Last week on October 1, 2020 Twitter crashed for a few short minutes. As unbelievable as it sounds, some believe it is because of a big reveal Nintendo made at the time — the next big DLC announcement for the hit game Super Smash Bros Ultimate, which was a very unexpected choice. Minecraft is collaborating with Nintendo to include their cast of characters in the platform fighting game.
If you are like me, you will remember fondly the public release of Minecraft back in 2009. A small, simple sandbox game that gives players the ability to craft their journey however they wish (pun intended). Back then it was touted as an interesting Java-based open tool for players to make their own worlds and interact with the world the creator, Marcus “Notch” Persson created.
Now, after billions or dollars, countless content creators, streamers, and popular mods of the game later, Minecraft is the best-selling video game of all time, with online interest growing in 2020. It has been recognized by Nintendo a game worth adding to their roster in their ambitious and prolific crossover, and indie game developers should be nothing but happy!
Nintendo is No Stranger to Indies
Since the advent of the Nintendo Switch and the eShop back in 2017, Nintendo has stepped up their indie game representation. Indie games and the independent game developers (small teams and solo develoeprs) who create them have been featured on Nintendo’s “Nindie News” and showcases on YouTube. By taking this move, Nintendo buys in on the value of indie games and the surrounding community being recognized and marketed by their team.
Minecraft is not the first indie represented in Super Smash Bros either. The titular character from Shovel Knight makes an appearance as an assist trophy, and Mii Fighter costumes for Cuphead and Undertale’s Sans appear in the game. Each of these reveals has caused a stir in the gaming community, as gamers easily recognize these characters from their games, which are overall more recent releases than the other Nintendo cameos.
A Question of “When” not “If”
Indie game developers are gradually proving their worth, with quality releases left and right. Just in the past 5 years we have received countless games that will be known as classics of their generation, including “Hyper Light Drifter”, “Celeste”, “Enter the Gungeon”, “Stardew Valley”, “Undertale” and many, many more. It was only a matter of time before an indie game made a debut in a large scale, triple-A crossover.
Many indie developers never get the chance to sell to major companies, but the team behind Minecraft, Mojang Studios, saw the opportunity and took it. The sale of the rights to Minecraft netted them about 2.5 billion dollars, likely the largest sale ever transacted between a small gaming studio and a huge multinational company. Minecraft is the top indie games darling, and it was only a matter of time before one of the giants in gaming recognized and legitimized the game.
Inspiration for the Next Generation
So, what does this all mean for indie developers? Minecraft’s success story received an awe-inspiring epilogue in the form of inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Independent game studios working on their IP and mainstream release can look to Minecraft as an example of what it means to “make it” — in every sense of the term — and use that to actualize their success as well.
Minecraft was one of its kind upon release, and arguably invented the sandbox crafting subgenre that is seen in many other games, from Terraria to Skyrim. Minecraft was initially more like a tool, a Java applet provided to gamers who wanted to tinker with the game and play their own way. I think this innovative approach is what make Minecraft so popular, and truth be told gamers still clamor for this kind of customizable gameplay. Mojang’s innovation is something to inspire game developers today — don’t depend on existing genres and tropes to create your game systems.
With a focus on innovation, high quality, and a solid player base and marketing, indie devs can follow in the footsteps of Mojang and create the next Minecraft. What changes will the next 10 years bring to the gaming industry?
If you are an aspiring game developer and are interested in creating your own game studio, please check out some of my articles on how to successfully navigate the industry.