this version laid the foundation for a success story that continues to this day, which made Persson even a billionaire. For ten years later, the world's building set is a cultural phenomenon and with more than 155 million copies, the second-best-selling video game ever after "Tetris".

Markus Persson, born in 1979, started programming at the age of seven on his father's Commodore 128. At eight, he developed his first text adventure. As a teenager, he dreamed of someday creating a hit like Doom.

The phenomenon "Minecraft"

In "Minecraft" there is no predetermined game goal, the players have almost infinite possibilities. From the first-person view, they explore the block-built, procedurally-generated world, which can also be rebuilt. Raw materials can be broken down, as well as building and "crafting" objects. The classic "Minecraft" version from 2009, invented by the inventor Markus "Notch" Persson within a few days, can now be played in the browser for free. From her comes this screenshot.

Early in the net a hype arose around the blocks game. German YouTubers like Erik "Gronkh" Range or Michael "GommeHD" Renk reached millions of viewers with their Let's Play videos on "Minecraft" and became stars. The picture shows a part of Gronkh's very first "Minecraft" -Let's-Play from October 19th, 2010.

For the first, spontaneously in Bellevue in the US state of Washington aligned "MinecraftCon" on 31 August 2010 came around 50 hardcore fans. Afterwards, the event took place annually under the name "Minecon" in changing venues such as Las Vegas, Disneyland Paris or London and attracted thousands of visitors.

The makers of the game were also on the "Minecon" public. On the left is Markus Persson with his trademark, a black felt hat, Mojang's lead creative designer Jens Bergensten on the right. Since 2017, Microsoft has hosted the fair as a livestream event.

In October 2010 Notch founded together with Jakob Porsér and Carl Manneh the development studio Mojang AB, which still sits in Stockholm today. "Minecraft" Stand 2019 is programmed in the hip district of Södermalm in the former Skype office. Here you can see the entrance to the previous studio location.

"Minecraft" opposed the logic of the game industry, where small indie developers often have a hard time. It became a viral self-runner thanks to its equally loyal and creative community and sold well as an unfinished game. Already in January 2011, Mojang could report one million copies sold. The screenshot shows a beta version from the end of 2010.

"Minecraft" fans have been creating real brick masterpieces over the years. For example, resourceful players in the "Minecraft Middle Earth" project have for years been building the "Lord of the Rings" venue Middle-earth - including striking landscapes and buildings such as the Minas Tirith Fortress (see picture).

The community of "WesterosCraft", however, recreated the world of the fantasy series "Game of Thrones" on a server. The construction of Winterfell Castle began in February 2014 and ended in March 2015.

Teachers also recognized the potential of "Minecraft" early on. As early as 2012, a teacher integrated it into his lessons. The Viktor Rydberg School in Stockholm, Sweden, declared the construction game a school subject in 2013 because it promotes children's spatial thinking and creativity. Also in computer science lessons "Minecraft" is used, it is suitable for example as an introduction to programming.

Even in town planning, "Minecraft" can be of use. Mojang first used the Uno Support Program in 2012 to plan construction projects in Kenya's capital, Nairobi. The title of the project is appropriately "Block by Block".

"Minecraft" made it into the TV series "The Simpsons": The intro of the first time on April 6, 2014 broadcast in the US episode "Lucas" shone in the typical pixel look of the game. Previously, the "South Park" episode "Informative Murder Porn" already revolved around "Minecraft".

On September 15, 2014, Microsoft acquired Mojang for $ 2.5 billion. "He [" Notch ", editorial note] has decided that he does not want the responsibility for running a company of such global importance.In recent years he has been trying to work on smaller projects, but the print, Minecraft owning it became too big for him, the only option was to sell Mojang, "it said in an official statement on the mega deal. The founders then left the company, but the huge success of the game did not detract.

To date, Minecraft has sold well over 155 million copies across all platforms. The classic PC version alone has sold more than 30 million copies, the editions for the home and mobile consoles from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are also very popular. The mobile version for smartphones and tablets (see picture) is the most successful offshoot of the game, which is even available for Raspberry Pi, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. There are also virtual reality versions of the game.

In early November 2016, Microsoft released an Education Edition of Minecraft in eleven languages. This is a special version for school lessons based on the teacher's modification "MinecraftEdu". German Chancellor Angela Merkel was shown during her opening tour at Gamescom Gamescom 2017 in Cologne.

Trivia First: The popular and infamous Creepers found in "Minecraft" are based on a developmental flaw. Notch actually wanted to design a pig, but changed some values ​​- and came out the odd-looking figures.

Trivia knowledge for the second: The groaning of the Ghasts is originally from the sleeping and apparently snoring cat of "Minecraft" sound designer Daniel "C418" Rosenfeld. The monsters are of course available in the form of merchandising, for example as a pillowcase.

There are now many official and unofficial fan articles about the game, from Lego sets to books. In April 2018, the "Minecraft" novel "The Schmahamas Conspiracy" by German creator Patrick "Paluten" listed Mayer Platz as one of the SPIEGEL bestseller lists.

