stats page, more than 500,000 of the nearly 1.6 million registered players have already purchased a license for the game, which is still in the alpha phase of development. That's pretty much unprecedented in the history of game development -- certainly indie game development -- and perhaps only comparable to a big-budget marketing effort; one that might secure those kinda pre-release purchase numbers through pre-orders and offer a limited "beta" trial of the game through a highly-controlled channel. So, yeah, Minecraft's "alpha stage" success is unprecedented.
Is it just luck? The one-man mastermind behind it all, Markus Perrson, doesn't think so. "I think originality and easy access is much more important than luck," he told Develop in a recent interview. "If you make a game that's genuinely good, and it's relatively unique, you can get a lot potential customers. If you make sure they don't have to jump through too many loops to play or even pay for the game, you can convert those into actual customers." Currently, almost 60 percent of Minecraft users are playing for free.