Why Microsoft won't release Minecraft 2

Since its release in 2011, Minecraft has become one of the most popular games of all time — inspiring Microsoft to acquire the developer, Mojang, three years later. These days, the blocky heroes wielding their blocky pickaxes can be found on screens of all shapes and sizes, creating worlds out of nothing but pure imagination. It's the kind of success story other publishers dream about: a title that cost next to nothing to develop, but has sold more than nearly every other game on the market.

But now that the studio is under Microsoft's control, they've made it expressly clear that they have no plans to pursue a sequel, saying it doesn't "make the most sense." In other words, in the company's eyes, it isn't a traditional game. It's not that Microsoft doesn't want more money: far from it. However, it turns out there's a lot more they can do with the property than people realize. Here are a few reasons why Microsoft won't make Minecraft 2.

Minecraft is still expanding to new platforms

Unlike some other games, Minecraft is for everyone. Kids, parents, hardcore gamers, and casual fans all love it. That's one of the reasons why Microsoft was so interested in picking up the property. "For me, I look at it as a great game to add to our portfolio," Xbox boss Phil Spencer told IGN. "I love that male, female, young, and old—it's something that lives on so many different screens. I'd love to bring it to more screens out there."

So, how do you make sure that everyone who wants to play Minecraft actually can play Minecraft? You put the game on as many devices as possible. In 2014, shortly after Microsoft bought Minecraft and its parent company, Mojang, Microsoft brought the game to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The company followed that with a Vita edition and a Windows Phone port. It didn't stop there. More recently, Microsoft released a special version of Minecraft for the Nintendo Switch, which became the second-most downloaded game on the console, and surprised fans with a 3DS release a few months later.

Notice the trend? If it has a screen, Microsoft wants Minecraft to be there. After all, if the original game can still reach new players, Microsoft doesn't really need to worry about a sequel — and besides, if Mojang's developers are constantly porting Minecraft to new systems, they probably don't have much time to work on a brand new game.

The first game is still thriving

Here's what makes Minecraft unique: it never really ends. No matter how much you love single-player adventures like The Witcher 3, eventually you're going to finish every quest. Playing the latest Call of Duty with friends is great, but someday those multiplayer servers are going to go down. Thanks to outside factors like player trades and unexpected injuries, sports titles like Madden are outdated almost as soon as they're released.

By contrast, Minecraft lasts forever. You'll never run out of seeds to explore or things to do. That's one reason why, nearly ten years after Minecraft was first released to the public, millions and millions of people still enjoy it. Just look at the numbers. When Microsoft bought Mojang in 2014, the developer had sold about 54 million copies of Minecraft. As of January, 2018, that number is up to 144 million, with over 74 million players logging time in Minecraft's blocky world every month. Over less than four years, Microsoft nearly tripled the number of Minecraft units out in the wild. At this rate, Tetris' long-standing title as the best-selling video game of all time is in serious jeopardy.

As long as the original Minecraft is still chugging along (and bringing in the dough), there's no reason to release a follow-up. Not only would Microsoft be cannibalizing its own audience, but a new game takes time and money to make — why bother, when everyone's still happy with the original?

New content keeps the original Minecraft fresh

One of the reasons why players keep coming back to Minecraft is that Mojang and Microsoft are constantly adding new things to do. When Minecraft first launched, it was a relatively barebones affair. All it had was Survival Mode, in which players need to gather resources to build the tools and fortifications they need to outlast Minecraft's various beasties. Before long, however, Minecraft creator Notch added an ultra-difficult Hardcore Mode, and followed that up with Creative Mode that lets players explore and build without worrying about potentially dying.

Those updates laid the foundation, and Minecraft's been a work-in-progress ever since. Minecraft received three major updates in 2016 alone — the Combat Update, the Frostburn Update, and the Exploration Update — all of which added new blocks, items, creatures, and environments to play with. In 2017, the World of Color Update made Minecraft more customizable than ever before, in addition to introducing ease-of-use features like the advancement system and a new-player-friendly recipe book. 2018's Aquatic Update revamps Minecraft's underwater worlds (and adds some pretty adorable turtles to the mix, too).

Microsoft and Mojang don't seem to be planning on slowing down the updates any time soon, which isn't good news for a sequel. For one thing, making all of this new stuff takes time and resources. For another, all of these changes keep the existing Minecraft community busy and engaged. As we've seen, that kind of continued momentum renders a follow-up completely unnecessary.

There's plenty of user-generated content

PC and console gamers have had a long-running rivalry, but thanks to the new generation consoles, that gap has begun to close — albeit marginally. Still, no matter how close they get in terms of quality, there's till one underlying difference between the two platforms: mods.

The vast majority of PC games allow users to create their own modifications. Sometimes those mods fix glitches within the game, improve the graphics, or expand upon the content and gameplay. There are potentially thousands of mods within Minecraft, and that number's only increasing. Persson once thought mods would threaten his vision for the game, but he has recently come to cherish the mods for what they are — and, more specifically, what they do to make Minecraft what it is.

Mods and other forms of user-generated content, such as minimaps, texture packs, and custom items, helped popularize Minecraft among the PC community. However, Mojang recently made it clear that they've never officially recognized Minecraft mods — but that's something they are planning to change in a future update, which will not only make modding official but also streamline the process. As long as Microsoft and Mojang continue to support user-generated content, the community will help the game continue to thrive.

