In my previous piece, I mentioned a wide range of other entertainment venues. Arcades, entertainment centers, miniature golf centers, GameWorks, theme parks, DisneyQuest and Metreon, amusement parks, and theme parks. They all fall under the broad category of Location Based Entertainment, or LBE. LBE is generally considered an entertainment venue outside of the home. It can include theme parks, theaters, casinos, national parks, roadside attractions, boardwalks, midways, county fairs; you get the idea.
The kinds of entertainment that we pursue outside of the home are in a state of perpetual evolution as the diversions available at home continue to evolve. Home theaters, smartphones, and gaming consoles have replaced the actual need to leave the house for many of the things that required us to visit the cinema, the theater, the arcade, the casino, the bookstore, and the shopping mall.
So you might be scratching your heads about this one. Minecraft is already something you play at home. It’s already online, so it’s a social activity among friends without the need to gather in public. You can purchase merchandise online, and watch millions of videos of other players on YouTube. In fact, on December 15th, 2021 YouTube celebrated the posting of its one trillionth Minecraft video.
Why would anyone be motivated to leave the house to go somewhere for a property that seemingly is custom-made for keeping you at home?
I think it’s even worse than that if you look at it through the lens of a traditional theme park business model. A theme park is a big and complicated investment, and you want to leverage assets that are guaranteed to bring in capital. A park wants licensing with high-profile properties that will drive attendance, interactions, and merchandise purchases. Minecraft does not have any movies, any stars, any iconic locations, or memorable lines. Nobody wants an autograph from any particular character in Minecraft.
Minecraft is the best-selling videogame of all time. It generates more YouTube videos than any other topic in the world. The content is wholesome. It inspires curiosity about how things work, and about morality. The world is instantly recognizable and iconic. It has all sorts of merchandise, LEGO kits, and even its own section in bookstores.
The fans are there. I had a talk with my wife Alice about what a park would need to do to entice fans to come to the park and she stared at me like the fool I occasionally can be. She said, “If they are fans, and you make a park for something they’re fans of, they will come. That’s really not a problem.”
She’s right about that. If a Minecraft park existed, I would have gone by now.
The question changes, then. If a Minecraft park existed, what would make someone want to go? And to be honest, what would make them want to go again and tell others to go, too?
Without knowing anything about what’s at the park, this is what I would go to a Minecraft theme park to do:
- Do things exclusive to the park that will impact my home game experience.
- Physically experience things that I have been exposed to virtually for years in the game.
- Share my love of the game with friends and family who do not play it.
I could have specific experiences that would convince me to bring others back and say “You have to try this.” Things like:
- See how tall an Enderman and an Iron Golem are in real life (hint: they’re really, really tall)
- Walk through a portal from the Overworld to the Nether and feel the blast of heat from the lava
- Pet all the animals
- Taste the foods I’ve been crafting and eating for years
- Gross-out my kids by eating a “spider eyeball” candy
- Take a wild ride in a minecart
- Earn a hat for my son’s Minecraft character that only park guests who have completed a secret quest can get.
- Carve a giant smiley face into a cliff
- With a bow, defend a building from zombies, skeletons, spiders, creepers, and raiders (oh my!)
- Glide through the air in The End Dimension on an elytra
- Solve a wiring puzzle with friends, flip some switches and open a secret door in the park
- Go over a waterfall and into a chasm in a little wooden boat
- Stand in front of a “mirror” and wave, and see my character waving back at me.
Why else would a fan return? Because Minecraft is never finished. The franchise is under continuous development. When the world changes, the park will follow.
And the park itself is malleable. The essence of Minecraft is a world that players can change, so we must allow many details of the park to be fungible at the hands of the guests. It should never look the same twice.
Whether I’m a fan or not, a theme park where these are the kinds of interactions I can look forward to is a location I’m willing to leave my living room for.