How Minecraft Gave Virtual Worlds a Second Life

A blog post from New World Notes today announced that Minecraft is now the popular game on XBOX Live. And in fact it’s more popular than Call of Duty. That’s kinda cool.

Minecraft has been an incredible success in a very short period of time by offering users the ability to create. Millions of users (we’ll call them that for now) are spending long periods of time crafting (creating) digital objects. Why? Just because they can. It’s Lego 2.0 with added zest.

The secret sauce is the interaction with these objects, other users and the environment. New digital worlds are being created and entire ecosystems of interaction are taking place.

What has really assisted in the growth of Minecraft is the passionate audience of fans behind it. And, in particular the videos of user creations and activities inside the world. This ‘Machinima’ enjoys multi-million views in really short periods of time. In turn, virality grows off the back of widespread exploitation of social graphs.

It’s interesting to see the different ways that users play / engage with Minecraft. Some re-create real world places – these are known as mirror worlds. Others create race tracks, space stations and even environments from other games such as World of Warcraft. Pop culture is also prevalent. Combining this and the viral element, here’s a video on YouTube that was released four day ago. It’s just about to hit 5m views. Not bad.

Minecraft is enjoying explosive growth and 2012 has seen them move from circa 28m registered accounts right up to 45m. This is the largest proportional increase in the entire sector, including the kids, tween and teen markets. The Universe chart extract below shows the Q1 2012 position (we’ll be releasing Q3 numbers soon).

 

Minecraft has become a global brand in around two years and the great thing is that due to the nature of the platform (user generated content), the community is in total control of its destiny – where it goes from here.

But hang on a minute.

Haven’t we been here before with Second Life?

Millions of users. Media awareness. Content creation. Communities.

All of these elements were (and still are) in Second Life. This has been the case for many years. The funny thing is that Second Life is still a great business. It’s just that the media got bored and moved on. People think that Second Life has closed, just because no-one really writes about it anymore. But the community didn’t get that memo and still enjoy being inside Second Life.

But is was never cool in a way that could be interpreted by a wide age range. Who, in turn could tell their friends. Maybe the avatars looked too real, and at the same time too weird. Maybe it was the brands that swept in and mainly left a bad-taste in users mouths. We were fortunate to create one of the best performing campaigns in Second Life, with our L’Oreal Paris campaign. Or perhaps it was the age limit of having to be at least 17 to register for Second Life. Sure, these was a ‘Teen Grid’ for slightly younger users but that’s not cool. You always wanted to go to your older brothers party.

Minecraft has a user base that spans a wide age range. We estimate the average user age to be 14 but that hides a spread from eight right through to 98. Minecraft is UGC (user generated content) for the masses. So, the users are kids, tweens, teens and adults.  The power-house of user base growth has come from the teenage market, with YouTube boosting K-Factors and brand awareness and other community-led channels such as Facebook have made virtual worlds cool again. In fact, the Minecraft Facebook fan page has just reached 5m fans.

Shown below is a google trends chart comparing Second Life and Minecraft.

Minecraft is the red line and totally over-shadows Second Life in blue, which is remarkable because the media  interest in Second Life was intense in 2007 – 2008. It’s just that Minecraft has become more popular by an order of magnitudes.

The bottom line here is that fundemantally. giving the people the power to create whilst socializing is one of the most compelling features of virtual worlds. It may even be the most important aspect. Second Life provided one of the first platforms for people to do this. But the growth of Second Life was ultimately hampered by some brick walls. The younger audience has propelled usage of UGC and Minecraft and  and in many cases it serves as the ‘graduation destination’ for the millions of kids and tweens that migrate from the highly successful younger virtual worlds such as Moshi Monsters, Club Penguin, Stardoll and others.

This sector is in good hands and promises much. As consumers and businesses, we will continue to use virtual content creation and engage with virtual social networks. Drawing from a previous point and closing this article, the ability to create and share will be the driving force in the future of the sector and virtual worlds like Minecraft give us glimpse into where we are heading. Albeit currently in large pixel format……but that’s cool.

KZero Services

KZero Reports

KZero on Facebook