Minecraft casestudy

Media Coordinator à Ms Walters
9 Sep 2014

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Minecraft casestudy

  2. PRODUCT ION AND DISTRIBUT ION • Minecraft is a massively commercially successful and critically acclaimed multi-platform ‘Open World’ game. In terms of genre it is a Sandbox Indie Game although key focus is on building, strategy and to a lesser extent survival. It was created by Markus ‘Notch’ Persson, a Swedish Computer Programmer who is not a traditional Games Developer which may account for its mathematical, formulaic interface. • Minecraft does not attempt to impress with high end representational/cinematic graphics and instead chooses a grid based Voxel graphic format which allows for cuboid building. Persson spent years developing the game himself (thus reducing costs) but was assisted later in the project in projects by Jens Bergensten.
  3. PRODUCT ION AND DISTRIBUT ION • The game was first developed and published in November 2011 by Mojang, a company that was originated by Persson from the money made from an Alpha, developmental version in 2009 – between 15 to 20 developers now work on the game. • As an indie game Minecraft is technically without a publisher as Mojang do everything from development to promotion (VERTICAL INTEGRATION). This is including encouraging distribution of the game and selling the game from their own Minecraft website, • Minecraft makes clear intertextual references to Dwarf Fortress, Infiniminer and Dungeon Keeper which is acknowledged by the developer but by 2011 Persson allowed Bergensten to take over full creative control of Minecraft while he remained as developer, choosing instead to focus on a new project – a new space game also being developed by Mojang.
  4. PRODUCT ION AND DISTRIBUT ION • Minecraft was initially made for PC but now in its multi-platform format it is available on Xbox, iOS (Apple) and Android. The game has been critically successful as well as commercially securing five awards at the 2011 Games Developers Conference and numerous innovation and new game awards. • It evidences commercial success with over 8 million copies sold on PC and 17.5 million across the above platforms. Reflected by this is the considerable profit margin made by Mojang with the game costing a one off fee in the UK of £20 – no subscription is required and you can play online or offline which is split 50:50 among gamers.
  5. MERCHANDISING • Merchandising is an additional, again hugely successful area for Minecraft and Mojang – Jinx are the company who design and manage the marketing of Minecraft (and many other games) and also distribute it to online retailers like Amazon. Branded products include Minecraft bags, books and clothing ranges particularly T-Shirts which sell well. Examples of T-Shirts reflecting the more dedicated gamer include “No food, no sleep, just Minecraft”.
  6. MARKET ING AND PROMOT ION • Minecraft inspired videos gained significant popularity on YouTube generating viral hype and talkability. The game was carefully marketed to audiences as identified above, as an online version of Lego and in doing so aligned itself with one of the most iconic ‘learning construction education products’ in history. • The novelty of the game when first released was also used to develop interest and the fact that it was such an auteur project made it desirable and interesting as free from the creative control of major distributors. • The words ‘create’ and ‘imagination’ were used in the marketing of the game and as such, have been used in education in the past two years to help with building and construction and arts based courses.
  7. • By May 2012 the hype developed from YouTube videos was evidenced by the fact that there were 4 million ‘Minecraft related videos’ about all aspects of the game. • Many of these were parodies of the actual game for example; Minecraft Style which was a homage to Gangnam Style which by December 2012 had 2 billion hits on YouTube itself. Synergy is clearly evident here and further homage is paid to two phenomenally successful brands that have come from nowhere to achieve commercial success and become embedded in popular culture in under two years.
  8. • Other YouTube videos include screen captures of ‘walkthroughs’ of the game illustrating various tasks. Mojang did use some above the line advertising to release Minecraft but a limited budget meant that its success spread via word of mouth and virally – gamers talked repeatedly about the iconic ‘look’ of the game which has gone on to inspire cloned games such as Ace of Spades and Total Miner.
  9. • The success of Minecraft without a major publisher and without a significant advertising budget has been a real feather in the cap for indie games – it has showed that games outside of the conventional blockbuster format can change the industry. • Even Hollywood have got involved by offering to produce Minecraft related television shows but remaining true to their indie roots, these offers were rejected by Mojang.
  11. Textured cubes create a 3D generated world – this ‘blocky style’ is iconic to Minecraft and is a voxel based format.
  12. STYLE • It is easy to build with cubes and squares which allows for much of the designs but as with many objects of desire this simplistic interface has become instantly recognisable as a brand with its low resolution graphics and pastel colours. Music played during game play is normally a non lyrical form of ambient music by a German composer. • Survival Mode is different in that players have to gather resources in order to develop certain blocks and items with monsters suddenly appearing making this a lot more difficult; still building but with ‘things’ making it a lot harder. There is even a ‘Health’ and a ‘Hunger’ bar charting your progress making this part of it similar to other games where you are challenged while trying to achieve tasks. In normal game play the default setting is first person typified by the ‘camera’ travelling with the gamer from behind as you move through space and worlds but there is an option to play in the third person. The core game play involves breaking and placing blocks and is in a grid format. Everything (more or less) is a cube and movement is normally vertical or horizontal. Whether in Creative mode or Survival mode even the characters are just blocks with arms and legs made up of rectangular blocks suggesting almost a retro appeal.
  13. • The success of Minecraft without a major publisher and without a significant advertising budget has been a real feather in the cap for indie games – it has showed that games outside of the conventional blockbuster format can change the industry. • Even Hollywood have got involved by offering to produce Minecraft related television shows but remaining true to their indie roots, these offers were rejected by Mojang.
