Considering the ludicrous popularity that Markus “Notch” Persson’s indie sandbox title, Minecraft, has had since it went into public alpha nearly three years ago, it’s easy to forget that the game hasn’t actually even been formally launched yet. That all changes this Friday, when the creator himself will release the game at a special ceremony to be held at the first ever Minecon in Las Vegas.
Early versions of Minecraft were released under a unique pricing structure that encouraged interested players to help fund the development of the game. Under the model, players could pay up front to play the work-in-progress, which would grant them complete access to all subsequent builds of the game up to and including its actual launch.
The system was a bona fide success, and word of mouth quickly began to spread. Soon, all corners of the Internet were ablaze with discussion about a little indie title centered around the mining, building, and exploring of a word generated entirely out of blocks.
To date, more than four million people have purchased the full edition of Minecraft since Notch launched the paid-for alpha in May of 2009. Some 16 million have signed up for information on the game at Minecraft’s official website, where a free browser-based edition of the sandbox title is made available.
Minecraft has become such a sensation that it has generated its own convention, Minecon, the first of which will be held this weekend in Las Vegas. Thousands of Minecraft enthusiasts from all over the world will congregate to the sold-out event in order to have fun and mingle with fellow block-building enthusiasts.
An Xbox 360 version of Minecraft is due out sometime next year. Notch’s Sweden-based independent studio, Mojang, is currently working on their next project, a fantasy game called Scrolls.