Transparency: How Minecraft Paved the Way For The Witcher 3
I sincerely hope that you are excited about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which is set to release on May 19th. I loved The Witcher 2. This third installment set in an open world, and for some reason, that makes the game just that much more interesting. The ability to progress at your own pace or to explore the land of the Witcher at my own timing, sounds amazing. It reminds me of another game that was very similar did well: Skyrim.
Skyrim launched on November 11th, 2011 (yeah, 11-11-11). It became the best selling game ever for Bethesda. The title has sold well over 18 million units worldwide. 8 million of that was in the US and 7 million in Europe. The Xbox 360 sales of the title globally hit 8.3 million units. Skyrim more than doubled the next best selling Bethesda title: Fallout 3.
But I don’t think that either of these games would be nearly as successful if it wasn’t for one independent game out of Sweden: Minecraft.
What's Minecraft got to do with it?
Although I wasn’t as deep in the gaming industry as I am now when Minecraft first hit the scene in 2009, I did run a fairly popular gaming forum. Many of the users would rave about this game that -- as far as I could see -- was about digging holes and building tracks for minecarts to travel on. Clearly, I did not get it. In fact, it would take me years to actually understand the appeal of this game.
I did eventually learn that this game allowed players to build cities, structures, and just about anything they wanted to with blocks like virtual LEGO bricks. But what was strange to me was the survival side of Minecraft. I still didn’t get it. What was so appealing about a game where you just wander around without anyone else to explore with you? Of course, I played MMOs. At the time, there was a lot of wandering around in those games, but at least in MMOs there were other people to wander around with.
However, there was a whole generation of people who latched onto this game. Perhaps, it was because it was inexpensive and children could ask their parents for $10 easier than $60 for any other game or perhaps the parents of these children saw the benefit of the game as a learning tool for their children. (I’ll likely talk about this some other time.) Or as is likely the case for many, their friends were playing the game, and they wanted to have something to talk about “in the schoolyard.” I know that I picked it up just so that I could understand this thing that a lot of people on my forum were talking about. Plus, it was cheap. I guess I fell victim to two of the scenarios above.
What does this have to do with The Witcher 3 or Skyrim? Although there are many aspects of Minecraft that appeal to different kinds of players, the exploratory portion of Minecraft opened the door to the idea that you could just wander around doing pretty much whatever you would like.
Let’s do a quick comparison of the game of Skyrim with Minecraft. (We don’t have long-term playthroughs of Witcher 3, yet, unfortunately.)
After the initial opening quest, you’re able to wander around freely in Skyrim. In Minecraft, you do as you wish from the very beginning, pretty much whatever you want. Although the combat itself is more complicated in Skyrim, in the general sense, it’s the same. And although the crafting system between the two games is quite different, the level of involvement of crafting in the games is similar. If you’re a modder, then both Minecraft and Skyrim have that in spades. Both games have an amazing and thriving modding community.
Minecraft also opened the doors for other games to make their mark, too. The whole voxel craze that games like Landmark and Crowfall have latched onto was made possible because it’s become commonplace for players of Minecraft. We can also look at zombie survival games, too, like DayZ and H1Z1. These are made possible because of the success of Minecraft.
It is very important that you read this next part
It’s very important to understand that I don’t believe that Minecraft necessarily inspired any of these games. I don’t think the creators wouldn’t have made the games had Minecraft not existed, but the culture that Minecraft created made it possible for these games to become popular.
Think of some of your favorite games as a kid and compare them to the games you play now. Of course, you probably have stopped playing them by now, but they left an impression on you. Those childhood games shaped the games you played as a teenager and as an adult.
Personally, I played RPGs. I liked Ultima and Final Fantasy. I even liked Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest and Faxanadu because they had RPG elements. This influenced the games that I bought as an adult and the games that I like now. I like MMORPGs, like Elder Scrolls Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic. But I also like straight-up RPs, too, like Mass Effect and Dragon Age.
Now, imagine children who grew up liking Minecraft. What kinds of things would they like in the games that they play as teens and adults? My guess would be open-world games with an important crafting system…
We’ve seen already that The Witcher series has a decent and important crafting system and if you couple that with an open-world, then you’ve paved the way for former Minecraft fans to step right into a game that is more mature and made of systems they already enjoy.