Talking Point: It's Not Too Late for Nintendo to Join the Minecraft Party

The blocky horse hasn't bolted, yet

If Minecraft was a conventional video game, its time in the sun would have passed by now, or we'd currently be playing Minecraft 4 and questioning whether Mojang was going 'a bit EA' with its annual releases. That's far from the reality, however, as this is a game that has ignored convention to establish itself as one of the most important brands in the video game industry. Minecraft is beloved by young gamers in particular, a lucrative demographic, but also has the power to draw in older gamers with a creative spirit — it seems perfect for a Nintendo platform.

Having become a viral hit as an alpha build on PC back in 2009, it was over two years before its formal release on the platform. Yet by the time of its full release it had already become popular, with its sandbox building mechanics and distinctive blocky visuals helping it to go viral on social networks, including YouTube. It rapidly expanded its influence after its full PC release, shifting millions of copies before it began to spread to other platforms — it arrived on Xbox 360 in May 2012 and PS3 in late 2013, those ports developed by 4J Studios and with publishing support from Microsoft and Sony. Just this week, it was confirmed that the title will come to PS4, Xbox One and PS Vita this August. That news leaves Nintendo's system, particularly the Wii U, as missing out alongside such luminaries as the Ouya.

That's the frustration, from a Nintendo perspective, in that this huge hit — which vg24/7 reckons could be approaching 50 million sales — continues to elude a platform for which it seems perfectly suited. The 3DS could perhaps attempt to run the inferior 'pocket' version, yes, but we'd imagine some serious headaches for developers to extract strong performance; yet the Wii U would be an ideal platform.

The enticing prospect of Minecraft on Wii U is also evident in the control possibilities that it opens up — the use of the GamePad and/or Wii Remote could allow for easy play with either the touch screen and physical inputs or pointer controls. Minecraft, as the game's official site states succinctly, is "a game about breaking and placing blocks", and it's not hard to envisage how the unique variety of control options of the Wii U could be utilised, not to mention the fun that could be had by engaging with Miiverse communities.

Another area that could be prominent in a prospective Wii U iteration would be Nintendo-themed skins and designs, with a recently announced Halo pack for the 360 version an example of what could be done — textures, skins and music licensed by the big N could certainly enrich the experience for fans. Not that these official packs are even needed, as the beauty of Minecraft is that players create the world themselves — if blocks can be combined to form a shape, anything's possible.

Is a Wii U version on the cards, potentially as a reveal at E3? It's tough to gauge, though there's certainly doubt and a share of concern. We can't help but feel that, ultimately, its potential fate partially rests with Nintendo in throwing publishing cash on the table, while offering assistance on a technical level for the contracted development team. As mentioned earlier, Microsoft and Sony are listed as publishers for versions on their respective systems, while Mojang brought on the experience of a separate developer to make home console versions happen. That development reality also highlights why a Wii U version isn't a simple affair without backing and support from the big N — while many studios are familiar with the 360 architecture and even the trickier PS3 infrastructure, the Wii U system has its own approach that can bring us sloppy ports from those that don't learn its intricacies. When you consider the fact that the One and PS4 are designed to be accessible, PC-style architectures for developers, those ports are a no-brainer.

Yet resources, support and willpower make a Wii U entry a possibility, in theory. Responding to rumours of a Minecraft entry arriving for Wii U in Summer 2014 that did the rounds in late 2013, Notch shot the stories down by stating he wasn't aware of a Wii U version in development at that point; he would know. In follow up tweets the game's creator emphasized that the teams had "too much work already" and added that he loves Nintendo, as an individual. With the continually evolving nature of the game and the PS4, Vita and Xbox One versions no doubt at some point of development when these comments were made, it's little surprise that there was no good news to share.

If, in a wonderful world where such things happen, a Wii U version were confirmed at E3 for, say, a Holiday release or early 2015, would that be too late? Again, if Minecraft were a normal product and game the answer would be yes, the party's over. Yet the continuing hype and upcoming fresh releases shows that standard video game market logic need not apply, not to mention the continually strong sales of the Xbox 360 disc version at retail. As of April the 360 entry had sold a whopping 12 million copies, and it still hangs around the top 10 in the monthly NPD software charts, mixing it with newer multi-platform releases. In the most recent UK charts this week the relatively new PS3 edition was 3rd, while the veteran Xbox 360 offering was just behind in fourth — they're classed as separate releases in an all-format chart, too. These are outstanding trends.

What began as an indie PC game is, therefore, redefining the term 'evergreen' and continuing to gain traction years after its original release. It can do this simply because the game evolves through constant updates, yes, but also because that state of evolution also exists for players. There are modes and objectives, but the phenomenon of Minecraft can also be attributed to the power it gives players. It's both simple but complex, and feeds the imagination — in its many appearances in mainstream media and television, it's repeatedly praised for its positive role in schools, for example, while its scope for collaborative building is credited with bringing players together in meaningful, uplifting ways. Even if console versions only allow 'friends' to play with each other online as opposed to the more open PC environment, it's not hard to see how experiences like this can be hugely enjoyable.

These are all qualities that would surely sit perfectly on Nintendo hardware. It seems that Minecraft has never been a stronger brand, either, with playgrounds around the world often ringing to the sound of young gamers chatting over their latest adventures or creations. Would it have been better for Nintendo to get into the Minecraft act earlier? Absolutely. Is it too late for Nintendo to work with Mojang to deliver a Wii U edition in the reasonable future? Definitely not.


Do you agree? Do you think it's too late for Minecraft to have an impact on Wii U, or do you even want it to be released on the system? Let us know in the poll and comments below.

Do you want to see Minecraft on the Wii U? (469 votes)

Most definitely

60%

I do, but only if it's a high quality version

19%

I'm not sure

4%

Not particularly, but would be open to persuasion if it happens

8%

It doesn't matter, because it's too late now

5%

No way, I don't like Minecraft

4%

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Do you think Minecraft will arrive on Wii U? (445 votes)

Absolutely, it's just a matter of time

8%

I think so, but I'm not 100% confident

26%

I have no idea

21%

I think it's unlikely, but there's hope yet

32%

No chance

13%

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Do you think Minecraft will arrive on 3DS? (454 votes)

Absolutely, it's just a matter of time

4%

I think so, but I'm not 100% confident

7%

I have no idea

13%

I think it's unlikely, but there's hope yet

35%

No chance

40%

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