Developer Mojang Studios has announced that Minecraft, first released in early access in 2009, has now sold over 300 million copies worldwide. It is the first individual videogame to hit such a milestone, with its closest rival Grand Theft Auto V languishing behind on a mere 185 million copies (as of August 2023). Other series have sold more over multiple entries (Mario games are estimated to have sold over 800 million), and variations (Tetris on 520 million, 425 million of which are on mobile), but no single game has ever sold as many copies as this.
"As we approach the 15th anniversary, Minecraft remains one of the best-selling games of all time, with over 300 million copies sold, a milestone no one could have dreamed of when we were all placing our first blocks," said Helen Chiang, head of Mojang Studios.
The news came as part of Minecraft Live, and an accompanying blogpost shared an infographic about an average day in the game: 915 KM traversed on piggyback, 400,000 wolves tamed, 15 million pickaxes crafted, 6.7 million diamonds discovered, 15 million skeletons slain, and 700,000 cakes made.
Minecraft was originally released in May 2009, though that was what we'd now call an early access version, with the full release coming in November 2011. The game was originally a solo production, coded in Java by Markus 'Notch' Persson, before the full release saw him stepping back and Jens Bergensten taking over lead development. Its success was so stratospheric that Microsoft bought Minecraft and Mojang outright for a cool $2.5 billion (£2bn) in 2014, shortly after which Persson left the studio.
The game's success is down to a whole range of factors, many outside the game itself. Minecraft became a cultural phenomenon and one of the most popular games to stream and make videos around (Google says more than one trillion Minecraft videos have been watched on Youtube, and it's regularly the most-watched game in any given year), with figures like PewDiePie building enormous brands on the back of it. The malleability of the experience, and the wide range of community servers and Minecraft variants, makes it an inexhaustible rabbit-hole of experiences. Then there's the simple fact Microsoft has made sure it's easily available on every platform under the sun, even direct competitors like PlayStation and Nintendo, with cross-progression.
The nature of Minecraft also makes it a story generator, often featuring nigh-unbelievable player behaviour. The most recent example is a protest against Mojang itself and the 'mob vote' idea that was also a part of Minecraft Live: with players going full propaganda mode and channelling some serious cold war vibes. Efforts to expand Minecraft have proven largely unremarkable: a Telltale narrative game, the doomed Minecraft Earth AR experience, and the recent half-baked Minecraft Legends. But a number like 300 million for the OG shows that such forays really are sideshows.
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Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."