Minecraft is finally on a console but it’s not the Minecraft experience you’ve come to love and enjoy.
At the time I’m writing this, Minecraft on the Xbox has already sold more than 1 million copies at $20 a pop (in less than a week). You do the math. It’s obvious people are pretty happy to have Minecraft on their console but I’m keeping my wallet closed despite being a huge Minecraft fan.
PC Minecraft fans need not apply
If you’re already a Minecraft fan then you don’t need the Xbox version of the game. The PC experience is 1,000 times better, not to mention the Xbox version of Minecraft isn’t the same as the current version on the PC. If you’re going from PC to Xbox then you’ll going back in time when many of the things that make the game fun and challenging weren’t even around yet. It’s just a hard jump to make, especially for $20. I don’t doubt the Xbox version will get updates but I’m not that hard up to have Minecraft on my television rather than my computer monitor. Speaking of which…
Playing in the world of Minecraft on a 50″ TV is quite a different experience than playing on a monitor half that size. Being physically far away from the screen is simply headache-inducing, and when large portion of the game is dealing with interfaces and reading it’s just frustrating. However, to their credit, the Minecraft interface of the Xbox version is about as good as you could make it for such a limited controller..but in doing such a good job they eliminated some of the fun that was Minecraft.
When less is not more
One of the best aspects about PC version of Minecraft is that it literally drops you off in the middle of nowhere and doesn’t do anything to help you. To even survive 15-minutes you need to use the resources of the internet and friends. You need cheat sheets, you need to explore and you go through a lot of trial-and-error…all of it fun…and all of that only possible on the computer. A console is obviously quite different so the experience needs to be different. The Xbox version treats you to a tutorial and eliminates the need to look up and learn “recipes” to create items and tools. You might say that this lets you focus more on the gameplay itself, and you wouldn’t be wrong, but all that extra stuff is what made Minecraft such a great game in the first place.
If you fell in love with Minecraft on the PC like I did, then the Xbox version will feel inferior, however being on the console does give the game one feature you won’t get on the computer: split screen. You can play Minecraft on Xbox Live with your friends but you can also play locally which does add some new gameplay. I guess it’s really not much different than playing with someone online but sometimes you just can’t beat physical/verbal interaction with your friends. It’s a lot easier to talk to someone on the couch than type through a chat window on the PC. If you can get comfortable with the Xbox controller, I don’t doubt you and a friend can coordinate some awesome exploration and building in Minecraft.
Can the Xbox birth new Minecraft fans?
The one thing I keep asking myself is if people will become fans if their first experience with Minecraft is on the Xbox? I just don’t know and I can’t be objective. All in all, it’s the same game and if you don’t know what you’re missing on the PC version then, well, you don’t know what you’re missing. By all rights, Minecraft is just as good on the Xbox as it is on the PC. Minecraft created a unique gaming experience for me when I started playing it on the PC. The journey of learning how to play, looking up guides, jotting down notes and working my keyboard like a master pianist was all part of becoming a fan of the game. When I think hard about it, if my first exposure to Minecraft is the Xbox version, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed or played the game at all, let alone buy it.
Playing Minecraft from the couch just has a different feeling, it’s a different emotion…it feels less engaging. Playing at my computer on my desk surrounded by sketches, coordinates and a web browser made Minecraft feel like more of an adventure…an adventure that I was a part of because my ability to learn and organize out-of-game resources was critical to having fun.
I think Minecraft loses a lot when taken off the PC but that doesn’t make it a bad game on the console. My experience and introduction to Minecraft might be incredibly unique, I don’t know. And whatever I say here isn’t going to stop any diehard fan from buying it and having Minecraft available on every platform possible, including your phone, but if you want to get into Minecraft and get the most bang for your buck, buy the PC version and dig in, you’ll be glad you did. Not to mention you can play Minecraft from any computer easily, probably even at work. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve spent many a lunch hour digging holes and fighting zombies.