  14. NARRAT IVE • In terms of narrative at the start of the game the player is placed in their virtual world where they have the option of ‘walking through’ a range of different terrains including mountains, forests and caves, deserts and jungle with narrative time compressed – a typical 24 hour cycle is represented by 20 minutes and within this given time a player can come across a range of characters known as ‘mobs’. • These are non players whose role within the narrative is to hamper or help the player as they can be hostile or non hostile ranging from cows, pigs and chickens that may be hunted for food or crafting materials to spiders and skeletons that spawn at night. Some characters are iconic to Minecraft, such as the Creeper which is an exploding creature that sneaks up on a player. Players explore the world using a ‘seed’ which is obtained from the ‘system clock’ when the world is created.
  15. • There is a form of narrative structure that although technically open ended recognises a beginning and an end although this is not reflected by traditional narrative closure – ‘The End’ is one of two alternate dimensions where the boss dragon, Enderdragon lives. If you kills the dragon it cues the game’s ending credits and players are then allowed to teleport back to their original ‘spawn point’ and will get an ‘achievement’. • Another dimension is Nether which is a hell like environment accessed by player built portals (notions of having to travel through something to get to the other side). Travelling and movement are a key feature of Minecraft and the idea of ‘digging’ is fundamental to the creation of replicas, worlds, cities; whatever the player decides he/she wants to develop. • This allows for a high degree of interactivity if engaging in online multi-play and suggests the need for logic and high end communication skills to achieve your objectives.
  16. REPRESENTAT ION • As well as defying the stereotype of a video game narrative Minecraft resists genre classification in the traditional sense – yes it is an ‘Indie Sandbox Game’ but that is as far as the game can go in terms of classification. • The term ‘Sandbox’ simply implies a world where you can go wherever you want and do whatever you want, there are very few limits. • The game is clearly hybridised with the format of strategy games as there is a need to develop a strategy and a plan to progress. Fantasy genre elements are referenced with the idea of dragons and non human characters but there are little other conventions in this regard. • Minecraft is a functional game where you ‘do’ more than ‘experience’. There are also action elements but again only up to a point and it is ultimately up to the player if they wish to create a realist or a non realist world. Whole fictional worlds can be created from fantasy to science fiction, from Hogwarts to the Star Ship Enterprise but this does not identify the game as such as belonging to this genre, just the worlds. A completely realist representation (within a virtual world format) can be created with the only non realist aspect being the format of the game.
  17. GENDER REPRESENTAT ION S • To the right is a typical human representation from Minecraft – a male character but without clear form or traditional re-presentation. Every part of the body is square or rectangular which presents players with generic form which, like genre again resists a more traditional form of interpretation. • Villagers are supposed to not be identifiable via gender, as are most characters and this was the intention of Notch Persson, to create a genderless game although it seems obvious that many of the characters are ‘male’. ‘Minecraft Guy’ is a recognised representation in the game. • Persson argue that it is the blocky look that makes the character seem more male and that interestingly gender identification is perceived and constructed by the player, not the game developer. • Persson goes on to argues that even the mobs are genderless and that they exhibits characteristics of male and female humans (cows have horns as well as udders). Breeding takes place between animals but there is no obvious gender role.
  18. GENDER REPRESENTAT ION S • This lack of gender representation creates an interesting problem for the player – do they care about and reference gender or do they just want to build and survive? • Minecraft is almost unique in this regard but academics have suggested by implication Minecraft is a male world and that ‘Minecraft Guy’ is a mutually agreed concept. • Minecraft Guy, in terms of his dress code looks like he is wearing trousers and a top which does not allow for the representation of more rounded, stereotypically ‘feminine lines’ although a few extra blocks here and there could construct gender. • It seems obvious but Minecraft Guy has no breasts and ‘his’ hair is short, he has a determined male gate as he travels through space and gestures and moves his body in a stereotypical male way. Some Minecraft characters are also given ‘facial hair’ through shading. • The game on paper then suggests no gender, pale skin tone suggests a Caucasian identity while national identity is not obvious.
  19. TARGET AUDIENCE/POSI T IONING/APPEALS • Players of Minecraft suggest an adventurous, curious and logical streak with the need to plan, communicate, create and build. • Stereotypically a Minecraft player has a level of education that allows for this functional process and again stereotypically the game requires patience that is normally associated with older gamers – there is no quick fix in Minecraft, no immediate gratification, no real ‘wow’ factor in terms of graphics and representations. • Minecraft audiences are interestingly young primarily in this regard, 14-25, ABC1, aspirational with a large body of players in their mid 20s. • Strategy and challenge drives the player to achieve and a sense of self worth is bestowed on the player once a creation has been realised. Audiences are positioned into this feel good factor on completion by the format of the game play and one of the key appeals is to stand back and ‘look at what you have done’. Again, like Lego the act of construction is intriguing and the result is satisfying.
  20. TARGET AUDIENCE/POSI T IONING/APPEALS • There is however, a lot more to Minecraft than this – some players buy into the whole cult of the game and its endless possibilities and because it is technically an indie game it has form of niche appeal in that it is not a generic blockbuster FPS game or an RPG (role playing game). • Players are predominantly male but with a secondary female demographic which should not be underestimated. • Forums tend to attract the stereotypically ‘geeky’ male gamer though posting and sharing experiences within the game are not as commonplace as games like World of Warcraft. • Entertainment values are less of an appeal with the game taking a much more functional approach which is reflected by its use in education.