Nearly 13 years ago, in May 2009, Minecraft began its inexorable march to conquer the video game industry and become one of the best-selling and most successful titles of all time. Over a decade later, Minecraft continues to attract millions of monthly players, grabs headlines with every move and update, and is a brand instantly recognized by hundreds of millions of people around the world.
With so many incredible video games releasing all the time, however, is Minecraft really still relevant? It may be one of the greatest games of all time, but do players new and old have reason to return to Minecraft in 2022? We certainly think so — here's why.
The state of Minecraft in 2022
It's one thing to assert that Minecraft is the greatest game of all time, but it's another matter entirely to back up that claim with hard numbers. Fortunately, the Minecraft franchise boasts numerous impressive statistics that reflect its overwhelming popularity and long-term endurance.
As of August 2021, Minecraft enjoyed over 141 million monthly active users, a massive accomplishment that's paired with astounding in-game engagement, with over 1 billion hours logged in the online multiplayer, and $350 million in revenue generated by community-created content in the Minecraft Marketplace. The Minecraft name possesses power extending beyond the boundaries of its virtual world, however, as it's also the first game to accrue over 1 trillion views on YouTube.
Regardless of Minecraft's age, fans and players are still spending time in-game and consuming Minecraft-related content en masse, and this is without considering Minecraft's vast modding community, the best Minecraft toys and gifts, and the growing popularity of Minecraft spin-off titles like Minecraft Dungeons.
That's not to say Minecraft's standing has never wavered, or its engagement has never lulled. Minecraft hasn't always counted among the best-selling games of any given time, and there have been periods where the conversation surrounding the influential title has stalled in part. Still, Minecraft is a video game juggernaut, and any slow periods never last. In 2022, Minecraft is in the best shape it has ever been, with continued impressive engagement across the board and persistent appearances on the "best selling" lists in the industry.
In 2022, the majority of players will be jumping into Minecraft via the Caves and Cliffs Update, a colossal release that dramatically altered and enhanced Minecraft's Overworld (especially underground caves), and brought dozens of new features and hundreds of changes. The two-part update dominated 2021 and inspired a veritable tidal wave of new Minecraft community content and discussion, and overall is an excellent release that adds a lot to Minecraft.
Mojang Studios isn't known for sitting still, though, and is already in the midst of developing what's next for Minecraft. The Wild Update won't be as expansive as its predecessor, but will still include new mobs (like the terrifying Warden and the adorable allay), new biomes (like the spooky Deep Dark and the muddy mangrove swamp), plenty of additional features and items, and more. Expected to arrive at some point later this year, The Wild Update is what players have to look forward to.
In other news, a Microsoft Account is now required to play Minecraft: Java Edition, bringing additional security and account management features to the title over the aging (and now defunct) Mojang Accounts; Minecraft: Java Edition and the Minecraft Launcher are now available directly from the Microsoft Store, and are included in the PC variant of Xbox Game Pass; and the Minecraft: Bedrock Edition beta is expanding to more platforms, becoming more convenient and easier to access, and gaining new features with the arrival of Minecraft Preview.
Minecraft is still the greatest
Being widely considered one of the "best games" in any aspect is no mean feat, and to do so repeatedly across multiple platforms is even more impressive. Minecraft is available practically everywhere you can game, with a full-featured release available on Xbox consoles, PC, PlayStation consoles, Nintendo Switch consoles, Android and iOS mobile devices, and macOS and Linux devices, and it's among the greatest titles on every single one.
Minecraft has accomplished this by maintaining its core gameplay pillars and philosophy centering around the idea that the player controls the narrative and how the game progresses. Even though the numerous updates Minecraft has received, courtesy of Mojang Studios' never-ending support, this facet has never shifted — the player is in control. Minecraft aims to enable players to do whatever and be whomever they desire, a simple concept that countless other games have failed to execute.
The Caves and Cliffs Update, split into two distinct releases across the width of 2021, massively increased the size and diversity of Minecraft's worlds. Mountains are taller, generate more realistic peaks, and can provide visually stunning vistas; caves are more varied, feature multiple unique biomes, and make the "mining" half of Minecraft more exciting and interesting. Neither of these major changes take away player agency in any way, and instead gives players a better world in which to play.
Players who haven't experienced Minecraft in years or are only vicariously aware of it will still find Minecraft in 2022 to be familiar at first, with a plethora of new features and major additions hidden just below the surface. Mojang Studios wants Minecraft to continue to be as approachable as it was when it first released, while continuing to deepen the game's mechanics over time to allow players to cultivate knowledge and skills while playing. This balance means Minecraft can appeal to players of all ages and skill levels; younger or less skillful players can engage with Minecraft's core mechanics, while veteran players can dive deep into the various systems hidden underneath.
Whether you enjoy farming, mining, building, exploring, fighting, fishing, collecting, or something else entirely, Minecraft has something to offer. Whatever your playstyle, Minecraft makes it easy to connect with other players or move between platforms with fully supported crossplay and cross-save on Minecraft: Bedrock Edition. If you grow tired of the abundance of features included in the "vanilla" version of Minecraft, it's simple to augment it with countless community-created options in the Minecraft Marketplace, through mods, or engaging with servers, game modes, events, and so much more.
Minecraft's greatest strength, however, lies not with its infinite oceans of content from which players can pull, or in its endless reach across every major gaming platform; Minecraft has persisted as long as it has with the success it has enjoyed because it doesn't try to be the only game you play. However you enjoy Minecraft and for however long you play at a time, you can put Mojang Studios' masterpiece aside for months, or even years, only to come back to it in the future. When you return, Minecraft may not be quite the same game it was the last time you played — it'll still be intimately familiar, and incredibly easy to pick up and play.