There are other applications for Minecraft

Now, just because a true sequel hasn't appeared doesn't mean that Microsoft hasn't released new Minecraft products. In 2016, the company launched Minecraft: Education Edition, a special version of the game designed for use in schools.

On the surface, Minecraft: Education Edition looks a lot like regular Minecraft. It's got the same blocky graphics, the same user interface, and the same building tools that players have come to know and love. By using special in-game "lessons," however, Minecraft: Education Edition transforms the game into a virtual classroom. Want to learn how to code? Minecraft can teach you how. Interested in history? Use Minecraft to explore ancient China or the American Revolution. With Minecraft: Education Edition, you can explore the world of Romeo and Juliet, perform chemistry experiments, and compose music.

All that, and education is just one possible use for Minecraft. There are many, many others. Minecraft is already used to develop artificial intelligence and as an architectural tool, and it's easy to imagine Microsoft commissioning other specialized versions of the game if demand warrants it. Those wouldn't be sequels, exactly, but they would be fresh takes on Minecraft all the same.

Microsoft can pursue more spinoff games

As previously mentioned, Microsoft is looking into other revenue streams and applications for Minecraft, and one of those streams comes from spinoff titles and other types of games. For the company, it's not so much about the game itself as it is about the intellectual property. Microsoft is approaching Minecraft the same way Disney is using Star Wars: licensing out the property for third-party development, and profiting off the title that way.

For instance, in late 2015 and early 2016, Mojang partnered with Telltale Games to release an eight-part, episodic series in the same vein as other Telltale games (e.g. The Wolf Among Us, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, etc.), titled Minecraft: Story Mode. All eight episodes, as well as three additional ones that released as downloadable content, were successful with critics and audiences alike. In fact, Minecraft: Story Mode was so popular that it got a second season in 2017, which performed even better with critics than the inaugural outing. As of this writing, a third season hasn't been announced, but given the series' reception we'd say that a follow-up seems pretty darn likely.

It's not always about games

At this point, Minecraft is more than just a video game. It's an entire multimedia franchise. In 2012, a Minecraft-branded LEGO set was so popular that it was impossible to find during the holiday season. In 2016, Warner Bros. revealed plans for a Minecraft feature film from Night at the Museum's Shawn Levy. More recently, Mojang announced that It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia star Rob McElhenney will direct the picture, with The Lego Movie's Roy Lee attached as producer.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. In 2017, World War Z author Max Brooks released Minecraft: The Island, an officially licensed adventure novel set in Minecraft's blocky world (Penguin Random House even published two versions of The Island's audio book — one narrated by Jack Black, and the other by actress Samira Wiley — to reflect the main character's "gender neutral" status). You can buy Minecraft plushies and Minecraft Funko Pops. Want a real-life version of Minecraft's golden sword? You can get that, too — or you could, before it completely sold out.

In other words, there are more ways to capitalize on a video game's success than simply cranking out sequels; and from the looks of things, Microsoft is going to try all of them.

Microsoft wants everyone to play together

The biggest obstacle that a potential Minecraft sequel faces isn't competition from other games, however. It's that, by releasing a sequel, Microsoft risks splitting its audience. That makes Minecraft 2 a hard sell, especially given that Microsoft is dedicated to bringing Minecraft fans closer, not splitting them apart.

"I think what we've learned through Xbox Live is something that we can help in unifying a little bit of what happens with Minecraft today," Microsoft's Phil Spencer tells IGN. "If I'm on PC, I get access to the mod servers; if I'm on console or the mobile editions, I don't. We're looking at how do we bring that whole system together a little more." Those aren't empty words, either. In 2017, Minecraft's Better Together Update introduced crossplay between PCs, mobile devices, and video game consoles, while the game's Bedrock Edition brings all of the disparate versions of Minecraft together in one unified platform.

Basically, Microsoft is doing its best to unify the Minecraft community, and a sequel could undo all of that hard work. Besides, it's not like Minecraft 2 is necessary. Microsoft has already proved that the original Minecraft has years, if not decades, of life in it, and it's generating a ton of good PR — and even more cash — by using the franchise in new and creative ways. Some fans might clamor for a Minecraft 2, but Microsoft? Ultimately, the company just doesn't need it.

Minecraft is no longer top dog

Is Minecraft still popular? Absolutely. Is it still the hottest thing in video games? Eh, maybe not — and, honestly, it only has itself to blame.

Way, way back in 2011, Epic Games announced Fortnite, a game that was pitched as Minecraft crossed with Valve's co-op zombie shooter, Left 4 Dead. Basically, Epic was mashing up two of the most popular games at the time and calling it something new. Fortnite disappeared for a few years after that first reveal, but it popped up again in 2015 and eventually made its way into Epic's early access program, at which point many pointed out that Fortnite was basically Minecraft all grown up.

Then, Battle Royale happened. Inspired by the success of the multiplayer shooter PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Epic launched Fortnite: Battle Royale, a free-to-play spin-off that mixed Minecraft-style crafting with PUBG's tense 100-player battles. It was an immediate hit. In March 2018, Fortnite topped Minecraft on Google and managed to become the number one most-viewed title on the video game streaming service, Twitch.

Now, we're not saying that Minecraft is in trouble. We're just observing that, if Microsoft wants to chase trends, a battle royale game seems like a better bet than making another sandbox crafting game. After all, they've already got one of those, and it's still doing just fine.