Before the rise of user driven innovation, the success of a product could be measured straightforwardly by number of sales or good reviews in the popular press. The empowerment of users with accessibly interaction tools and techniques has introduced new ways to measure success, such as the active participation of users in the extension of the initial product. In the domain of entertainment computing, one of the most successful cases has been Minecraft, which is based on user-built digital worlds.
Minecraft has been designed from the ground-up with an emphasis on user participation. Instead of producing an experience to be consumed by end-users, the designer of Minecraft placed user participation at the core of the gameplay. This design choice demonstrates that the makers have recognized the need of the users to express themselves in more ways than just going through a ready-made world. In addition to the shaping of the digital world, Minecraft users have been enabled to program new objects and behaviors with Mods (Modifications). For example, there are Mods that employ block-based languages as means to make new worlds, objects, and behaviors. In this way, the popularity and familiarity of Minecraft becomes a new medium, which can be used to learn important skills such as computer programming.
User contributed content in video-games is not something completely new and Minecraft was not the first to leverage user participation. During the 1980s, the Doom series of first-person shooter video-games enabled users to build their own levels, which was one way to keep them engaged for longer periods. Minecraft Mods have put user innovation at the core of gameplay, because video-game players want to produce and not only to consume a one-size-fits-all experience. The Minecraft approach stands for a radically different approach to production and property, which has been moving from the company to the users. In this way, the company is enabled to focuses its effort on maintaining the platform and curating the user content. Therefore, user contributed content does not really stand for a completely new or competitive business approach, but it mostly stands for a shifting of roles.
The Minecraft case is also interesting for being one more example of making a novel interactive product just by one developer. The first prototypes have been created during the free-time of a professional video-game developer, who focused on Minecraft development full-time as soon the video-game gained traction among mostly teenage players. The early prototypes have been inspired by indy video-games that allow the player to manipulate objects in a 3Dimensional digital world. Next, he added the computer controlled opponents and user collaboration in the creation of digital worlds. The growth of the game was a result of positive word of mouth between early adopters mostly in the nordic countries, where the developer resided. Therefore, Minecraft stands for an important example of the power of user contributed content, as well as the potential of small developers to create new kind of products before major companies realize the need.