Some long-term Minecraft players may decry Mojang Studios' seemingly slow update cadence in comparison to other popular games-as-a-service — I've already discussed why Minecraft doesn't need to be updated as often as other games, and that remains true. Mojang Studios isn't desperate to rope players in with a constant deluge of content, as it knows it has created something special. Every update for Minecraft feels carefully considered and executed, and aims to respect the design philosophy that makes Minecraft wholly unique in the video game space.
It will never be perfect
In many ways, Minecraft is the very best it has ever been, with more players, features, and community support at this point in its life span than at any other. Still, there are areas in which Minecraft can further improve, especially when it pertains to its creator, Mojang Studios. Perfection is unachievable, but "better" can be reached through iteration and transparency.
Minecraft in 2022 is split into two separate versions: Java Edition and Bedrock Edition. Each serves a purpose, and each captures what makes Minecraft unique and special. While the legacy Java Edition maintains mod support and improved servers, it's limited to a smaller number of platforms and isn't as "modern." The Bedrock Edition drops mod support and relies on Realms for servers and the Minecraft Marketplace for community-created content, but it also enjoys great cross-platform compatibility and multiplayer support.
The differences between the two versions of Minecraft extend much further than this, however. There are thousands of parity issues, big and small, that detract from Minecraft's consistency and further the gap that has long divided the two versions. Mojang Studios steadily works on resolving these parity issues over time, but it often seems like the studio is fighting an unwinnable war in attempting to bridge that chasm. Players considering which version of Minecraft to play (or switch between them often) should bear in mind that the differences between them number in the thousands.
If you're looking to play Minecraft on the current-gen Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S, you may be disappointed to learn that the legendary video game doesn't take advantage of the duo's powerful hardware and is, more or less, identical to the experience on offer anywhere else you can play Minecraft. I've written in the past about how Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S is an unfortunate disappointment, and nothing has improved almost a year later.
In a frustrating turn of events, a build of Minecraft Preview was accidentally released to a small handful of insiders playing on Xbox Series X|S that enabled current-gen optimizations, including full ray tracing and vastly improved visuals, lighting, and reflections. Rumors that Mojang Studios have been working on such an update have existed practically since the Xbox Series X was initially announced, as Microsoft previewed ray tracing on its latest console using Minecraft. For many, this leak indicated that a release was finally imminent after well over a year of silence from the studio.
Sadly, Mojang Studios wasted no time in expressing that the prototype code was mistakenly released, and ray tracing on Xbox Series X|S isn't slated for a release in the near future, immediately dashing hopes and generating considerable levels of ire from the Minecraft community for the continued lack of clear communication. Minecraft still refuses to benefit from the power and technology of the latest generation of video game consoles, and Minecraft players are left without any clue what the future may hold.
Many of Minecraft's largest issues ultimately come down to Mojang Studios' struggles with open communication with its player base. Minecraft's ongoing success and development rely on community feedback and support, and Mojang Studios makes a point of regularly engaging with the community in a wide variety of ways. Oddly enough, however, communication remains one of Mojang Studios' greatest challenges in some aspects. The above issue regarding the uncertain future of Minecraft on current-gen consoles is a fantastic and readily available example.
I've previously discussed how Mojang Studios impossibly feels like an "underfunded indie studio" at times, despite Minecraft's irrefutable success and Mojang Studios' excellent support cycle.
Improvements to bringing different versions of Minecraft closer together feel ambling and unfocused; the arrival of new and modern features to Minecraft sometimes feels glacial, while the game's frustrating lack of support on newer gaming hardware is incredibly frustrating; Mojang Studios inclusion under the Xbox Game Studios umbrella doesn't feel like it has contributed much to Minecraft's development, and changes that have been wrought were slow to come.
Mojang Studios is steadily improving on much of this, as is Minecraft in general, but it's worth remembering that some parts of Minecraft don't feel as if they've aged as gracefully as others. The video game industry has evolved substantially over the last decade, and Minecraft occasionally feels as if it's unable to keep up.
A timeless video game
Despite its core gameplay loop remaining practically unchanged from its initial launch, Mojang Studios' relentless pursuit of perfection with iterative content and patch updates ensures Minecraft continues to feel fresh and packed with exciting content. Minecraft is the gold standard for cross-device compatibility and community-driven support, guaranteeing you can always play with your friends and find something new to do.
Even if you haven't played Minecraft in years (or you have never played it), Minecraft is absolutely worth playing in 2022. There's still plenty of room for Minecraft to improve, but its unique blend of gameplay, post-launch support, and community backing perpetuate its stance as one of the best Xbox games of all time. Most importantly, Minecraft is a timeless video game that doesn't beg to be played every single day, and doesn't require your constant attention to be approachable, relevant, and endlessly fun.
A gaming masterpiece
A timeless classic
Minecraft has long established itself as one of the greatest games of all time, and it continues to improve with endless support from Mojang Studios and its community. Even in 2022, Minecraft is absolutely worth playing, and is available on practically every gaming platform you can imagine.
A catalog of games
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is one of the best values in gaming, giving players access to Xbox and PC Game Pass, Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and exclusive perks and discounts, all for one monthly price. Of course, Minecraft is also included through Xbox Game Pass on Xbox and PC, making it a great way to access the title alongside hundreds of others.
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Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.