Three years ago, Pokémon Go took mobile gaming to a whole new level. Millions took to the streets to catch what was thought to be forever tied into a game’s cartridge. Augmented reality gaming was quickly a massive success. Obviously, with this being as successful as it was back in the Summer of 2016, a few other companies followed suit in hope of replicating that success. But they reached nowhere near the achievements of Niantic’s real-world Pokémon adventure. The recently released Harry Potter: Wizards Unite has amounted ten-million downloads compared to Pokémon Go’s 200 million downloads that were gained in the same space of time. So, with Minecraft’s take on Augmented Reality set to release in late 2019, will Minecraft Earth come close to replicating the success of Niantics Pokémon adventure?
Size isn’t Everything
The first thing that’s worth noting, is that Minecraft is big. Like, really big. The best-selling Pokémon games don’t even come close to the 180 million copies of Minecraft that have been sold. The closest Pokémon have come is with the Pokémon Red series, gaining 46 million in sales. Oof. With Minecraft on a massive resurgence, Minecraft Earth will no doubt have the player base to rival Pokémon Go.
Though, size isn’t everything. The Harry Potter book series has sold over 500 million copies. So 1/15 humans have a copy. And even more impressively, when it comes to the films, they’ve grossed over $7.7 billion. So, on a cultural scale, Harry Potter is far larger than Minecraft will ever be. But when Niantic launched Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, the game didn’t even amass 5% of its fan base to explore the wizarding world of Harry Potter in Augmented Reality. That’s an even bigger oof. That means even with the size of the Minecraft player base, the game could dwindle into memory barely a month into its release.
But the Harry Potter fan base lacked something that the Minecraft fan base is almost made up entirely of. An online gaming presence. That’s one of the key reasons for Wizards Unite’s failure. It’s also what could lead to another major mobile gaming AR success. What’s also important in terms of mobile gaming success, is also, a good idea.
Not Every Idea in Minecraft is a Good Idea
When Pokémon Go was released in 2016, AR technology wasn’t new. It just wasn’t that widely known. But with a good idea, it was propelled forward into the forefront of millions of lives. Pokémon Go wasn’t the first game to use AR, but the idea of turning the world into a living Pokémon world caught the interest of not only gamers and Pokémon fans, but almost everyone with a phone. Even my Grandma, who doesn’t know what a Pikachu is, was roaming the streets trying to catch one. Wizards Unite was almost a replica of Pokémon Go. Obviously with a few different elements to create a more ‘magical’ wizarding adventure. Which in reality is just Pokémon Go with wands and evil humans acting as Pokémon, which you don’t catch (as this would encourage kidnapping, which is illegal if you didn’t already know).
The same gameplay features and designs were used to create a very similar experience. Not only that but the idea of living in the universe of Harry Potter doesn’t work nearly as well as Pokémon. The whole idea of Pokémon is to adventure out and encounter new things to register on your Pokédex, whereas Harry Potter is not. A Harry Potter game would work far better in the context of a storyline-based game, an MMO, RPG, or even a spell – brewing cookery game. Wizards Unite is a vain attempt to be the next Pokémon Go. And the idea didn’t work.
The Minecraft Earth Idea
Minecraft Earth, on the other hand, doesn’t feel like it’s trying to replicate the success of another game, at all. Being an adventure game already, it fits the formula of Pokémon Go without trying to be it. Compared to Niantic’s AR adventure games, Minecraft Earth is a completely different design with an entirely different, Minecraft themed, map to represent the world. The objective of Minecraft’s takes on Augmented Reality is also very different – building.
#MinecraftEarth If you live in London or Seattle and have signed up to participate for the closed beta, there’s a chance you’ve been selected to play.
GO, GO, GO, CHECK! ? pic.twitter.com/1xKBUEtMas
— Minecraft Earth News (@MCEarthNews) July 16, 2019
Similarly, to Pokémon Go, you collect resources from specific areas. A bit like a Pokestop, but in the style of a Minecraft chest. You use these resources to build, using the AR technology to present it as a structure in the real world. But with Minecraft physics. A pretty cool, and original, idea. But to make it even cooler, you can do it communally, in a group, and then place the build in the real world, for others to marvel over. Or on your own, if your friends aren’t as cooperative. The ability to play with your friends is always a great experience, which can massively increase the popularity of a game, as No Mans Sky NEXT showed back in 2018. And it’s this communal play option that could give Minecraft Earth an edge over Pokémon Go.
First Come, First Serve
Though, there is the argument that this was a one-time phenomenon and can’t be replicated again. Evidence goes to back this up, with Ghostbuster World and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite barely reaching five percent of Pokémon Go’s player base, combined. Though critics also said that Avatar’s massive success was a one-time thing. Avengers: Endgame recently managed to prove that wrong. Minecraft could, therefore, stand a pretty good chance in reviving AR adventures. I mean its already on its own revival, so anything is possible.
Everyone’s Best Friend
Pokémon is widely regarded and known by much more than just the fans of its games, leaking into television via its anime, trading cards, and other popular culture. Unfortunately for Minecraft, it’s only really big in its gaming medium. It’s also one of the few places where the game is actually accepted. But, alongside the game’s resurgence, its also leaking its way back into internet culture, mainly through memes. These have proven to induce huge popularity into certain events, people and games, like Minecraft itself. So maybe it does have a chance.
Though, as Minecraft doesn’t have the same cultural significance as Pokémon and neither the acceptance, even in its own gaming faction, it won’t have as large as an impact or as widespread popularity. But that’s not to say it won’t be able to beat the peak player count of Pokémon Go.
Minecraft’s Nostalgia – the Most Powerful Weapon of All
Part of Pokémon Go’s Wailord of success is down to nostalgia. To be honest, before Pokémon Go existed, I hadn’t played a Pokémon game in years. It’s when I remembered the great times playing Pokémon Platinum, as a result of the trailer for Pokémon Go, that I felt that I needed to play it, for old time’s sake. So, I, like many, contributed to the millions that were out in the Summer heat, camping at a Pokéstop, Pokéball ready.
When Minecraft Earth releases, similarly to Pokémon Go, the simplicity of downloading a game from the Appstore to try out for nostalgia’s sake, will rally many to give it a go. This in turn, like Pokémon Go, could start a trend, inducing many to try Minecraft Earth. The original Minecraft itself is currently undergoing the return of many players, partially as a result of nostalgia, which could also heavily contribute to the popularity of its new mobile counterpart.
Minecraft Versus Pokémon: The Ultimate Showdown
Minecraft Earth has the ability to rival Pokémon Go’s popularity. With over 100 million players playing Minecraft this July, it’s incredibly likely that these players will try out this new building focused AR adventure. In fact, over 180 million copies of Minecraft have been sold, and many more will know of its existence. This should have Niantic worried. It’s also important to note that many more people will feel nostalgic to play Minecraft again, but for free, on their phones, in real life, building with their friends.
It’s beautiful blocky design, reminiscent of the original game, communal building, and adventurous emphasis will surely make it a success. And when it comes to the numbers, Minecraft Earth won’t disappoint. It’s clear that it will replicate the success of Pokémon Go. But only time will tell whether it will beat its rival’s records. Its chance, like the game itself, is open to endless possibilities. For more updates on Pokemon Go and Minecraft Earth, stay tuned to The Nerd Stash.
Callum is an avid writer, not just of gaming articles, but of short stories and scripts. Besides gaming, he enjoy travelling and trying new things.