July 31st, 2012 | By Mike Gnade
Is Minecraft still an Indie Game? Everyone here at the Indie Game Magazine has been struggling with this very question and the ramifications of covering the behemoth that is Minecraft. Quite a few arguments have arose and both sides seem to have excellent points. In this article, I am going to try and layout some of the debates that we have had internally and try and present both sides of the argument. At the end, we’re going to ask our readers to help us come to a conclusion and weigh in on the subject.
There’s no denying that Minecraft started as an Indie Game
This is the one fact that everyone seems to agree on. Minecraft was originally conceived by Markus Persson (“Notch”) as he played some Infiniminer. Notch started working on the game by himself with the concept of making the game fun and accessible. This open development is definitely part of the success of Minecraft. Notch made the game available to play while he was developing it and this allowed people to purchase it at a reduced price for years before it was finally deemed complete.
But what started as a small indie game project, quickly exploded. Minecraft became a huge financial success and has sold over 6.5 million copies directly from their website alone (there’s also Android, iOS and Xbox versions of the game). The popularity of the game during development lead Notch to hire a slew of new people and create his studio Mojang. Mojang currently employs 16 people and is probably one of the largest “indie” studios around.
so that begs the question…
Is Minecraft Still an Indie Game?
Of course you answer will very much depend on your definition of independent games, but that’s another article. Here are the 2 sides of the argument as I see them:
Minecraft is absolutely an Indie Game
Minecraft was conceived and primarily made by one guy with the absence of any publisher money or funds upfront. The fact that it is successful and has grossed well over $150 Million dollars doesn’t take away from it’s independence. Mojang and Notch are very active in the indie game community and continue to work on the games that they want to make without the influence of mainstream publishers. Mojang has even gone head to head with large publishers in the legal arena over their next game, Scrolls. Mojang is fighting the good fight for indie developers is an excellent example of what and independent game developer can do with financial success.
Minecraft isn’t Indie anymore
There are a ton of different arguments that I have heard thrown-out there that disqualify Minecraft from being truly indie. Based on your definition, any one of these arguments could sway you.
1. Minecraft is a clone. Like big publishers and game studios, Minecraft stole from the innovation and experimentation of the indie game community. They took a novel gameplay mechanic and threw more time, money and features at it.
2. Mojang is too big and/or successful to be considered indie. An indie game is supposed to be an artistic expression of a small group of people. Great works of art cannot be composed by a team of 16 people and there’s no indie bands out there with their own business developers and customer support personnel. Being an indie developer is about wearing multiple hats. You have to be programmer, designer, marketer, and customer support. When you employ 15 people and have millions of dollars, you cannot embrace what truly being independent is all about. It’s about interactive and personal artistic expression.
3. Mojang has become a publisher. Just like Electronic Arts or Activision, Mojang is all about making money. They’ve picked up and are publishing other games like Cobalt and are all about porting their game to as many platforms as possible. Look for them to serialize their games soon. How much longer until Minecraft 2 is announced?
All of this leads to the next question and debate here at the Indie Game Magazine:
Should IGM continue to cover Minecraft?
On the one hand, our Minecraft posts (on average) get way more views and traffic than most of the other indie games that we cover. More traffic means more ad revenue and makes sense from a business perspective. On the other hand, Minecraft is already a super successful game and doesn’t need coverage to help sell copies or keep the developer afloat. They’re doing just fine and many of our writers prefer to cover the many awesome and innovative games that you’ve never heard about. Of course, writing about Minecraft means that we could potentially get more traffic to the site leading to more people discovering other cool and indie games. What do you think? Is Minecraft still an indie game? Should we continue to cover it? Should we cover it more? Let us know in the comments below and vote on some of these issues in our poll below.