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Minecraft

Minecraft: A Complete History

We reflect on a decade of mining and crafting in Mojang's seminal game.

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Few games on the market have the ability to stay relevant for a decade. Usually, after a few years, a sequel is created to pass the torch and ensure the series survives, a digital evolution of sorts. However, some take a different route and fight tradition by creating a game so unique it can stand the test of time. Minecraft is one of those games, and since its creation almost ten years ago, it has sold hundreds of millions of copies and still maintains an average player base of over 90 million people per month. To celebrate a title that has influenced so many others, and to chart the course of the second best-selling video game of all time, we've put together a timeline of Minecraft's first ten years.

When Markus "Notch" Persson first began developing Minecraft, it was just a side-project influenced by some his favourite games, those being Dwarf Fortress and Dungeon Keeper. In fact, Minecraft was inspired by an earlier title, Infiniminer. This game was created by Zachtronics Industries but unfortunately lost its developmental support around May, which was approximately the time Notch began creating Minecraft. When Notch discovered Infiniminer, it provided him with such an experience that he "decided it was the game he wanted to do".

Around this time, Notch was working at jAlbum.net - a site which allowed users to create and share photo albums - meaning the game wasn't his first priority. Still, this didn't stop him from consistently upgrading and improving what was the very first edition of Minecraft. On May 17, 2009, Notch felt comfortable enough with his work and decided it was time for a public opinion, resulting in a developmental release on TIGSource Forums, a site which allows aspiring developers to show off their work and get feedback). This edition of the game became known as Minecraft Classic, and it was the first stepping stone to it becoming a billion-dollar title.

Minecraft
We've come along way in the last ten years.

When developing Minecraft Classic, Notch described the process as "kind of a code-sketch". What he meant was he usually started by getting some code on the screen that he could play around with before deciding it was usable or could be implemented into the full game. "For Minecraft, it actually started with an isometric strategy game" Notch said in an interview when talking about the game's early development and how it was actually very fluid for a while.

For the next year, Notch worked even harder putting out multiple updates to the game, such as the introduction of survival, ultimately giving the experience more substance. Around this time was when we first started to hear about the potential end-game boss being introduced, that being the Ender Dragon. It was in 2010, around June 28, when development went to the next level as Minecraft was now in Alpha. Sales were skyrocketing beyond anyone's expectations leading Notch to quit his day job at jAlbum and begin working full time on bringing his dream to life. This new-found focus on the title meant even more updates which included new items, blocks, mobs, and even the crafting system we all recognise. On December 11, 2010, Notch committed entirely to Minecraft. He set up a studio called Mojang and employed a bunch of skilled programmers to help make his game even better, which ultimately meant on December 20 it was ready to head to Beta.

Throughout 2011, Mojang - headed up by Notch - consistently put out updates to Minecraft's live server, introducing more content, new server hosts and even an entire end game feature, challenging players to defeat the powerful Ender Dragon. The game was so successful at this point, the team felt they could successfully release Minecraft: Pocket Edition on Android phones on August 16, with iOS systems following on November 17, making mobile the second platform the game breached. Very shortly after this, Mojang decided it was time to make the PC Beta version official and it launched the game as a full title November 18. Needless to say, each of the launches was successful, however, on December 1, 2011, Notch was replaced by Jens "Jeb" Bergensten as the lead designer of the game, at which point he lost full creative control of Minecraft.

Minecraft
Everyone wants a piece of Minecraft, even The Avengers.

At the start of 2012, Mojang acquired developers from CraftBukkit - a popular server platform - as well as (allegedly) their server modification tool. This was done in an effort to improve the title's servers. 2012 also was the year Minecraft first made it onto consoles. 4J Studios developed a version of the game that was playable on Xbox 360. It launched on Microsoft's old-gen console on May 12, where it headlined the Xbox Live Arcade NEXT promotion. Alongside the release of the port, one of the first named updates made it onto the live game, that being the Pretty Scary patch which brought loads of new mobs for players to fight.

2013 marked the launch of the PS3 version of the game which became available on December 17, also by 4J Studios. However, this wasn't the most notable piece of Minecraft history for the year. Long-time fans will remember 'The Update That Changed The World' which brought new biomes and a host of new features such as horses to the Java edition of the game. This particular update changed the perception of Minecraft; now it was an exploration game through and through, giving the players the opportunity to travel and discover exciting new locations that were previously unavailable.

