Throughout 2019, DFC Intelligence has noted how Minecraft was making a major comeback among the school-age audience. This was after a slow period of general decline with the Microsoft purchase and rise of Fortnite. Over the summer, Minecraft saw a continued increase in usage. The Minecraft ecosystem is poised to be a major driver of future video game industry trends.
In May, we wrote about how Minecraft was making a comeback among consumers. This trend only continued throughout the summer of 2019.
DFC Intelligence uses multiple tracking tools to monitor the popularity of PC games. One tool is the System Requirements Lab user base of 1.5 million gamers. The number of gamers testing for a given title has proven to be a solid indicator of popularity and usage.
System Requirements Lab was one of the few trackers not seeing a major uptick in Minecraft in the first part of 2019. This changed during the summer as Minecraft soared. Normally summer usage is down for most games. Minecraft was up 45% in August.
DFC recently released the report Battle Royale Games: Analysis and Forecasts. A key takeaway was that games like Fortnite are market expansive in the sense that they add new users and do not necessarily take away from the established user base.
Minecraft seems to fit in the same market expansive category of Fortnite. However, among a younger audience of core gamers, Minecraft is actually still hip. In DFC Intelligence’s April survey of 1,500 core PC gamers, Minecraft remained the most popular game.
Among core gamers, Fortnite was actually one of the least popular we tested. 68% of gamers had tried Fortnite, but of that 39 % did not like it. In contrast, Minecraft had been tried by 86% with only 10% who did not like it.
So, what does this all mean?
For Microsoft, Minecraft could be more valuable than Halo or even the whole Xbox brand. Of course, that is assuming Microsoft plays its cards right. Based on the track record that may be wishful thinking. The challenge will be to build Minecraft with the masses while keeping it relevant to a core audience.
The good news is that much of Minecraft is user-created content. This is becoming a key trend for the future of video games. This includes the battle royale genre.
Battle royale started as mods to popular games. Minecraft actually has all kinds of battle royale capabilities. The Minecraft Hunger Games battle royale modes have been popular for many years.
Minecraft maybe ten years old, but it is the future of gaming. Microsoft will look to use it for a multi-platform approach and to test cloud gaming services and new augmented reality products. A graphically enhanced version of Minecraft will be used to sell high-end Nvidia graphic cards.
When we were first reporting on Minecraft back in 2010 it was just approaching one million in sales. We described how it flew under the radar of most observers because it was a trend among younger core gamers. Even in 2019 we would argue that many mainstream executives, investors and older gamers simply do not get Minecraft.
Back in 2010, DFC wrote:
Minecraft is tapping into the need of many core PC gamers to create and not just play, something that has been diminished since the original modding scene that grew up around Doom, Dark Forces, Quake and Half-Life.
That attraction not only remains today but has grown exponentially. Roblox is a similar type of game/gaming platform that many older gamers simply don’t understand. It is all about users generating their own content. A big allure is a possibility of users making money from selling the content they create.
It is notable that the large publishers of AAA game content have not been able to get on board the movement of the Minecraft generation. The hardware manufacturers (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo) have experimented in this area, but much of the investment has come from Asian companies, most notably Tencent.
The new DFC Intelligence Executive Briefing Series is designed specifically to highlight these trends. User-generated content is key to understanding the future of genres like battle royale. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The game industry is set to change immensely as the Minecraft generation starts to take control.