Version 1.0 of Minecraft, what is now known as Minecraft Java, launched in 2011. Nonetheless, while many games have come and gone in the decade since its launch, Minecraft is still a gaming juggernaut, remaining one of the most popular games to play, to stream on Twitch, and to watch on YouTube.
So, why, exactly, is Minecraft so popular? In this article, we’re going to answer that question.
More than anything else, Minecraft isn’t just a video game, it’s many video games.
First, you have Creative Mode. A totally free-form sandbox where players can fly around a randomly generated world, access every block in the game, and quickly acquire any resources or items they need to build fabulous structures, test out Redstone contraptions, or simply have fun with friends, relax, and explore.
Today, there are legions of popular creators who make a living playing Minecraft’s Creative Mode exclusively, mostly by building worlds of unfathomable complexity and scale, like recreations of the entire Earth or entire fantasy worlds with their own civilizations, religions, culture, and histories.
Then, there is Survival Mode. True to its name, Survival Mode is Minecraft’s take on a survival game: You have to feed yourself, watch out for hostile mobs, and search for every block or resource you might want within a boundless randomly generated sandbox.
But it’s not just Creative Mode with some limitations. In Survival Mode, there’s an entire campaign’s worth of progression: goals to pursue, bosses to fight, and adventures to have. Players gear up and build themselves a base before traveling to other dimensions to find rare structures and acquire even rarer resources. Then, players can attempt to take on the game's bosses, of which there are currently three, that by defeating the player is rewarded with fabulously powerful items and abilities.
Going beyond either playing in Creative or Survival, Minecraft’s multiplayer contains so much content that it’s much more like a platform like Roblox than a traditional video game multiplayer component.
Popular Minecraft servers will often have tens of thousands of people online and be maintained by entire developer teams that bring new mechanics, environments, and features to their servers over the course of years of sustained activity.
Want to play Minecraft as an MMORPG, or would you rather focus on parkour, crazy acrobatics, and speed? Maybe you’d prefer to play silly party games with friends? How about huge, dense roleplay servers where players band together to form their own massive empires? Then again, maybe you work best alone, griefing other players on a no-rules anarchy server? These are just a few options of many thousands of different servers active on Minecraft at any given time.
None of this is to mention how you can also simply join up on your friends and play cooperatively with them in their worlds, be they in Creative or Survival, or how you can sign up for the Minecraft Realms service, where you can turn any of your personal worlds into a server that you and your friends can all play on together whether or not you and your friends are online at the same time.
Games like Rust have tons of active servers with a variety of gameplay features and elements, too, so how does Minecraft set itself apart from other sandbox multiplayer games? A big part of the answer to this question is the enduring popularity of Minecraft content online.
Today, a decade on, Minecraft is still one of the most popular games to stream or make videos about. In recent history, Minecraft YouTuber Dream breathed new life into the game online, starting up a series of challenge runs dubbed Minecraft Manhunt that would blossom into a star-studded Survival Minecraft server that launched the content creation careers of many people who played with Dream and his friends.
Whether you want to see crazy, high-skill plays, get some ideas for your next build, or learn how to make a new farm, whatever you could possibly want to see happen in Minecraft is already out there, online. The official Minecraft Discord server boasts 800,000 members, with nearly 250,000 online at any given time, and this kind of popularity is reflected across Minecraft communities all over the internet.
Regardless of age, experience, or time spent in-game, if you want to find people to play Minecraft with, you can anytime, day or night, and what you can do with your friends in the actual game is limited only by your imagination, dedication, and free time.
Since its release, Minecraft has seen regular updates, every year, that add new features, fix bugs, and optimize the experience for new hardware and smoother gameplay. While every year hasn’t seen an update of equal size and importance, in the last few years, Minecraft updates have been gigantic, bringing with them massive changes to the game fans have wanted for years.
2020’s Nether Update saw the entire Nether Dimension overhauled, going from a fiery Netherrack hellscape to a place with a variety of different biomes, mobs, resources to acquire, and structures to explore. 2021’s Caves and Cliffs update is set to overhaul caving by introducing new Overworld biomes, resources, and world generation features to the game as well as expanding the game’s altitude limits to accommodate taller creations and deeper exploration to expand the size of Minecraft worlds going forward.
The next update to Minecraft, 1.19, hasn’t been formally announced yet, but based on the previous updates, excitement in the community is high. Many are hoping for a combat overhaul or a parity update to bring the editions of Minecraft in line with each other, and considering updates we’ve seen to date, either is possible.