The start of 2014 was a relaxed period for the game. It saw updates here and there such as the Bountiful update which brought more survival features and new blocks, but once summer finished, everything went crazy. The Enhanced Edition landed on Xbox One on September 5, featuring bigger worlds, however, it's what happened two weeks later that cemented the future of the title. On September 15, 2014, Microsoft acquired Mojang and all their intellectual property in a deal worth $2.5 billion USD. The reason this occurred was that Notch - still a majority shareholder of Mojang at the time - put out a tweet asking for someone to buy his company after fans criticised him for "doing the right thing". Whilst this may seem controversial, as communities should want their developers to do the correct thing for their games, sometimes extra help is required, something Notch wasn't ready for. "That disconnect became so clear to me. I don't have the relationship I thought I did with my fans. It felt like a burden a times," Notch said in an interview following the sale. This did, however, pave the way for the Minecraft we know today.

Minecraft
When Microsoft bought Mojang, Halo skins became inevitable.

2014 also saw the launch of the game on both PS4 and PS Vita, both being developed by 4J Studios. Interestingly, the game's continued presence on Sony's platforms is actually pretty noteworthy, as Microsoft and Sony usually don't work together. It was a rare olive branch held out between the two gaming titans, and you could argue that Minecraft was a starting point in the ongoing conversation about cross-play (more on that later) and future collaboration.

As for 2015, this was a particularly slow time. Everyone was still adjusting to the acquisition meaning aside from the release of the Telltale produced Minecraft: Story Mode game, only a new Wii U port was introduced. The Telltale developed Story Mode game was actually a significant moment in Minecraft's history as not only was it a playable game, but it was later developed into a Netflix Interactive Show, which launched in 2018. This was the first example of significance where the Minecraft IP was being used for a spin-off outside of the actual game, demonstrating the potential for a future laden with Minecraft-related products. In fact, the Netflix show was actually the last in-house project Telltale worked on before it collapsed and liquidated under the pressure of a demanding market.

Ever since the collaboration between Mojang and Telltale, Minecraft has been merchandised in ways beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Fans can buy Minecraft inspired Lego, clothing, bed sheets, lamp shades, controllers, figurines, phone cases and pretty much anything else you can think of.

2016 saw Minecraft heading in a new direction. The new Education Edition brought Minecraft to schools, teaching young people core subjects (and even in some cases things such as poetry) through the game. Likewise, it was also used to introduce aspiring young programmers the basics by teaching them how to utilise Redstone in the game. This was one of the first instances where we saw games used for widespread teaching but, not only that, 2016 was the year in which polar bears finally came to Minecraft.

You're probably sick of hearing about additional ports, but we've got a few more for you. May 11, 2017, marked the day when Minecraft finally made it to the Switch, and on September 13 it made an appearance on the 3DS. The really interesting part of this year, however, is rooted deep within the Earth. Ever since its launch, the Pocket Editions were running on a system known as Bedrock. On July 31, the mobile editions were renamed to simply Minecraft and every other platform was altered to run on the Bedrock engine. This meant that each edition was running on the same platform, leading them all to be known collectively as the Bedrock Edition. It was around this time that cross-play was introduced to all platforms (except the Switch and PlayStation) in the Better Together update.

2018 was another relaxed year. The developers spent some time lounging about in the oceans, putting together the Aquatic update, bringing all sorts of marine life, geology and events to the game. Not only this, but we saw the Switch introduced to the Better Together party, making cross-play even more diverse. Minecraft, was one of the first major titles to really place an emphasis on console cross-play functionality. It brought together gaming companies which once had been hostile towards one another, paving the way for cross-play titles such as Fortnite. Whilst Sony are still abstaining from Minecraft cross-play, the bond between Microsoft and Nintendo seems to be strengthening by the day, no doubt because of the ability Minecraft has for bringing people together.

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In celebration of this ability Minecraft has for uniting communities, we have to take a glance over to the vast cultural impact this blocky game has generated. From countless successful streamers and content creators, all the way through to Minecon; Mojang's game has one of the most dedicated and supportive fan bases in the entire gaming world.

