Is Minecraft Making its Way Back to the Top of the Gaming World?

Gaming experts have charted a surprise increase in popularity in recent months for Minecraft, the legendary sandbox game. Few could have anticipated that this humble open-world survival game would become so popular, but Minecraft has managed to tap into the human desire for exploration and construction. That has kept Minecraft among the top bracket of games in the past few years, but suggestions that Fortnite is declining in popularity could open the door for Minecraft to be the outright number one.

Few games have soared to Fortnite's level of popularity in the 21st century. Minecraft is one of those titles, with the sandbox survival game charming the world following its full release in 2011. Minecraft thrived on its unique graphics and its charmingly simple gameplay. In many ways, it is the antithesis to Fortnite. While Fortnite is all about destruction, Minecraft is (largely) about construction. Any decline in Fortnite's popularity may not be immediately noticeable, but Forbes' Paul Tassi has made the argument that, in his experience of the gaming world, the buzz for the battle royale game is beginning to diminish.

This has opened the door for a potential shock resurgence for Minecraft to become the world’s favorite game once more. At least, it appears to be a shock at face value. It is rare that you see something released eight years ago coming back into fashion, given that not enough time has elapsed for Minecraft to qualify as ‘nostalgic’. However, popular YouTuber PewDiePie's move into Minecraft videos has spawned a new generation of potential players, with Minecraft surpassing Fortnite as the most searched game on YouTube for the first time since early 2017.

The subsequent fanfare surrounding Fortnite has distracted from how Minecraft’s popularity has largely endured in the last decade. Minecraft has been one of the most popular survival games in the world since its release, with the game remaining at the head of that genre today. One key factor in its sustained popularity is its gameplay. While it appears simple at first, there is deceptive depth that can be uncovered through prolonged exploration and experimentation. That ability to keep building and learning sets Minecraft apart from narrative games with finite possibilities, even those with vast universes like Skyrim and Red Dead Redemption 2.

When Minecraft was added to the Microsoft Xbox Game Pass in March, the survival game was attracting an impressive 91 million monthly active users. That Minecraft can still achieve such numbers without releasing any major updates or sequels is testament to the gameplay's charm. However, those longing for twists on the classic Minecraft formula don’t have long to wait. Minecraft Dungeons is set for release on multiple platforms in 2020, a dungeon crawler game that permits independent or cooperative play. Minecraft Earth completed a beta phase earlier this year, with the augmented reality mobile game bringing aspects of Minecraft into the real world.

You’d expect that Minecraft’s rise back to the top would come after the release of these two new games, rather than preceding their launch. Instead, it is likely that these spin-offs will only secure Minecraft’s dominance at the top in 2020.