Video gamers are known for their dogged devotion to their favorite titles. And such is the case with Minecraft, the wildly popular game in which, at its most basic, players roam a rough-hewn 3-D landscape where they build structures by strategically mining, breaking, and placing cubes. (Some players have referred to the game as “virtual Lego.”) Now Scholastic, with its publication of the official game guides – Minecraft: Essential Handbook last December and Minecraft: Redstone Handbook in March – has found the building blocks of a bestselling run. Essential Handbook pubbed with a first printing of 60,000 copies and has been back to press four times for a total of 400,000 copies in print. Redstone Handbook launched with an initial run of 150,000 copies and has made one trip back to press, now boasting 300,000 copies in print.
“The Minecraft Essential Handbook was originally scheduled for January publication, but we shipped it in December due to demand and enthusiasm from accounts,” said Tracy van Straaten, v-p of trade publicity at Scholastic. She added that the titles are selling briskly across all channels. A national online advertising campaign for the books is in place and Scholastic has distributed one-sheets for parents and educators at numerous conferences and educator nights.
Minecraft aficionados might have predicted such success for the books, as the game has had its own meteoric rise. An alpha version of Minecraft debuted in 2009, a work-in-progress by independent developer Markus “Notch” Persson, who founded the game-development company Mojang that year. Persson improved and updated the game through a beta phase (during which the game surpassed sales of 1 million copies) and then released the first full version to the public in late 2011. According to gaming and entertainment site IGN.com, there have been more than 14 million copies of Minecraft sold for PC and Mac, more than 10 million for Xbox 360, and more than one million for PS3.
The game also has a huge presence on YouTube and other social media sites and has spawned its own annual convention, MineCon, and a bevy of merchandise, including a Lego set. At the end of February, Persson used Twitter to announce that the original PC version of the game had reached more than 100 million users and that Warner Bros. had acquired rights to adapt Minecraft as a feature film. Roy Lee, who produced The Lego Movie, is attached to the project.
Staffers at Scholastic, clearly, were impressed by the phenomenon. “Kids everywhere were talking about Minecraft,” said Debra Dorfman, v-p and publisher. “As we became more and more familiar with the license, we were amazed by the wide age range it appeals to, as well as the global and viral way fans of Minecraft interact with one another online and in video, in addition to playing the game.”
The publisher plans two more tie-in releases this summer. Minecraft: Construction Handbook and Minecraft: Combat Handbook will be published August 26. And October 28 will see the publication of Minecraft: The Complete Handbook Collection, a boxed set recently added to Scholastic’s fall 2014 list.