Have you ever wanted to be a king of the wild frontier, an explorer mapping new and sometimes dangerous territories? Well, to be frank, you’re a bit late as there is very little left in the world where someone else hasn’t already been. Your next best option might be spending a few dollars on an open world game and becoming a virtual pioneer. Some of these games have tasks and levels you must perform, and others were created to allow you to just wander around and create your own world. These are called sandbox games as they replicate the environment of a real-life kids’ sandbox in which they are free to do whatever they want; build, destroy, sit around and do nothing, or just throw sand around. It’s this type of game we’re going to discuss today, in this episode of the Infographics Show, Minecraft vs. Terraria.

This is not the first time we have compared sandbox games. Our last outing to a sandbox comparison was pitting Minecraft against Roblox, two games that have a rich history and have ruled much of the sandbox world. Our conclusion was that there wasn’t strictly a “best”, but that both games were good in their own way. Perhaps you could call Minecraft the most popular, but the fact that Roblox has been making children adept at programming, and making them wealthier than their parents is nothing short of amazing. So, what about the new kid on the block, Terraria?

Terraria is fairly new to the sandbox world, with its initial release being on May 16, 2011. It was designed for the Microsoft Windows operating system, but has since spread its wings to other platforms. Throughout its Windows days, it received all kinds of updates, with more enemies and non-player characters (NCPs), which kept life interesting for players. In March 2013, it came out on Xbox 360 and shortly thereafter, on Playstation 3. A mobile version for iOS and Android would soon follow. It has since garnered great reviews and hasn’t done too badly in sales, either, although some critics have said it is nothing but a clone of Minecraft. We’ll come to the money later, but it’s worth mentioning that in a recent interview, the creator of Terraria, Andrew Spinks, said millions of dollars could have been made by charging people just a dollar more for the updates. But, he said that went against his company’s principles. “We have never been all about maximizing the money at the expense of customers, we have stayed true to our core principals…we strongly feel that forgoing those quick gains was and is the right path to take,” said Spinks. So, already we must give some amount of kudos to Terraria for not exploiting the player as some games do. In terms of ethics, it gets a thumbs up.

Minecraft, on the other hand, could be called the grandfather of sandbox gaming. It’s a rags to riches story, at least for the initial creator. That man is a Swede named Markus Persson, who had at one point in time had been obsessed with the game Dwarf Fortress. He wanted to develop a similar concept, but something much more playable. That he did, in 2009, when he uploaded a very early version of Minecraft to YouTube. An alpha version soon followed, costing only 13 bucks. He then made a 26 dollar beta version and was quite surprised at how many copies he sold. Maybe he was onto to something. Persson never expected to be rich, and said he just wanted to quit his day job and do his own thing. As of early 2017, he was worth about 1.4 billion dollars.

So what about the claim that Terraria is just a clone of Minecraft? Firstly, the major difference is that Terraria is 2-D and Minecraft is 3-D. Reading numerous forums featuring comparison threads of these two games, it seems many people disagree that Terraria is just a copy – perhaps hoping to reel in the dollars Minecraft has. If you’ve never played Terraria, the gist is you start in a world with nothing much more than a pickaxe, and axe, and a sword. You build a base, and that is usually located in a biome – a place where flora and fauna are prevalent – and there you have to create your defenses. Non player characters can also have their homes, and they can protect you against the many enemies. You will craft items in a workshop for your protection and the protection of your area. You can also mine for goodies that will get you through this kind of apocalyptic world. It sounds more like a game-like game than Minecraft, which is somewhat a virtual world where you have no objectives but to keep building and wandering around…for as long as you want. On the other hand, many aficionados of Terraria say that the fact that monsters are never far away makes it much more exciting than Minecraft. But at some point, say 100 hours, the game might be finished. We’ll give you an example of three opinions found on forums: one pro-Minecraft, one pro-Terraria, and one in the middle; all that seem to encompass what most people feel.

In defense of Terraria: “Terraria is a FAR better game than Minecraft. It does not have explicit goals, but there are a lot of subtle ones to go after, from neat equipment you can craft to items you can find in the wild that give you neat abilities. Minecraft is a better world builder, although as a game it is pretty weak.”

In defense of Minecraft: “It has less variety in terms of terrain generation but it makes up for that by being 3-d rather than 2-d, as well as the world being practically infinite.”

What the majority feel: “Both have their pros and cons; it just depends on what you like, I suppose.”

And what about the pundits, the game reviewers. How did they score these games? If you check out Metacritic, a site that scores games, TV, music and film, giving an aggregated score from most of the world’s most acclaimed review sites, Minecraft comes out on top. Of all the various editions, Minecraft continually scores better than Terraria. In another list which compiled games that have appeared on best games ever lists, Minecraft for PC has been on 12 such lists. While that might not be much compared to Nintendo’s 1996 Super Mario 64 and its 55 appearances, Minecraft was the only sandbox game to make the list. In terms of what the media thinks, Minecraft is well ahead of Terraria.

As for copies sold and how much moolah the games have raked in, you won’t be surprised to know Minecraft has done much better. Terraria was, however, a top seller on Steam just after its release. After only a month, it had sold over 432,000 copies and that became 12 million copies across all platforms upon its 1.3 update in 2015 – an update that we know didn’t mean a price hike from its original $9.99. It’s thought that the total number sold right now is about 20 million. A Terraria 2 has been on the cards for quite a long time now, although it seems there have been a lot of bumps and starts. The game planned would answer the concerns of Terraria critics that you can finish it too quickly and complete all the tasks. The new Terraria is said to be much more expansive and so far more of an adventure into the abyss. But maybe that’s why it’s taking so long to make.

Money-wise, you can’t really compare these two games. Minecraft’s creator is now on the Forbes Rich List. Microsoft was so confident in its future success that it bought it from Mojang for a whopping $2.5 billion dollars on November 6th, 2014. It never failed to sell well, and when Microsoft got its hands on Minecraft, it had sold around 60 million copies of all editions. It now lies in the number 2 spot of best-selling games of all time, behind Tetris, and has sold over 122,000,000 copies. Around 55 million people play it every month, and it sells about 53,000 copies a day. Minecraft for PC currently costs $26.95, so unless Terraria 2 is nothing short of mind-blowing, it’s unlikely to become anything close to the money-spinner Minecraft is.

At least Terraria is cheaper, and having many enemies in a game and something more certain to work towards might be better for some players.

So, which of these two sandbox games do u prefer? 



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