One thing Microsoft has gotten much better at in recent years is social media. The company's various teams across Xbox and Windows have gotten really good at engaging customers and fans of their products, and Microsoft's game studios are no different.
Obsidian has an impressive TikTok account full of creative news takes for its varied games. Wasteland 3 studio inXile is not shy to ratio cheeky gamers on its Twitter account either. The Microsoft main account for Xbox has also gotten really good, full of hilarious (and even award-winning) memery and frequent engagement with the community. I think I have to say, though, my favorite social media presence across all of Xbox is probably Mojang, of Minecraft fame.
Mojang in some ways has to shoulder a bigger audience than Xbox itself, with one of the most played games in history. Minecraft is more than a mere game at this point and has become something of a cultural phenomenon. The game's unique cozy feel also permeates the company's social presence, particularly on Instagram, with fun and cute posts that celebrate the various aspects of the blocky craft 'em up.
The social team at Mojang has started posting pixel art for imaginary Minecraft games lately. They're fun takes on alternative-universe games where Minecraft existed as a pixel-style side-scroller on the NES or a top-down RPG on the Game Boy. Kudos to the artists, because increasingly I find myself actually wanting these games.
Layers of nostalgia
Nostalgia is a hell of a drug, so the saying goes. It works pretty well on social media too. Video games and movies are being remade with reckless abandon, with mixed results. Of course, nostalgia is very marketable. It's fun and fuzzy, in a world that seems uncertain and chaotic at the best of times. Let's not get too dark though, eh?
Like many of you reading this, I have nostalgia for the '90s, particularly so the 2D-gaming era of the Master System, the Super Nintendo, and so on. Games like Gunstar Heroes, Pokémon Yellow, Super Metroid, and more, remind me of those cozy times. Marrying that feel with Minecraft is a natural fit.
Retro-inspired games are big business too. There are tons of pixel-style games on the market right now, with games like Narita Boy and Star Renegades modernizing the style. What was once a hardware restriction has become a calling card to simpler times, and Minecraft itself obviously extends that nostalgia with its blocky art style, complete with large pixels.
Imagining what Minecraft would have looked like on a NES or a Sega Mega Drive is a fun exercise, but could it be a reality?
An opportunity to explore new genres
Minecraft has started branching out and exploring new genres in recent years. Minecraft Earth may have flopped and failed, but Minecraft Dungeons found continued success as an isometric Diablo-like, that leveraged Minecraft's lore and world and elevated it. These social posts make me interested in the possibilities.
Pixel art potentially allows Minecraft to explore other genres without going deep on photo-realistic graphics and the associated tech. I can envisage a Stardew Valley-style Minecraft game that emphasizes farming mechanics, community building, with light isometric RPG combat too. What about a Pokemon-style RPG? That uses some of the critters and creatures they dreamt up for Minecraft Earth? Of course, I also love the idea of a side-scrolling action-platformer Minecraft, perhaps with some of the digging features, exploring caves and dungeons while battling pixel-styled Ghasts or Endermen.
Maybe it'll never happen, but hey, the artwork is so cool I just can't help but imagine it.
One thing's for sure: More Minecraft is coming
Sure, these concepts are probably just that: concepts, but they're fun enough to spark the imagination. One thing I know for sure: There is more Minecraft coming. I know from trusted sources that Mojang has at least two all-new projects that aren't Minecraft or Minecraft Dungeons, although I have no idea exactly what those games might look like. Perhaps we'll discover that all of those pixel-style art posts were in fact teases for full-blown projects ... or maybe not. One can hope, though.