"Minecraft" players like to attract attention through special actions. The streamer "Philza", for example, played the hardcore mode for over five years - without dying. In April 2019, the record series ended when a baby zombie surprised him. His less enthusiastic reaction can be seen in this video. Meanwhile, he started a new run.

In "Minecraft" Mojang repeatedly addresses current pop culture topics. Over the years, so-called skin packs with well-known licenses such as "Marvel's The Avengers", "Power Rangers" or "Stranger Things" (picture) have appeared again and again.

"Minecraft" called by his success some imitators on the scene, for example, the similar "Lego Worlds". The now closed US studio Telltale Games delivered with "Minecraft: Story Mode" even an adventure offshoot of the game. Netflix offers him since the end of November 2018 as playable via TV remote control adventure. On 4 March 2022, the first movie to "Minecraft" start, for the Mojang with Warner Bros. works together.

Games like "Dungeon Keeper" as inspiration

Before "Minecraft" "Notch" released some smaller games, which he had partly completed in programming competitions such as Ludum Dare. One of his more notable early works is the "Wurm Online", launched in 2006 together with a friend - a sandbox game with an open world, in which many ideas of his later blockbuster hit are already to be found.

For "Minecraft" Persson was inspired by personal favorites such as "Dungeon Keeper" and "Dwarf Fortress", he also took over elements from "Wurm Online" and the "Minecraft" prototype "RubyDung".

His most important influence, however, was "Infiniminer", a one-man project by the US developer Zach Barth. "'Infiniminer' is the main inspiration for the blocky appearance and changing landscape," Notch wrote at the time in his Tumblr blog. He also described his project as an "Infiniminer" clone at first.

In fact, "Minecraft" reminds at first glance of Barth's 3D multiplayer game, which comes along with block optics and a construction and grave mechanics. However, "Infiniminer" never reached the popularity of Persson's creation.

The beginning of the hype

The early "Minecraft" version quickly found many fans - and only four weeks after the publication launched the online encyclopedia Minecraft Wiki. Persson also opened the official Game Forum, where he regularly published information on the development process. He successively expanded "Minecraft" with numerous updates, which brought the game about an online multiplayer mode, new content and mechanisms.

Persson set early on a monetization concept: Already at the end of 2009 players could invest five euros in a premium account to receive all the news. By June 2010, "Minecraft" sold 20,000 times.

With the achievement of the so-called alpha phase followed by a price increase to ten euros, and in the network rampant hype. This was fueled above all by the lively community: More and more "Minecraft" fans reported on their fascinating experiences and creative building projects on blogs as well as in forums and social media channels and above all on YouTube.

The game that made "Gronkh" famous

German YouTube stars like Erik Range aka "Gronkh" owe much of their fame today to "Minecraft". Gronkh's first Let's Play video for "Minecraft" on October 19, 2010 has been viewed more than 15 million times to date. Until the beginning of January 2014 he produced over 1200 episodes.

"Minecraft" had long since grown larger than its creator. The reacted and founded in October 2010, together with Jakob Porsér out of his private company emerged Mojang AB, in order to advance the development in the future team.

Persson had met Porsér with his former employer Midasplayer. The company was later renamed King and acquired by Activsion Blizzard in 2015, known as the "Candy Crush" maker. As Mojang CEO Carl Manneh, Persson knew from his time at the online photo service jAlbum knew.

Blocks for millions

At the end of 2010, "Minecraft" moved into the beta phase, got fresh functions donated and cost henceforth 15 euros. However, the sales figures did not hurt, quite the contrary: In January 2011, sales cracked the million mark. On 18 November 2011, "Minecraft" finally left the beta status and was now available for the price of just under 20 euros as a full version.

If "Minecraft" was initially only for the PC, the game was also released in the following years for smartphones and tablets as well as all current gaming platforms.

However, Markus Persson's success soon became too much: He retired from the development team on December 1, 2011 to take a break and devote himself to new projects. However, "0x10c", the most respected of his following game projects, he stopped due to lack of ideas. From now on Jens "jeb_" Bergensten, who is responsible for the further development of the game, took care of the future of "Minecraft".

Sold for 2.5 billion dollars

Even without Persson it went uphill for "Minecraft". The game was not only a regular guest on video portals, but also conquered pop culture and society (see photo gallery).

Understandably, Mojang's world success aroused desires. Persson was able to resist an offer from the industry giant Valve, he was on 15 September 2014 weak: Microsoft bought Mojang for 2.5 billion dollars. Persson, Porsér and Manneh left the company after the sale - as rich men.

What began as a small game by Markus Perssson lives on under the banner of the tech giant from Redmond. "Minecraft" is still one of the most played games worldwide.

Only the name "notch" players encounter lately rare. Microsoft has removed several references to the inventor from the home screen of the game. Presumably, the company wants to distance itself from Persson, who in recent years repeatedly attracted attention with questionable tweets.

Game tip: You want to know how everything started with "Minecraft"? Microsoft and Mojang have released the Classic version of 2009 on the occasion of the tenth anniversary free of charge. You can play them directly in the browser here.

ref: spiegel