Monday, April 8, 2013

Minecraft is going mainstream (vote for Notch in the TIME 100!)

Signs are everywhere that Minecraft is going mainstream. I'm not talking about mainstream among gamers—most gamers are aware of Minecraft, whether or not they play it.

I mean that Minecraft is going mainstream in the sense that non-gamers are becoming aware of it. Just in the last few days two major old media outlets have recognized Notch (Markus Persson) for Minecraft—both TIME and the New Yorker magazines.

The TIME recognition is currently only a nomination, but it's for the TIME 100 list of the most influential people in the world! The final list is selected by editors; it appears that they're guided by online voting for the 151 nominees. Thus it seems safe to say that Notch will make the cut from 151 to 100, since what other nominees will have so many middle schoolers and teens around the world voting for them? Or gamers of any age, for that matter?

I looked quickly through the list of nominees and it appears that Notch has the youth vote sewn up. Plus, voting is yea/nay for each candidate, so it appears you can support multiple people. Not the most rigorous poll.

You can vote here to approve Notch's appearance on the list. As I write this he holds seventh place(!) with 16K votes. There are four more days of voting. Given the millions sold it will be interesting to see how many votes he gets when the polling closes on Friday. Whatever the total, it's possible that the Minecraft and gamer communities will mobilize to the point that people will be a bit sick of hearing about it by the time Friday rolls around. [Update 4/11: A huge surge of votes has lifted Notch into second place, passing Kim Dotcom. Mohamed Morsi, the President of Egypt, who still holds first place by a large margin has more negative than positive votes, so Notch now holds the top spot for positive votes after deducting votes against.]

It's even more of a sign of becoming mainstream when you make the New Yorker magazine due to its exclusive readership. This is particularly true for games since they're not often covered. Will Wright was profiled in the New Yorker prior to Spore's release in what now seems like a masterful bit of PR and marketing work by Electronic Arts considering how the game turned out.

Unlike the profile of Will Wright, the New Yorker piece about Notch doesn't appear in the print issue. It's a blog entry on the web site, which greatly diminishes its impact. Titled The Minecraft Creator Markus Persson Faces Life After Fame, it's a well-written profile of Notch and how he's coped with the fame and fortune brought on by Minecraft's unexpected success. While not long, it does touch on some fairly personal things such as Notch's relationship with his father, and his divorce. It made the front page of Hacker News where it triggered a lively discussion.

This sudden spate of coverage is coincident with Minecraft sales on PC hitting 10 million copies, which ties it for seventh place on Wikipedia's List of best-selling PC games. My post that Minecraft is still selling like hotcakes holds—in the run up to the 10 million milestone, @jeb_ (Jens Bergensten) tweeted "Not slowing down...":

@jeb_ tweeted: "In January I estimated Minecraft (PC) would hit 10,000,000 on April 8, but now it looks more likely to be on April 5. Not slowing down... :o" 2 Apr

It's also in the wake of Minecraft's sales on all platforms hitting 20 million back in January, which was noted in The New Yorker piece which linked to an earlier tweet by Jeb:

@jeb_ tweeted: "About 10 hours ago, Minecraft (PC) hit 9,000,000 sold copies! Which should bring the total for all platforms to... 20 million?" 22 Jan

If it were any other company I'd assume that PR work was involved in getting this old media coverage, but since it's Mojang I'd be surprised if it was the case. But one never knows.