Then there are the imitators and clones that the title has inspired. When Notch was putting together the first pieces of code, there's no way he could've predicted his game would generate this many offspring, especially ones that are also hyper-successful like Roblox, and possibly also the anticipated Hytale (a more streamer-friendly take on the original game). On top of all that, Minecraft can even lay claim to being one of the first battle royale experiences, as a Hunger Games mod brought the mode to the game way before the like of Fortnite and PUBG.

Plus, while we're on the topic of modding, Minecraft has an entire community dedicated to improving and building new parts to the game of their own accord. Granted at the moment these are limited to the PC versions (Java and Windows 10) of the game, with the Windows 10 version even offering monetary incentives to modders by giving budding creators an opportunity to get paid for their hard work. Lastly, are the massive community projects within the game; worlds in which huge numbers of people work together to build extraordinary things. One fitting example which comes to mind is the huge interactive museum built by Blockworks, a team who specialise in Minecraft builds. This captures the very essence of the beloved title, bringing 10 years of the game together into a honeycomb structure, built like a pixelated theme park out of your wildest dreams.

Minecraft
Minecraft Classic was just released as a browser game, and here you can see it compared to game as it looks today.

After this trip through time, we make it back to the present day, 2019. So far this year we've had the new Village and Pillage update bringing new blocks, mobs, NPCs and even equipment to the title, and we're not even halfway through the year. To celebrate the ten-year anniversary, Mojang has also released a Browser version of the classic Minecraft that Notch put together all those years time ago, which is playable for all and entirely free. Old-school fans of the game will be happy to know it's a fantastic version of the original, allowing players the opportunity to bring their imaginations to life using the iconic 32 blocks including. The version also comes with the ability to choose different map sizes, giving PCs of all power an opportunity to give the game a try. From our experience, even the largest maps run smoothly with very few hitches, which is impressive considering it's a full game running through a browser. For perspective, we've taken screens from the Browser version and compared it with the Mobile Edition - which is running on Bedrock like all other editions of the game.

Whilst there's no more history to delve into for the game which could last a millennium, its future is unwritten and all we can do is speculate. For us in particular, we'd love to see some new vehicles be added to the game, maybe a dirt bike or even a glider of some kind to help cross long distances, or maybe we'll even get to see mod availability introduced to the Bedrock Editions across all platforms. Outside of the traditional title there's also a host of new content to look out for. Coming to PC in 2019 is the new action-adventure dungeon crawler experience Minecraft: Dungeons. We don't know a great deal about the title as of yet but what we do know is that it'll let up to four players fight through swarms of mobs, enchanting weapons and exploring all the different known biomes of the game, all whilst working towards freeing villagers from the evil Arch-Illager. It's basically the Minecraft equivalent of Binding of Isaac, except instead of creepy disgusting monsters, players will slog it with creepers and spiders, which is much less terrifying. On the other hand, movie-goers can look for the Minecraft Movie which is scheduled for a 2022 release window and will feature the likes of Rob McElhenney (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia).

Minecraft
This Anniversary Map is a free download that celebrates a decade of Minecraft.

The future for Minecraft is for Mojang and the Minecraft community to write but until then we can look forward to Minecraft Earth, a newly announced AR experience which will bring all the unique and joyful experiences of the renowned title into the real world. Players will be able to collect blocks, which will enable them to build structures for all to see, in a crossed reality world where collaborating and being creative is rewarded. If that sounds like it's the sort of game you could sink your teeth into, you can sign up for the beta, which will go live in the summer for a lucky number of participants.

Last of all, if everything that came before wasn't enough Minecraft, fans can look forward to September 28, 2019, when the next scheduled Minecon Live event will be streamed worldwide across most platforms. Currently, the event is to last 90-minutes and will be loaded with breaking news, appearances from your favourite content creators, pre- and post-show sections, and a highly-anticipated community panel to really cap everything off.

So, there you have it. We have enough Minecraft content on its way to keep the game feeling as fresh as it was when Notch first brought all 32 blocks of the Classic Edition into the world, a decade ago. We don't see this one going anywhere anytime soon, so here's to another great 10 years, to a game which still manages to capture the hearts of children and adults alike.

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