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What the Minecraft resurgence signals about evolving consumer preference

A CD. How quaint. We have these in museums. Eoin Colfer

Nostalgia has struck the teen set. Everyone in my household – and all of their friends and friend’s friends’ - has abandoned Fortnite for Minecraft servers in the past three months or so. Ask my 13yo, Nick, and he’ll say it’s because “he remembered how fun it [Minecraft] was when he was five.” This makes me laugh. I suspect the answer is something else, but more about that in a minute.

  • According to Forbes, growth in Minecraft views on YouTube have accelerated over the past 2 months. In May, views of MC content were up 8% vs the prior year.

  • And according to Google Trends, in June, Minecraft surpassed Battle Royale in usage, racking up growth for the first time since 2017.

This is not to say Epic Games’ Fortnite Battle Royale is dead by any means – this week’s World Cup finals was the most watched eSports event in history -- but I think a few things deserve consideration:

• Gen Z doesn’t like “try-hards.” Have the Marvel-Comics and Netflix partnerships (Stranger Things) gone from edgy to too much?

• Gen Z dislikes the blatant monetization of anything – I suspect they push V-bucks (game packs) too hard.

• New seasons have been repetitive (or so the pre-teens in my life have told me).

There’s no chance Fortnite could have sustained its phenomenal growth forever. But what it reminds us of is that nobody and nothing stays on top forever because consumer preference is fickle -- it's always changing. One could argue it’s the most insidious strategic risk every company faces. Consumers are unpredictable, irrational, and highly prone to change. As I’ve blogged about extensively, the fact that Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with the Smartphone (um, immediate gratification personified), which ups the ante on this peril considerably. So my suggestion is to pay close attention to all your constituents -- and potential constituents -- because they could quickly become the reason you're irrelevant tomorrow. Just ask Sears, Kodak, or General Electric. I suspect every single one of these companies was doomed by a C-Suite who thought they were too important to fail or knew better than their customers. In other words, they were done in by hubris. Because while technology can be hard to keep pace with, companies are still run by humans with the ability to make choices about people (leadership), projects (funding), and ethics: the Holy Grail of corporate relevance and vibrancy.

Now back to Nick. He and his buddies are building a coliseum, a temple to Keanu Reeves, and a giant piece of toast. Listening to them collaborate on architecture and design elements tells me that they’ve beaten a path back to Minecraft not because of nostalgia but because it’s simply more creative. Either that or they’re just growing up.