A shorter version of this story ran in the Oct. 4 newspaper.
By Tommy Carrico, Executive Entertainment Editor
“Minecraft” celebrated its tenth anniversary in May; “Fortnite” turned two in July. But despite this age gap, “Minecraft” hit an unexpected stride this summer, as its related search history rocketed past a declining “Fortnite,” according to a recent Google Trends graph.
According to Paul Tassi of Forbes, interest in “Fortnite” is fading; “Fortnite” videos that used to earn millions of views earn around only 100,000 now.
At the same time, according to a May tweet from Mojang’s Aubrey Norris, views on Minecraft YouTube videos were up eight percent from the prior year. This shift in power was quite unexpected, especially after the free-to-play “Fortnite” made over a billion dollars in 2018 entirely out of in-game purchases.
“There [are] definitely some big-name streamers who [didn’t like] the way “Fortnite” is moving, so they got off,” senior Garrett Murphy, who once held an unofficial world record for kills in one round of “Fortnite,” said. “You take away the big streamers, and their whole fan base wanes off in a certain period of time.”
Murphy believes the dying off of “Fortnite” comes as a result of its economic pursuits.
“‘Fortnite’ is a company, and they have to appeal to their biggest fan base. There [are] a lot of casual nine to 12-year-olds, and [Epic Games] lowered the skill ceiling to appeal to people who are really bad,” Murphy said. “The people who are above average catch the back end of that, and it was just not for me anymore after that.”
Meanwhile, teacher John Meyers, who has run Prospect’s video game club for over a decade, argues that “Fortnite” can be similarly unfair to inexperienced players.
“‘Fortnite’ has big-money tournaments, but those are really just for the best players,” Meyers said. “There’s not anything to really encourage a mediocre or poor player to keep playing.”
According to Meyers, the biggest way “Minecraft” differentiates from games like “Fortnite” is the way it provides fun regardless of skill level.
“Even if you’re not the best [‘Minecraft’] player in the world, you can still have an enjoyable experience,” Meyers said. “Whereas, if you’re not very good at ‘Fortnite,’ you just get shot in the head a lot.”
However, it seems the inclusive playstyle in “Minecraft” isn’t the only contributor to its rise in popularity; the game has significant support across the internet. For example, in 2017, Forbes named DanTDM, a “Minecraft” YouTuber, the top earner on the platform. PewDiePie, who passed 100 million subscribers in August, started a “Minecraft” series in June. With the first 15 episodes of this series sharing over 254 million views, it’s safe to say “Minecraft” is making a valiant return to the YouTube spotlight.
“The meme community contributed to [the return of ‘Minecraft’]. There are some memes about ‘Minecraft’ that made it kick off, and all of a sudden, everyone’s playing it again,” Murphy said. “If the internet was not a thing, [‘Minecraft’] would not be as big as it is now.”
So much “Minecraft” talk on the internet begs the question: are students also making the switch back to the game that’s been around since their elementary school days?
“I prefer ‘Minecraft’ because I feel like I could play it for hours and not get bored of it,” senior Ethan Groharing, who has played both games, said. “[It’s] not the same for ‘Fortnite.’”
Groharing isn’t the only player who prefers “Minecraft.” According to senior Eli Walter, who plays along with Groharing on a “Minecraft” server, “Minecraft” offers “more exploratory aspects” and a “wide range of creativity.”
Additionally, some find that “Minecraft” offers a more family-friendly environment.
“I’ve played ‘Minecraft’ with my son,” Meyers, who tries to keep his son away from shooting games, said. “I prefer ‘Minecraft’ all the way. It’s collaborative, not competitive. We’re trying to achieve a goal rather than eliminate each other.”
According to Murphy, although “Minecraft” is getting a lot of attention currently, it never really died out. Because “Minecraft” has maintained relevance for over a decade, fans agree that it could join the likes of “Pac-Man” and “Donkey Kong” as one of the current generation’s defining games.
“Honestly, I feel it’s already achieved that,” Murphy said. “As far as I can [remember], ‘Minecraft’ was always a game I could just go to and play at any point. If I’m looking back in 20 years and thinking about video games that I’ve played, ‘Call of Duty’ and ‘Minecraft’ are the two big games.”
Video game fans seem to agree that between the two games, “Minecraft” has a much longer-lasting presence in pop culture.
“[‘Minecraft’] is a more timeless game,” Walter said. “It will always stay relatively popular, whereas ‘Fortnite’ is more of a trend that’s passing.”
Regardless of what the future holds, students seem to come to a consensus: “Minecraft” isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“I think ‘Minecraft’ is a rare occurrence,” Groharing said. “It is one of very few games that [has] such [a] wide variety in things you can do, and it’s not a usual thing for a game to have such flexibility in what you can do in it.”