September 16, 2019 Minecraft’s player count continues its upward trajectory.
The debate is settled: Minecraft is bigger than Fortnite. And Roblox. And GTA V. That’s according to a recent interview between Mojang studio head Helen Chiang and Business Insider, in which Chiang claims 112 million users are logging in each month. That’s over 1% of the world’s population, and an impressive percentage of the total units sold, which was 176 million back in May (if Minecraft were a country, that would make it the eighth-largest in the world).
“What we find is that it’s a game that players keep coming back to,” says Chiang. “It may not always be the one that’s in the forefront, because there are a lot of great games that continue to come out, but it’s one that they love to return to.” Minecraft was released in 2011, but if Chiang’s numbers are to be believed, Mojang’s construction game is going stronger than ever.
In fact, it’s difficult to think of a bigger video game success story. Let’s not forget, Minecraft is a game that was largely made by one man (Markus ‘Notch’ Persson), then later sold to Microsoft in 2014 for $2.5 billion.
This sale was by no means the end of Minecraft’s dominance. In fact, it’s only got more popular. October 2018 was the last time Microsoft announced the game’s player count, which crested at 91 million. Just one year later, that player count has jumped by 21 million. It’s an incredible feat, especially for a game that refuses to adopt the increasingly favoured free-to-play model.
It’s worth noting Chiang doesn’t mention accounting for users playing over multiple devices, which could inflate her figure of 112 million. In any case, Minecraft’s availability has undoubtedly driven sales. Players can purchase the game across a wide variety of platforms, including PC, Mac, mobile devices, and games consoles. Even sticking purely to Microsoft’s ecosystem, you can choose to purchase the game physically in shops, digitally on the store, or by using the Game Pass subscription service.
There are also tie-ins taking Minecraft into bold new directions. iOS augmented reality game Minecraft Earth entered closed beta in July 2019; Action RPG Minecraft Dungeons is due for release in 2020, and Warner Bros. is planning to release a live-action film in 2022. Meanwhile, swathes of merchandise ensure Minecraft remains in the zeitgeist, from towels and pyjamas to LEGO sets and light-up pixel swords.
For context, other than Tetris (which could rival Minecraft for the title of best-selling game ever) the only game to surpass 100 million sales is Grand Theft Auto V. Publisher Take-Two Interactive recently announced that that game had reached 110 million sales, adding ten million in just six months.
While purchased copies of Minecraft have been climbing bit by bit over the past decade, elsewhere they’ve shot up. Minecraft China, a free-to-play version of the game distributed by NetEase, recently surpassed 200 million players. It took Minecraft China just over a year to reach the 150 million mark, far outstripping the growth of the original game, which had taken nearly a decade to reach that kind of milestone.
Still, the game that started it all shows no signs of slowing. NVIDIA recently overhauled Minecraft’s basic visuals with real-time ray tracing, new textures, and light-refracting water. And the latest update, 1.15, added cute bees and honey farming. There’s no sign of Minecraft 2 on the horizon, but if the first game carries on like this, we don’t need one.