Minecraft is a block-based sandbox-style game. The game drops players into a wide-open procedurally generated world where everything is made of blocks that the players can break down and place elsewhere, rearranging things as they see fit. The game is noted for its creative appeal, often described as "Digital Lego".note Massively popular, the game was originally released on PC by developer Mojang but has since moved to every major video game console and is also available in "Pocket Edition" for phones and tablets.
The game's popularity cannot be overstated. With over 100 million copies sold, it is the number one best-selling game on PC and the number two best-selling game of all time (behind only Tetris). The game's popularity and fanbase is so large that Microsoft bought Minecraft for over two billion dollars in 2014. Part of the game's success can be credited to its deep and open-ended gameplay that encourages creativity and exploration: there's no set "story" or narrative, and players are given utter freedom to decide how they want to interact with the world.
In Minecraft, nearly everything in the game is made up of similarly-sized cubes. From dirt, to rock, to tree trunks. The "world" of Minecraft is nigh-infinite and constantly generates new and unique landscapes as the player explores. Players can scale blocky mountains, swim across bodies of water, or explore any one of the many caves winding through the ground underneath them. The world is bound by unbreakable "bedrock" at the bottom and a height limit at the top where players can no longer place blocks. There are also two alternate realms players can travel to: the "Nether", a hell-like dimension, and "The End", a barren land where a terrible dragon awaits.
The three main modes in Minecraft are Creative, Survival and Hardcore. In Creative the players can destroy and place blocks with a single click. They can use any block in the game, cannot die, and are able to fly. For the most part, it's focused solely on building, and can be used to easily make very large structures or pixel art. Survival, on the other hand, forces the players to manually collect the blocks they want to use, as well as giving them a health bar and the possibility of death. It also introduces a crafting system, hunger system, day/night cycle, and hostile monsters. The players are forced to scrounge for supplies, building up a base to protect themselves from monsters while also mining deep underground for valuable materials. Players must craft various equipment to help them survive, such as pickaxes to make mining blocks quicker, or swords and armor to help fend off the monsters that come each night. Hardcore mode is almost identical to Survival. Except for the fact that the difficulty is locked on hard and if you die, your world gets deleted.
The game can be played in single-player or multiplayer. Multiplayer servers feature shared persistent worlds, allowing multiple players to either collaborate on grand projects or compete against each other. The game also features a very active mod community and has launched many popular YouTube Let's Play channels, shows and personalities, such as the Yogscast, Achievement Hunter's Let's Play Minecraft, Stampylonghead, Minecraft channels from Little Kelly (and her sister, Little Carly), a upcoming Minecraft channel from Oceane Marie and Sky Does Minecraft.
The game is notable for its frequent updates. The game was originally created by Swedish programmer Markus "Notch" Persson as a Spiritual Successor to a freeware game from Zachtronics Industries called Infiniminer. First released in 2009, Minecraft started out very basic and only had the equivalent of Creative mode. Various other modes, such as Survival Test, Indev and Infdev were slowly added in and refined/renamed, as well as many of the now-standard features (like the day/night cycle). In the summer of 2010 it was updated to Alpha status and moved to Beta status later that year. Despite the game being "officially" released in 2011, many new features have continued to be added. As previously mentioned, in 2014, Microsoft bought Mojang (and thus Minecraft) but assured fans they planned to continue the game's ongoing development.
The soundtrack is by composer C418. The Game Mod Index has a Minecraft section which has pages for various mods and maps. There is also another page reserved for fan-made Adventure Maps. The official wiki can be found here, which you will absolutely need if you want to get anything done.
At the 2015 Minecon, Telltale Games announced that they would be co-operating with Mojang to create an episodic Point-and-Click Game called Minecraft: Story Mode. At the 2018 iteration of the event, Mojang announced a dungeon-crawler game taking place in Minecraft's universe titled Minecraft Dungeons, due for release on PC in 2019. See also Minicraft, a spin-off game by Notch, as well as Terraria, the most popular of several games with a similar "blocky sandbox survival" themes to Minecraft.
A film based on the game starring Steve Carell will be released by Warner Bros. on May 24, 2019. There's also a Minecraft-inspired Youtube Red series called Kings Of Atlantis, of which the first episode can be viewed sans subscription here.
Minecraft provides examples of: