Minecraft Has Now Outsold The Sims 2: Pets

By Alec Meer on November 12th, 2012 at 7:00 pm.

What a ghastly state of affairs!

I had a choice of headlines for this – perhaps that Minecraft has become the ninth best-selling PC game of all time, that it has now shifted over 8 million paid copies in total or that Notch heralded that last with the cryptic phrase 69I960EHE0A4A0IVG0EHE02500R4R0G1T30PLJ00V6V0EHE0V1U01V10U5U0VGV0V4R. But I think you’ll agree, Minecraft outselling The Sims 2: Pets is the news we’re really here for.

8 million would be an enormous milestone for a game released by a major publisher, let alone a behatted indie from Sweden, and it speaks to the fact that Minecraft has gone way beyond ubiquitous game status and into genuine cultural phenomenon.

I’m fascinated by its placing in Wikipedia’s list of best-selling PC games (as linked to by devs Mojang) – I had no idea Guild Wars was so huge, while I’m confused by how World of Warcraft could have sold 4.7 million copies but has 10 million subscribers. Also, Christ, I forget just how big Half-Life 2 was. 12 million copies! Valve taking their sweet time over the follow-up kinda makes more sense in light of that – that must feel like an enormous weight of expectation.

Anyway! Well done to team Mojang. You made a very nice videogame, yes you did.

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65 Comments »

  1. Jason Moyer says:

    Outselling Myst is pretty hardcore.

  2. pupsikaso says:

    I’m surprised that, according to that list, Half-Life 2: Episode 1 sold only 1.4 million copies whereas Half-Life 2 sold 12.
    This might well explain why we are not getting Episode 3 any time soon – not enough people are buying them…

    • Demon Beaver says:

      “Sales from digital distribution outlets such as Steam are also not taken into account.”

      This might explain it.

    • Dark Nexus says:

      That 1.4m is at retail. Half-Life 2 sold 6.5m at retail (as of the time Ep1 had done 1.4m), but basically birthed Steam so the retail probably made up a lot more of the sales than it would have 2 years later for Ep1. So it’s an apples to oranges comparison.

      • Communist says:

        Or apple boxes to orange boxes…

        • Universal Quitter says:

          I’ve never understood why that ever became a popular phrase. Those are the two most different things someone could come up with a few hundred years ago? Apples and oranges. I mean, they ARE both fruit, and have a certain amount of sweetness to them. They seem pretty comparable to me. It’s not like comparing rocks and toothpicks.

    • Shuck says:

      Looking at the sources for those numbers, the Wikipedia chart is actually pretty worthless. They’re using press releases for a good deal of it, and outdated ones at that. Sales figures for Diablo 2, for example, are based on a 2001 press release. The game has continued to sell well, and has actually popped up on the tops of retail sales charts in recent years, so I suspect the total sales may be at least twice the number given. Sometimes Wikipedia uses third party statistics that don’t take into account certain types of sales (downloads), further confusing matters. It’s all apples and oranges. It’s really only useful for getting a general sense of what level of magnitude PC games sales reach, not the actual numbers.

    • Werthead says:

      The chart is awful. It lists SKYRIM as selling 10 million copies, but it was 10 million in total across all formats. Apparently (according to the linked source) only 14% were on PC (although not including Steam sales, which were enormous), not all 10 million. So the verified sales of SKYRIM on PC were 1.4 million, putting it much further down the list than where they put it.

  3. cyrenic says:

    “while I’m confused by how World of Warcraft could have sold 4.7 million copies but has 10 million subscribers”

    China, I would assume?

    • Ateius says:

      Piracy, clearly.

      No, you’re right, it’s the Asian market playing via internet cafes with prepaid time cards.

      • Brun says:

        Probably box copies vs. digital download. Not sure if he’s talking about the original game or the latest expansion, but you can certainly set up an account and download the client online, and that likely doesn’t count as a copy sold.

    • Xocrates says:

      Dunno if they changed the article since Alec saw it, but what it actually says is that Cataclysm sold 4.7 million, so the ones prior need to have sold at least that.

      The interesting part then, is that a lot of people playing do not have the expansions.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      Interesting isn’t it? I thought that was a really interesting list until I saw “Sales from digital distribution outlets such as Steam are also not taken into account” and realised it was pointless.

      • Shuck says:

        Except that they’re getting their sales number from various sources, some of which don’t separate retail from download sales. So they sometimes are counting those, though you can’t tell when.

    • phuzz says:

      Some people have multiple accounts, but I presume you can just buy one copy and log in/out using different accounts.
      I’d be surprised if it makes much difference to the numbers though.

      • Brun says:

        You can download the clients whenever, as far as I know.

        When you buy the game/expansion the “box price” is for account activation/upgrade, respectively. So you could have multiple accounts but unless you bought upgrades for both (i.e. two “copies”) you could not play the new content on both.

    • Somerled says:

      I think there just aren’t any reliable numbers for sales of vanilla WoW and the first two expansions that the wiki authors could find, so they fill in the gap with the logic that there are at least as many sales for those as for Cataclysm.

      Though the authors mention that sales for expansions don’t figure in (except for Guild Wars, hmmmm). WoW sales are of course going to be skewed by expansions, so … errrr … nice try wiki?

  4. KDR_11k says:

    I think Valve isn’t worried about messing Half-Life 3 up, they’re just allergic to the number three. They bring everything up to the number two but then they stop (and in the case of Half-Life release episodes numbered one and two).

  5. jikavak says:

    Tell me more about the cryptic Notch phrase.

    • Biscuitry says:

      It looks like excited keyboard-mashing to me, although I just bet someone of the sort who gets really into Valve’s marketing material is going to come along and tell me exactly why that makes me a drooling idiot.

  6. Brugt says:

    This strange list has not even one Call of Duty episode on it. However pleasing that may sound, it doesn’t make it any more believable. Good news on minecraft however!

    • phelix says:

      Of course, digital and console sales are not included.

      • Brugt says:

        ah so these are the mere boxed sales of minecraft!

        • Salix says:

          Also, if you’ll notice the large title at the top of the wikipedia page says ‘List of best-selling PC games’ and COD is inherently a console game.

          • Xardas Kane says:

            O rly? Last time I checked it came out on PC first.

          • Chalky says:

            How is it coming out on PC first relevant to how many copies it sold PC vs console?

          • MasterDex says:

            @Xardas Kane: You’ll notice he used the present tense there “CoD IS inherently a console game.” This is true. If he had said “CoD was always a console game”, then you’d have a point.

    • slowly_over says:

      That was my first thought. Given that the first CoD was released on PC in 2003 before the current generation of consoles launched, and that it was a great game, lets be fair, I’m sure it must’ve sold more than a million copies at retail.

      (Steam was in existence, but there weren’t many non-Valve games initially. CoD wasn’t available on Steam until 2006 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Steam_games.)

  7. Barberetti says:

    *looks up from playing Minecraft*

    Great news. Congrats Mojang!

  8. Arkhonist says:

    What? You can buy boxed minecraft??

  9. MajorManiac says:

    Its funny how big the lowest-common denominator fps blast’o man shoot games -seem- to be in the games industry.

    When in-fact it the family friendly house-cleaning simulators that dominate the sales charts. Are the guys (I presume) who decide what games to make simply ignoring sales figures?

    • I Got Pineapples says:

      These are PC sales of boxed games. So it’s going to skew very much towards ‘Games your mum would like’. Not that this is a bad thing, of course.

      Man-Shoot games still live on money mountain in their money house, surrounded by money.

  10. I Got Pineapples says:

    Guild Wars is cheating a bit there, since it’s combining four games as one set of sales, which is like The Sims or Warcraft combining all the total sales of their various expansions together into one lump.

    It’s not to say it didn’t do well but it shouldn’t be that high up the list.

    • Shuck says:

      The numbers are taken from press releases and financial statements, so, for a given circumstance, the company is using whatever numbers seem most impressive.

  11. rb2610 says:

    Interesting that 3 of the top-10 games are 2011 releases, and people say PC gaming is dying…

  12. Shuck says:

    What’s interesting is that the success of Minecraft is almost entirely down to game sites like RPS, rather than the massive marketing campaigns of every other game on the top-selling PC games list. If it hadn’t been for constant attention from online gaming sites, Minecraft probably would have gotten sales in the thousands, not millions. The impact of the gaming press on sales can not be overstated.

    • mollemannen says:

      so minecraft being a good game has nothing to do with it?

      • Shuck says:

        Of course it had something to do with it. But quality isn’t sufficient to get good sales – people have to know about it, and word of mouth only goes so far. Notch had a very canny online social presence that helped a lot, but you don’t get anywhere near 8 million sales without a lot of media outlets talking about your game, repeatedly. Sales numbers are directly tied into marketing efforts; in this case the marketing was largely done through positive press attention.

        • mollemannen says:

          funny you should say that since word of mouth often is quoted as the main reason minecraft sold that much. sure maybe more than half of the copies sold are from people reading about it in various publications but from my perspective the sales are rather exponential and many sales were made after people posted youtube videos about it (which i count as word of mouth since they were made by people, not so much gamingsites). if a game can sell a million copies almost by word of mouth only then that is a big sign of quality and deserves all the press and sales it gets.

        • MarkN says:

          In Minecraft’s case I’d say it got a lot of press BECAUSE it generated huge word of mouth. Press that normally wouldn’t have covered it ended up having to.

          • Shuck says:

            Had Notch not been so smart about his own social outreaches, game sites would likely have passed it over, but there was some pretty early press attention, and there’s been essentially continuous coverage on many, many sites. Excellent word of mouth will get you sales measured in the tens of thousands, not millions. Youtube videos, for example, are great, but someone has to point you to them in order for them to have significant influence on people. You don’t get millions of sales without a lot of press coverage and, normally, very expensive marketing campaigns as well.

          • mollemannen says:

            google didn’t need any advertising from sites or magazines to become famous which in my opinion is a good example of a product becoming famous from it’s own merits alone. you talk about minecraft like it owes all it’s success to gaming sites, just like the assholes on yogscast did. also iv’e never since the first time i played minecraft (back when there were no minecraft classic) seen notch reach out to a gaming site asking them to cover or write anything about minecraft.

            i found minecraft from a related youtube link (you know those you don’t have to point to but shows up in the right side on youtube, but that part of your monitor must be broken or something) long before i heard any of my friends talk about it. i then bought minecraft about six months before the whole craze started, before minecraft had a forum and hardly even a website. also notch often references how he got caught whit his pants down regarding minecrafts success.

            tl:dr: to say that minecraft owes everything to press and gaming sites is incorrect and doesn’t give the game any merit. even if more than fifty percent of the sales are from press and gaming sites.

  13. Somerled says:

    8 million Minecraft copies. That’s an amazing landmark for Mojang and for the games industry.

    But Battlefield 3, Diablo III, and Skyrim all over 10 million each, and all three roughly a year old or younger. I mean, that’s frightening. More so than the long running The Sims being at the top. Some franchises are just all out consuming the PC market. I hope that turns out to be a good thing in the long run.

    My pockets are starting to feel warm…

  14. JD Ogre says:

    Huh. “The Bard’s Tale” sold 300k copies. Didn’t realize it was so huge (in terms of its era). Really wish Brian Fargo & company’d get the rights back to the series and either make a proper Bard’s Tale IV or a re-release of the original trilogy (though I could live without BT2:The Destiny Knight) with better artwork & sound that works at modern resolutions (keeping the same gameplay, POV, etc., though perhaps with some bug fixes and closing some exploits, like that tile in Harkyn’s Castle that sent four waves of 99 easy to kill berserkers, worth a crapton of XP, every time the floor reset – which it does when you leave it and return, which the teleport spell let you do easy)

  15. Dinger says:

    To be honest, what’s interesting is that, while I’m pretty sure the week-on-week sales numbers have been higher in the past, they’re on the same order of magnitude they’ve been for the last two years, and, for that matter, they’re still about where they were two years ago.
    Eight years ago, there was chatter about the “Long Tail”. Four years ago, it was pretty much a joke. Now we’ve got a software product that’s been hitting pretty much the same sales numbers week after week for three years.
    A videogame selling like a box of hammers. What the hell is that?

    • MrTambourineMan says:

      They have a counter on Minecraft homepage which tracks sales in real time for 24 hours period. Every time I check they have around 7-8K sales per day, that’s pretty impressive!

  16. Armante says:

    Spare Planetside2 beta key, for those interested. I’ve been spreading them around RPS :)

    MGAR9KCJ3GKAPJZ6F9MH

    pls post a comment if you use it so others don’t waste their time. cheers.

  17. scorcher24 says:

    8 Million sold copies, yet only 1 person working on updates and no mod api since years, despite a very active and dedicated modding community.
    And Notch paying thousands for humble bundles which could have been used to hire a programmer to get things finally done.
    Way to go.

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  19. Giuseppe says:

    I wouldn’t trust a Wikipedia list to be that accurate.

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