I believe a big part of Notch’s success is his marketing and PR skills. When a game developer releases a game, they don’t normally throw a convention. (Usually, they just want to take a vacation!) I remember before Minecraft got big of how Notch would go on radio shows to talk about his game and all that.
In this Penny Arcade Interview, I see much of the calculated PR going on. I’m not dissing this. I think it is a good quality and one that shows making a good game is not enough. You need to know how to market and sell.
Ben Kuchera: So you’re one of the more interesting figures in gaming, but I told people we’d be talking, and they all just wanted to know about the hat. So let’s get it out of the way… why do you wear a fedora?
Markuss “Notch” Perrson: Jacob [Porsér, one of the founders of Mojang] started wearing a hat beforeMinecraft was a thing, and I thought I should try wearing a hat. Just to try it. So I started wearing a hat, I had a smaller hat and kind of around that time I started appearing in pictures and press and stuff, so it turned into a thing, and I bought a fancy fedora instead of the first one I had.
Above: Notch in his hat.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the hat was an intentional image move. He said he started wearing the hat ‘right before’ Minecraft went big. Sounds to me like he might have suspected it was going to become big. And I think he looks far more charismatic in his little hat than without it. Without the hat, he appears as a bald guy like any other bald guy. It’s amazing that the only photo of Notch we had for years was him in the hat. That picture of him out there was likely because that was the picture they preferred.
When I read this interview, my reaction is that I sense his sentences and words are calculated. Not in some political calculation way, but in a way to tell his audience what they want to hear. What they want to hear is reaffirmation of Notch being some ‘dude’ out there, just saying, “Hey, I’ll make a game!” and going, “Woah! It got really big!” We hear the same sing-song with the struggling writer who just suddenly ‘got big’ and had no ambition whatsoever. Oh no. Notch is very good at representing himself.
I try not to censor myself on opinions, because I want people to have opinions and we don’t have any investors to be careful about. The only risk I guess is getting sued. I don’t curse that much, and I try not to have controversial political opinions, expect for things I really care about like patents and stuff. So I don’t necessarily say who I’d vote for in the American election, so I do kind of censor myself that way. I don’t think people follow me for that reason. But I will state opinions on the game industry and I’ll do stupid jokes and stuff.
He says he doesn’t censor himself and then says he does. He does say he knows what people are following him want to hear about. So yeah, I think he is a far more PR finesse individual than a guy just ‘bumbling around’ wearing a cute hat and programming.
For some reason, I’m reminded by old Wendy’s commercials. The founder of Wendy’s hated doing the commercials but he did so only because they increased sales. In the commercials, he is portrayed as an ‘aw shucks’ type of guy. In reality, he was a severe businessman who owned many yachts.
I think Steam is a very good service for the customers. The only thing I don’t like is that they reserve the right to remove all your games and account, which is bullshit. I understand the legal reasons, and they have to do it for their partners, and I don’t think they’re going to do anything, they’re not going to remove it. But having that constant threat is not cool. I want to buy a game and be able to play it in 20 years. I still play Doom, I don’t want it to be Valve closes down and I can’t access my games, and then I have to do it through piracy. That’s the only thing I don’t like towards the players.
But with us we have so many registered users, and with Steam we can’t really control those users. So for us it can’t really go on Steam. But for many other developers it makes a lot of sense.
It’s amazing how he takes both positions.
But, of course, Steam does have a choice of putting out DRM free games. Apple put out DRM free music and gave users a choice. Since so many of the Steam games are also DRM free at other stores, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind being sold DRM free on Steam. So the question that no one is asking the Valve Corporation is why won’t they do it? Why are they intentionally tying all the games to their client?
I don’t know what the Valve Corporation is trying to do with Steam, but I know it isn’t PC gaming.