October 16, 2023 –Minecraft, the best-selling video game in the world, has broken yet another sales record.
During a weekend event, developer Mojang Studios revealed it had now sold more than 300 million copies worldwide.
That far surpasses closest rival Grand Theft Auto V, which had sold 185 million copies as of August 2023.
But neither comes close to Super Mario as the best-selling franchise: it has sold more than 800 million games across its entire multi-game series.
The second top franchise is retro puzzler Tetris, which has sold more than 520 million copies across its different variations since the 1980s.
Tetris has sold at least 425 million units on mobile devices alone, having had multiple versions of the game released on iOS and Android since 2008, and some lists consider it to be the best-selling game for this reason.
But these releases are significantly different in terms of mechanics and graphics – with great variety between Tetris on Ericsson phones in 2001, Tetris Mania on mobiles in 2006, and the later releases on iOS and Android.
For this reason, Tetris is usually considered a series, whereas Minecraft is the same game whether it is played on Nintendo Switch or mobile.
The head of Minecraft Studios, Helen Chiang, said the 300 million figure was a “milestone no one could have dreamed of when we were all placing our first blocks”.
Minecraft was released by Mojang Studios in November 2011, but a pre-release, unfinished version of the game was first available in 2009.
It is extremely popular with children, young adults, and adults alike, due to its sandbox nature – meaning if you can imagine it, you can build it with the game’s Lego-like blocks.
Minecraft was bought by Microsoft in 2014 for $2.5bn (£2bn) and has become a mainstay in its gaming empire – which Microsoft has just significantly expanded with its record breaking $69bn takeover of Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard.
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Minecraft’s popularity can be, at least in part, put down to its enormous presence outside of the game itself.
According to Google, YouTube videos related to Minecraft have been viewed more than one trillion times.
Even the most popular individual YouTubers, MrBeast and PewDiePie, have at one point made Minecraft videos.
And its influence spreads even further, with the game being used for unusual purposes – such as hosting articles written by Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist killed by Saudi agents in 2018, to circumvent government censorship.
How do you get to 300 million?
It is a big jump up from the previous sales figures the firm revealed – 238 million sales, announced in April 2021.
And getting to that number almost certainly involves a lot of people buying more than one copy.
While Mojang publicly announces its figures, it is less transparent on exactly how that number breaks down, but we do know it represents sales across all platforms.
That means it includes the sales from its original launch on PC in 2011, mobile sales on iOS and Android, as well as on PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo hardware.
So somebody might have bought a copy on PC, then later picked up a copy for their Nintendo Switch, and even later bought it on their phone too.
That is partly because people like playing games on their new devices, even if they have already bought them before.
But it is also because players can mostly carry over their progress, so if they have bought the game again, players can use the same log-in information and pick up where they left off on different devices.
Not every device allows this, and players should check compatibility – especially as there are multiple versions of the game on PC.
But broadly it might provide some explanation for how Minecraft sales have hit such dizzying heights.