If you haven’t heard about Minecraft by now, then you must have been hiding under a 16-bit block for the last few years.
The Swedish "open world" game centered on breaking and placing blocks has taken the world by storm, with over 14.7 million people having purchased and played it. All this despite the fact that Minecraft has no advertising budget.
Considering that the game has all of the graphical polish of a mid-90s Nintendo game - much like Flappy Bird - it’s downright mind-boggling that people are even willing to give Minecraft a try, much less spend hours and hours each day for a month straight smelting virtual ore so that they can then spend a few years building a full-scale Imperial Star Destroyer.
It's one of those games a la Flappy Bird and Candy Crush where you think "Why would I play that?" but once you’ve invested some time into digging and building blocks, and fighting mobs of nocturnal monsters in an almost endless world, you’ll see exactly what Minecraft's appeal is. Trust me.
Despite the global breakout success that Minecraft has seen, there was no marketing budget placed behind the game at all. So how is it that Minecraft manages to draw in $300,000 every day in downloads? Simple: Every players has a unique, personal relationship with the game.
The first point should be fairly obvious — if you want to reach customers, consumers, or anyone else, then you must give them something that they can be excited about.
With no advertising budget, no special unlockable content, no flashy graphics, and no feature length film tie-in (as of yet), the only thing that was ever going to drive Minecraft sales was going to be the user's experience.
In this modern age of analytics, customer data tracking, and targeted marketing, it’s kind of nice to know that a really good product can still stand on its own. As such, the first responsibility of any business should be to offer something that customers really want, and that they can’t get anywhere else. What's more unique than the customers themselves?
Does that necessarily mean that the product has to be something completely new? No, but it does mean that the product or service should have some quality that distinguishes it from its competition. Maybe it solves an inherent problem that plagues other versions of itself; maybe it simply costs less.
Whether it's a new product or an iteration, the product should offer a killer feature or experience that will not only make the user sit up and take notice, but will convince them to want to share it with their friends.
Secondly, Minecraft teaches us that in order for something to become widely popular, it should also be widely accessible. Despite the Minecraft's basic premise, legions of fans who have taken it upon themselves to fully master the virtual world of minecraft would be the first to remind me (with no small amount of ire) that although the game may seem simple on the surface, it is actually mind-bendingly complex.
However, to the neophyte who first picks up the game and decides to dig a tunnel or chop down a tree, that complexity is still far off. In essence, the game allows players to choose their own level of immersion -- as a player becomes more invested, the game becomes that much more difficult.
If they want to make a few weapons and fight roaming monsters, then that’s their right and they’re sure to have a grand-old time doing it. If they instead choose to recreate the entire continent of Middle Earth one painstakingly placed block at a time, then so be it.
The point here is that no matter the skill or level of interest present in the user, Minecraft is accessible and entertaining in ways other similar games are not, and your product must stand out too if you hope for it to be embraced.
How you present your product depends on how prepared the prospective customer is. Do you have offerings for users at every major stage?
Businesses should strive to be as accessible to every user. A corporation’s website should present information quickly and efficiently, and offer the promise of direct assistance should a visitor require it. In fact, any interaction between the company and the client should strive for simplicity of communication, so that no customer ever has to go away from the experience feeling confused.
Of course, those customers who are capable of comprehending the greater complexity should be allowed access to it, so that they understand that the business understands what it’s talking about. To put it a bit more simply: Communicate with each customer at his or her own level.
Finally, let’s step back a moment and look at the game overall. What Minecraft really excels in is allowing players to escape their everyday lives and dive into a virtual world.
How is this different from any other video game? Well, let’s say that a gamer decides to jump into the world of another popular game: Skyrim where they can enjoy the lush and detailed scenery, become involved in an intricate plot, and experience hair-raising combat. And then, after about 100 hours total spent fighting dragons and exploring dungeons, the appeal wears off.
So, how is it that a game with a huge $100 million budget and full of groundbreaking new features could ever get old? It’s because—no matter how complex and beautiful—the world doesn’t belong to the player in the way Minecraft players owns theirs.
Minecraft allows their players to mold their own, unique universes in any way that they want, and when it comes to pure creation, the possibilities are limitless. Minecraft allows their customers to customize their experience.
If there's one takeaway from the success of Minecraft, it's to allow your customers to craft their own experience as much as they possibly can.
With customer data and behavior analytics, businesses can let the customer take the lead and monitor to see how the customer navigates and where they end up. Analyze this information to improve the product, so that it offers the most-optimized user experience to those customers.
The more personalized their experience, the stronger relationship they will have.
If you already have an established product or service, take a step back by identifying features that can be deconstructed. Are there better ways for those components to work better based on the way your customers use your product?
In many ways, Minecraft is one of those perfect storms that comes every few years. Still, when it comes down to it, Minecraft is just another product. It's the experience that was created in the gameplay that we can take cues from.
The more freedom you give your users to create their own destiny, the likelier they'll reward you for doing so.
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