Minecraft and Roblox, two games that have been around for a decade or more, are enjoying a rise in popularity and user base at the moment. Meanwhile, the fortunes of Epic Games’ Fortnite appear to be mellowing out somewhat. The old favorites are staging a comeback, and they could provide a glimpse into the battle royale game’s future.
It’s been almost imperceptible, but interest in Fortnite is starting to slowly drift downwards. Not a sharp drop-off by any means but still — gamers are starting to show less rabid enthusiasm for Epic’s cash cow. Forbes writer Paul Tassi noticed the Google search trends for Fortnite have declined steadily in the last few months.
And the game that’s risen in search trends at a commensurate rate? Minecraft. Mojang community manager Aubrey Norris said in June that YouTube views for Minecraft content were also on the rise. That’s not to say the two games’ popularity are related, necessarily — but I do think it’s instructive that Fortnite‘s fortunes are starting to look less lustrous while Minecraft is staging a comeback.
There is the question of why Minecraft, a ten-year-old game that hasn’t seen a big update for a while, is returning to popularity. I’m going to guess it’s probably because a few choice YouTubers and streamers are playing it again. As Pewdiepie goes, so goeth we all… or something like that. Minecraft‘s always had a dedicated fanbase of its own, but I’m going to guess the return to Minecraft is some combination of nostalgia and hype for the upcoming release of AR game Minecraft Earth.
That said, it’s not the only game out there enjoying a post-Fortnite renaissance. Roblox just beat Minecraft in player numbers, surging past 100 million monthly active users. Roblox is one of those games I think about possibly once per season, and yet it’s extremely popular with a certain age demographic. Every time I hear about someone playing it, it’s usually the child, niece, nephew, or little cousin of the person I’m speaking to. And Roblox is four years older than Minecraft, meaning it’s had even longer to build up a dedicated fanbase.
All that said, we don’t know how Fortnite is doing in terms of player counts. That’ll be the only way we can truly compare the three. Epic tends to release overall player counts instead of active monthly players — at last report, the number was close to 250 million players. So it’s possible the number of monthly players is still quite high. But Fortnite has always been a bit of a spectator sport — just look at how many streamers have made their bones playing it. If searches for it and views of it aren’t holding steady or rising, I think it’s probably a sign of how players are feeling about it.
Roblox is one of those games you never really hear about, but once upon a time Minecraft was the new hotness too. It was the game every kid was playing, and every gamer had to play at least once. It was popular with kids, it was on every console available — that’s the model Fortnite later perfected.
Fortnite‘s explosive popularity has always been one of the most fascinating things about it: how could a game go from being nonexistent to being one of the most important things on the planet so quickly? Perhaps it’ll reach a sort of equilibrium — it’ll still be popular, and as much of a staple game as Minecraft or Roblox. Maybe someday its player count won’t outnumber the population of Japan — but as the other two games show, you don’t have to dominate the world in order to stick around for a very long time.