Markus Persson, the man we've come to know as "Notch," is an interesting fellow. He made a little game called Minecraft, which has ultimately become the epitome of upstart indie success. Notch has since made bazillions of dollars, and has left the continued development of Minecraft to a small team of developers so he could take a vacation then get to work on some new projects.
Now, if we're being truly honest with ourselves here, Minecraft's absurd amount of success was a lucky break. I'm not saying it's not a good game, or that it doesn't merit the attention it's been given. I think it's great, and I find it encouraging to see that an unheard-of developer can launch a humble little indie game that practically changes the face of gaming. But Minecraft owes some of its success to the fans, some to YouTube, and a good deal of it to timing and dumb luck.
Had Minecraft launched just a few years earlier, I doubt it would have seen sales figures in the millions. It became a sensation by word-of-mouth. It was fan videos, vlogs, and even professional web series that put it into the public eye, and it was the memes it spawned that kept it constantly in the forefront of our minds. Now, the Internet has been around for decades now, but the idea of "going viral" is still a pretty new to our culture. Had sites like YouTube not had the momentum they had by the time Minecraft went into alpha, the game would have probably stuck with a small niche group of gamers, just like Infiniminer did. I mean, how many of us only know of Infiniminer because Notch has cited it as a major influence? Quite a few, I'm willing to bet.
Now, I also have to give credit to Minecraft for lending itself so well to this kind of attention. It spread around the Internet like wildfire because it was so much fun to watch. Some of the things people were building were absolutely astounding, and clicking through Minecraft videos could easily become an addiction due to the fact that the game provided such a powerful toolset to its players. Had Minecraft been any other type of game, it would have had trouble becoming successful without a serious marketing campaign. I mean, hundreds of other little indie games have come and gone that are groundbreaking and incredible, yet none of them have been able to even stand in the shadow of Notch's creation in terms of sheer popularity.
Of course, all this popularity and money has allowed Notch to pretty much do whatever he wants. He can make a little 8-bit game in almost no time at all, and it will get attention from a majority of the gaming press. In fact, he proved this with Minicraft, an 8-bit, top-down, Zelda-inspired version of Minecraft.
Mojang, the company Notch helped found, has some more games in development now. One such game is Scrolls, which has had an insane amount of media attention over the past year because of Bethesda's lawsuit against the title. What is Scrolls, exactly? Well, it's hard to say for certain, but it sounds like a fantasy-themed strategy game with some collectible card-type elements. Whatever it ends up being, I'm pretty sure I'll end up buying it anyway, and I'm sure a ridiculous amount of my fellow gamers share that sentiment. Those of us who have fallen in love with Minecraft are more than willing to support whatever project next comes out of Mojang.
Now, this is a little bit dangerous. If Mojang's next project doesn't completely blow our minds, I bet fans will start getting a little bit cynical. If the next three or four Mojang releases continue to leave us with a feeling of "meh," we're going to stop supporting them, while waxing nostalgic over Mojang's "good old days" when Minecraft was still fairly young. Sure, there will be some stragglers who continue to convince themselves that any of Mojang's games are actually gems among gaming out of sheer brand loyalty, but that crowd will dwindle fast. So Mojang needs to wow us. I mean, really wow us.
Thankfully, Notch has recently announced his newest project, and it's incredibly intriguing. At least, it is on paper. 0x10c, as the game is called, is set in space and is said to include fully functional 16-bit computers. (Get more details in Angelo M. D'Argenio's speculative article on it.) If the computer aspect of this game is kept completely open for players to do whatever they want with, we could see some seriously cool emergent gameplay come out of this. It's ambitious, to say the least. Then again, anything coming from Notch is expected to be ambitious.
My prediction: 0x10c sounds great on paper, and if Notch can deliver a title that fully lives up to its ambition, we could have another Minecraft on our hands. If it instead ends up being a low-quality space sim that gets old way too quickly, it could begin to sour gamers to the idea of Mojang as a company (assuming the title is indeed developed under Mojang's banner), or of Notch as a developer. The bar set by Minecraft is pretty high, after all, and gamers are a fickle bunch.
Then again, if Notch decides to stop coming up with new game ideas altogether, he could always stay prominent in the game industry merely by funding other small projects, like what he was considering with Psychonauts 2. I doubt we'll ever see him completely vanish from the industry he's left such a huge mark on.
Editor / News Director
Date: April 12, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central. This week's is also purely a work of fiction*