They (Who? They. Don’t ask questions.) say that the quicker your star rises, the quicker it fizzles out. No doubt about it — Minecraft shot into almost unprecedented terrain in terms of ubiquitous success. The game is over 20 million players strong, including schoolkids who’ve had the game integrated into their curriculum. Between the game and other ventures, like massive branding of merch, this has been a $100 million thing for creator Markus “Notch” Persson.
Although he may be set for life (or, like, 5 lives) by way of the little sandbox game, Notch still feels quite a bit of pressure to replicate the mass appeal that Minecraft offers:
There’s no way you could replicate it intentionally. And yes, I’m starting to feel writer’s block as a result. I’m not sure if it’s pressure to repeat…; […] Actually, it is the pressure to repeat. And with Minecraft it was just easier, because nobody knew who I was. Now I post a new idea and millions of people scrutinize it. There’s a conflict between the joy of being able to do whatever I want and the remarkable pressure of a watching world. I don’t know how to switch it off.
It is especially hard when your thumbs up has the power to make an indie company, and your thumbs down can end its run at greatness. Persson had to learn to toe the line between ethics and a solidarity with other indie devs, sometimes with questionable results:
I try to tweet about the games I love and feel passionate about. But it got to the stage where I could ‘make’ a small studio, and so it began to feel like a duty. I started promoting games that I wasn’t so enthusiastic about.