Minecraft’s popularity came from the simplicity that surrounds the idea behind it. Not the simplicity of the game itself, because Minecraft is also about as complex as they can come. I have seen calculators and computers built within the game that is fully functional within the world.
What I mean is that it is a game that everybody can play, with little or no difficulty curve required of the player. However, there also isn’t anything inherently kiddyish about it, which would be the foil of a lot of this kind of games. It doesn’t put off the adult gamers. The universal style of gameplay means that it is open to everyone.
The other aspect of it is that it is inherently a very basic game, which means that it doesn’t require a high-end machine to run it. Realistically a minute percentage of gamers can actually afford a beast of a machine, so something like Minecraft is absolutely perfect. Plus Mojang/Microsoft made the incredible idea of porting it to almost every platform there is. It doesn’t matter what you have, you’ll likely be able to play it.
Alongside the specifications is the price. Most AAA games now are in the €60–€80 price range. Minecraft, typically, only costs €20, which, while not cheap, would make it available to most people.
Now – something else to consider is the fact that it started being used by schools, by companies, by governments, I believe, once they realised that it could become an excellent teaching tool. Once this happened, Minecraft became seen as something that is socially and globally accepted, which isn’t the case with most games.
And it is just good fun.
So, it’s extremely popular because 1) everyone and anyone can play it, 2) it doesn’t require a beast of a machine to play it, which attracts the casual gamers, and 3) the game itself classically isn’t very expensive.
Now… what made Minecraft so hated by many?
Possibly because it essentially marked the start of what you could refer to as the casual gamer; the likes that would play mobile games and consider themselves “gamers”. These are typically hated by the rest of the gaming community.
Next is something that is a pro for some, but definitely a con for others; the simplicity of it. There is no story. There is nothing driving the character, except for exploring and crafting, which means that much of the gaming community would be put off by it.
There’s also just the case that people like to hate what is popular and they hate that Minecraft, which, as mentioned previously, is basic, cheap, and unbelievably easy, is among the highest selling game of all time, and not whatever other game they love.
And then you have people that just like hating things.
Me, personally, I don’t love or hate Minecraft. I have nothing against it, but I also have never got crazy into it. But I can understand why it is so popular. And it gives children something to involve themselves in.