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What Makes Multiplayer Sandbox Games So Damn Addicting?

Multiplayer sandboxes show how to truly "appeal to a larger audience."

Multiplayer sandbox games have dominated the market. Titles such as H1Z1 and Ark: Survival Evolved have captured and maintained an audience in the hundreds of thousands. Minecraft, the poster child of these multiplayer sandbox games, is still riding strong with nearly a million daily players. The success of this genre is due to the variety of motivations and engagements available to the player. It's not about creating a singular playstyle to satisfying everyone, but creating a game open enough to have multiple playstyles targeting different people.

One of the core engagements of these sandboxes is exploration. Players navigate procedurally generated worlds that create wonder and fear. Each world gives new adventures to experience and stories to tell. This style of play is rewarded with resources to craft better gear and in turn, explore more. For example, Minecraft rewards players with precious metals the further they explore. Even if the base exploration is boring, the occasional surprise or reward makes the game memorable and enjoyable. Again, Minecraft's mining itself isn't engaging, it is the occasional diamond or lava flow that makes the play through memorable.

Self expression is the second core engaging element of these sandboxes. Players use the vast tools at their disposal to create impressive structures and worlds in their image. Using crafting systems, players can customize their equipment and land to create a truly unique experience. May it be the large fortresses in Ark: Survival Evolved or the sculptures made in Minecraft; players can express themselves through the game mechanics.

Player interaction enhances these mechanics while providing new experiences to enjoy. The multiplayer creates constant variety as you meet new people and handle the challenges that come from social interaction. In H1Z1 you can either befriend players and survive the zombie outbreak, or kill anyone you meet for precious loot. It gives social challenges and stories simply not seen in traditional multiplayer games.

As you can see by now, these core and thus most engaging features hit different audiences all at the same time. These multiplayer sandboxes give players a choice in how to experience its mechanics and world. This sense of choice leads to players finding their own sense of enjoyment and becoming invested in the game world.

How do you enjoy multiplayer sandboxes? Let us know in the comments!

Published Feb. 6th 2017

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