Note: I recalled that Minecraft isn’t on Steam after writing the article, but figured that I could justify its existence by saying it’s a PC game, at least started that way, and that many of its “clones” are in fact on Steam. Hopefully that’ll help ward off the torches and pitchforks…..
In the year 1986, a little game that would go on to maintain a massive following for years to come was released by the name of Metroid. This game featured a sort of side scrolling mechanic with pre-made areas that were fill with monsters that the player could fight using the various equipment bestowed on the character. A month later another quite popular title appeared by the name of Castlevania, which shared many of the same elements of Metroid but introduced many that were unique to the title. Over the decades since, many games following a similar format were released to a much anticipating audience, but were these games clones of already successful franchises? No. Metroid and Castlevania presented enough of a foundation to evolve into a genre all of their own, becoming what is commonly referred to as Metroidvania. As such, games that fell into the similar style were not seen as simply clones. They were simply participating in this newly created genre.
Now my dear readers, who haven’t already figured out my analogy, must be wondering what this has to do with Minecraft. After all, the title makes this a Minecraft article, not a Metroidvania article. But, you see, they are fundamentally similar.
Though it could be said that Minecraft was a copy of Infiniminer, a quickly abandoned game by a company by the name of Zachtronics Industries that had many of the same aspects as early Minecraft, The mass popularity began with the game that we all know. It could be said that while Zachtronics created the style, Mojang made it work.
Since Minecraft’s mass popularity began in 2010, there have been numerous games released featuring the elements of 3-dimensional block building. These games are fundamentally similar to Minecraft in many ways. Start on a randomly generated land of cubes with nothing, use the resources around you to create tools to gather nicer materials, and use those materials to make nicer tools. It is a particularly simple and effective system, that can be easily replicated by other game developers who enjoyed the style and wish to see what they can do with it, but seemingly every time: these games are marked as simple cash grabbing clones.
To be fair, it is true that there are many companies that DID in fact make a clone of Minecraft for money, oftentimes on a system that didn’t feature the game at the time, such as Fortress Craft. And it is fair to say that many of those similar games made during the mass craze for Minecraft were also clones, with a few exceptions of course. But that time is for the most part passed. We don’t hear people talking about the game, nearly as much, in ordinary life, with the mass spread of the game across nearly every platform, there isn’t a power vacuum among consoles and phones, things are generally stable. This, dear readers, means now is the most important time to see Minecraft-like games appearing. As cash grabs are a great deal harder, a lot of these new appearances can now be seen as new games growing from the Minecraft frame-work.
The problem with this though, and probably a major reason for why so many of these games are called clones, is due to what Minecraft is. Those of you who have played the game, as I’m sure most of us have, Know that it is very simple. There isn’t any extreme story or set goals, it’s a game built almost exclusively on its foundation. A one story house if you will. This isn’t bad of course, after all a one story house still has the potential to be a lovely spread out home, but it makes it very hard for anything else to be built from the ground when that house is already built upon nearly all the land given, let alone allow it to differ from the main house’s style without being an eye sore.
And because of the game’s open door nature in regards to modding, anything that a game developer could put in, can be put in. But it is also fair to assume that some game developers don’t want to just make mods. Mods are a great way for casual content creation to appear, but for those who are trying to make a living off of this medium that we all enjoy, it simply doesn’t work. This could be said as simply game developers trying to take your money, ergo a cash grab, but they could easily, and possibly more successfully create other games than one based on Minecraft’s system.
For these previously listed reasons, I have come to the conclusion that these supposed “Minecraft Clones” aren’t anything of the sort. Minecraft has simply reached the point of metamorphosis into a genre. It could even be considered a subgenre of the sandbox genre, but a genre nonetheless. What would we call this genre? Leave your suggestions in the descriptions than go out and make them known. Let us stop this incessant declaration of cloning. So that we may allow the games in this new genre to grow and develop into a sub-medium that gamers wish to call home.
Thanks For Reading!