June 12, 2021

The Future of Minecraft on YouTube

It took over a decade, but it finally happened. Minecraft reached the milestone of one trillion views on YouTube. While we look back on how we got here, it’s also natural to wonder what the next trillion views might bring.

As someone who started out covering “Wii elbow” for the Wall Street Journal and now runs a gaming consulting agency, I had a front-row seat as Minecraft went from a tiny indie game that only forum-lurkers knew about to one of the biggest properties in gaming.

Some of the first creative endeavors were narrative performances set to music by artists such as Drake and Coldplay. Then original animation and role-playing content began to emerge as narrative formats. Now, generally speaking, creators are leaning into narrative content harder than ever.

Source: CoffeeFuelledGenious

The “Let’s Play” genre, for instance, was once the bread and butter of so many Minecraft channels with its long, leisurely, seemingly endless recordings of people exploring the game. Now, “100 Days” videos condense sprawling stories of survival in the Minecraft-ian outback into relatively brief affairs. Likewise, the “Minecraft But” genre has taken off, with players making alterations to the game’s code to tell stories that were previously impossible. Last but not least, live-action roleplay has breathed new life into the once stagnant “Survival Multiplayer” genre, where players form colonies while overcoming mobs of monsters.

If you keep following the compass heading suggested by all this, a picture of Minecraft over the next trillion views starts coming into focus. Here are some of my predictions on how storytelling in Minecraft will continue to evolve on YouTube.

Creators will tell even bigger stories.

Source: The Squid's Lab Show

Naturally, there will be millions of Minecraft stories to come, but there will also be stories that swell to proportions that have never been seen anywhere. After all, the Dream SMP server already has dozens of story arcs, overlapping timelines, and more major plot points than the “Odyssey” has days. How much more pure narrative output will it generate in the next couple of years? While it’s entirely possible that people’s interest could fade or the story will collapse under its own weight, the bet here is that the success of Dream SMP will inspire more mega-stories, some with storylines beyond what a single viewer can consume in a lifetime.

Creators will also tell smaller stories.

Source: Alan Becker

The antithesis will also come true with the shortest increments imaginable. While Minecraft animations are often lengthy affairs that can contain multiple seasons of content, creators like Jake Fellman have already made a push toward short-form content with animated Shorts featuring persistent worlds and characters. As creators experiment with YouTube Shorts, we could see stories of entire Minecraft civilizations told in 60-second time-lapses. Another possibility is creators bringing the concise narrative format of webcomics to animations.

Minecraft will host a breakthrough reality show.

Source: jschlattLIVE

As the trend of performative survival multiplayer continues, Minecraft creators will invent new types of narrative experiences—and, you read it here first, one of them will be a reality show. This may sound far-fetched now, but imagine prominent streamers and celebrities coming together to role-play an equivalent of “The Great British Bake Off” or an age-appropriate version of “Too Hot to Handle.” Recent activity around livestreamed reality programming, including experiments like the SMPLive Talent Show and dating shows hosted on the YouTube channel Austin, prove the potential is real.

Minecraft will (finally) go Hollywood.

Source: ArchitectCraft

A major movie studio or production company will team up with creators to help bring a Minecraft blockbuster to life. We’ve already seen media companies mining fan communities for content, such as Paramount partnering with the social storytelling site Wattpad to find ideas for new streaming series. Something similar will likely happen with Minecraft.

And importantly, it’s likely the only way that a Minecraft adaptation will succeed. With the Minecraft Netflix series canceled after a single season and no Minecraft movie even rumored to be in development, it seems evident that fans don’t want to see a Hollywood-style adaptation—unless it comes from within the community. Just look at the success of the fan-made animated film “Songs of War” by Black Plasma Studios, which gained over 42 million views.

Indeed, making a Minecraft movie without fan input would miss the point. While titles like_ Sonic the Hedgehog and League of Legends have successfully made the jump to the big screen, those games have established narrative material. Conversely, the Minecraft _story is open source and crowd driven.

And because those stories need to be captured and organized, the YouTube platform will play an important role in whatever bigger, more mainstream-targeted Minecraft story emerges. Minecraft YouTube is a free-form space that democratizes creativity, gives the community a home base to exchange ideas, and helps bring new modes of artistic expression to the forefront.

Before signing off, here’s one last prediction. When the Oscars or Emmys award their first Minecraft project in 20XX, the trophy won’t be awarded to a single writer or a director — it will go to a community. And a very, very voxelized one at that.

– Jamin Warren