Mining is for old guys. It’s for grey hairs, for folks who understand geology, for those who don’t care about the environment and the future… also, it’s for 8-year-olds and 18-year-olds and girls and nerds and smart-mouthed high-pitched Estonians who make liberal use of their Xbox microphone and swear words we stopped using years ago.
You probably thought there is a tremendous disconnect between video games and the world of mining and resources, but you would be wrong in making that assumption. In fact, mining and crafting and engineering and construction are among the most present and successful aspects of modern day gaming. Sure, some kids still like to shoot Russian terrorists with big guns, but a lot more are using gaming, and immersive technologies that have taken gaming by hold, to enter the world of resources.
If ‘gaming’ makes you think of Batman: Arkham City or Battlefield or FIFA 2017, I can understand why you’re scratching your head. First person shooters have been around for a long time, but they’re not on the rise. What’s next is experiential community-building, not community-wastage.
As humans, we have an innate need to solve mysteries, and to collect and construct. This visceral drive is no different in the digital realm, and is evidenced by the wild success of such games as Minecraft.
Minecraft is the reigning king of sandbox games, and an indie darling in the gaming space with over 35 million copies sold since its release in 2009. At least, it was an indie darling until Microsoft bought it for $2 billion.
What’s the secret to its success? It’s not the graphics, which are decidedly 8-bit in nature. And it’s not the campaign gameplay, being as there’s no game to speak of. Rather, what Minecraft is, is Lego with a twist.
Imagine, if you will, that in order to get a 4×1 piece in your Lego box, you had to find 4 1×1 pieces, then merge them. And if you wanted them blue, you’d have to go get a 1×3 piece and merge it with a 1×2 piece. Now you’re getting the idea.
Only, in Minecraft, you start with your character in a forest. Cut down a tree and you can make a wooden pickaxe. Use the wooden pickaxe to dig into a mountain. Find iron ore, and a little coal, and you can make steel pickaxes, which last longer and can be used to dig for gold, and diamonds, and emeralds… which can be used to make increasingly complex stuff.
Minecraft is, to the mining industry, the single greatest lure for new investors – and first time investors – that there has ever been. You’re seeing literally 30 million kids, teens, and young adults (maybe even a few of us not so young adults) spending hours each day searching for resources in deep mountain caves. You’re seeing them learn what those resources are used for. You’re seeing them understand what lapis lazuli is.
This popularity is hardly surprising, since Minecraft is based on building blocks and construction toys that many of us familiarized ourselves with as kids. The game is so popular in fact, there are numerous channels on YouTube where you can watch others play Minecraft. How popular? We’re talking millions of views, with one video following a user’s maiden Minecraft exploits racking up over 12 million views so far.
Minecraft creator Majong was bought back in 2014 after the company reported revenues of $326 million in 2013, and that success was duly noted by large players, including Lego, which has made millions with it’s Worlds online platform, Data Realms’ Cortex Command, and Jagex Game Studio’s Ace of Spades.
It isn’t just pre-teens doing it, when Minecraft Forums ran a voluntary age survey back in 2012, it was discovered that the solid majority of players (43.70%) were between 15 and 21 years old, and another significant slice (21.01%) were between 22 and 30 years old. And believe it or not, over 2% of the players were octogenarians.
This trend isn’t just for kids, something that is further evidenced by the growing number of mature titles entering the sandbox space. In this year’s top ten video game list as published by Time, there were games such as Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky (in which players explore the galaxy looking for resources), Butterscotch Shenanigans’ Crashlands (described as ‘Craft, battle, and quest your way through an outlandish adventure overflowing with sass’) and Square Enix’s Dragon’s Quest Builders (in which players are tasked with rebuilding a destroyed world).
Then you have Bethesda’s hugely successful post-apocalyptic Fallout 4 and Skyrim, as well as Blizzard’s giant success World of Warcraft. Going back further, you’ll find granddaddy world builders such as Microprose’s Civilization and Electronic Arts’ Sim City franchises.
For decades parents have been moaning about video games being detrimental to children, and yet the data shows children aren’t so into the violent games. Even Grand Theft Auto, long viewed as the pinnacle of ‘bad for kids’ gaming, can be played in a building mode rather than a ‘beat up the ho’ mode, with add-ons recently allowing players to build a corporate empire within the game.
It all comes back to finding resources and turning them into things that you need to be a success in life. World building is the new trend.
That doesn’t mean every one is a success. In fact, No Man’s Sky, despite its ranking in Time’s list of successful games by dollars spent on its purchase, was largely a loser. I dropped some serious coin on a game which claimed to be an open universe of approximately four quadrillion worlds where I could spend the next ten years exploring and never come across another player, and the game failed spectacularly on that front with players encountering one another within days of playing the game.
But what really hurt the game, and was the major complaint by those who bought it, was that you couldn’t build a home base. People were fine with grinding for resources, but wanted to be able to turn those resources into things. The building aspect in the game was constrained and lame, and that doomed it to be disliked. In fact, a recently released (actually, not yet released – it’s still in pre-alpha development) game called Astroneer is starting to really pick up where No Man’s Sky faltered, and gaining a fast following while doing so – for 1/3 of the price.
At Equity.Guru, we haven’t spent a lot of time pointing our younger investor base at resources in 2016, but that will change in the coming year. Though, if you asked the average hipster what they feel about mining, they’ll tell you they don’t like it and it hurts the world, the facts remain that the average hipster spends a LOT of time mining, and they like it.
Granted, there are no tailing ponds in Minecraft and no First Nations folks to keep happy (unless you count Minecraft villagers, though they tend not to stand in front of bulldozers), but the concept of finding ore and turning it into bars and turning those bars into items that can be used to gather wealth, is not foreign to them.
This is the moment when smart miners should start talking to minors. Well, And so we’re planning a shift into resources in 2017. We’ll still have the big front page and lots of weed and tech coverage, but a resource specific front end is coming and will be a big push for us going forward.
— Gaalen Engen and Chris Parry