From indie alpha to corporate monolith
It’s appropriate that MineCon is in Anaheim, California this year, because it’s incredibly Disney-like.
Watching the bombastic opening ceremony, it was weird having flashbacks to playing the voxel-based alpha of the game way back when, with its litany of developer in-jokes and lack of features. Now it’s practically an institution in many households (even schools), and in 2014, Microsoft acquired the Minecraft property for $2.5 billion.
It’s not going away anytime soon based on what I’ve seen here in California this weekend.
This might be my first MineCon, but there have been five so far (2010 – Bellevue, WA | 2011 – Las Vegas, NV | 2012 – Paris, France | 2013 – Orlando, FL | 2015 – London, England | 2016 – Anaheim, CA). Even though a lot of folks are turned off by streamers and the culture that surrounds it, I’ve embedded myself in it for the past several years, and I can see why so many people dig it.
Microsoft was one of the first big companies to completely embrace YouTubers and Twitch streamers, and it’s paid off. The crowd went wild during the opening ceremony when they announced a few of the special guests, and none of them are developers or names you’d recognize unless you’re really into the scene. It’s a far cry from the gaming landscape I grew up with but things have changed, and the real takeaway is that the new generation is still simply playing video games.
Beyond the veil of the corporate affair lies a low key family-oriented con. There are lots of excited kids that are passionate about the game here, and that’s great. When I was younger there were very little outlets for my passion outside of local fighting game and FPS tournaments (pre-MLG), and the occasional anime convention. Although Microsoft is selling them something, it’s good that people have a place to freely talk about their hobby without being judged. As an added bonus, the kids here seem really into lo-fi games, like Nicalis’ Creepy Castle, tucked away in the indie section.
Of course, there’s plenty of Minecraft-themed things to do, like a host of panels, live demonstrations, classes that teach people Minecraft (video NSFW), a giant minigame tournament, real-life renditions of biomes to walk through, and the aforementioned indie games zone that’s roughly the size of any other tradeshow.
Take a look at the event yourself in the gallery below. I was able to get a lot of shots before the droves of people swooped in after the opening keynote and created an hour-long line for the merch booth.
[Travel for the event was covered by Microsoft.]