The sort-of was and sort-of wasn’t surprise of the day goes to the news that Mojang, the makers of the hugely successful Minecraft (so much so that Lego Group wish they’d thought it up) have been bought up by Microsoft, the company that makes Windows and the Xbox One. The price? $2.5 billion. By any stretch of the imagination, that’s a lot of money, but to put it in perspective, tech companies aren’t afraid to pay $19 billion for a startup. Yes… Facebook paid that much for a mobile messaging app.
So, there a few questions that should come to mind
Firstly, why did Notch, the founder and majority owner of Mojang, want to sell?
This is answered in the blog post on their website. It would seem he never expected Minecraft to get so huge (a LEGO sandbox game with unlimited terrain? Who’d-a-thunk it?), but it did and Notch doesn’t want to pressure.
[Notch has] decided that he doesn’t want the responsibility of owning a company of such global significance. Over the past few years he’s made attempts to work on smaller projects, but the pressure of owning Minecraft became too much for him to handle. The only option was to sell Mojang.
The share of the $2.5 billion Notch will receive should help him continue to work on his sometimes complex but captivating leftfield game concepts. Notch recently shelved a rather ambitious project which he hoped would follow Minecraft due to struggles with the game. 0x10c would have been a clever twist on the space sim, where each ship had an old processor controlling it with limited capacity, meaning you have to prioritise what systems are used.
There’s no doubt we’ll see some clever stuff from Notch in the future.
Secondly, why did Microsoft want to pay that much for Mojang?
Although Mojang are a fairly small, independent company, the userbase for Minecraft is staggering. Just on PC platforms, over 16 million people have purchased the game since 2009. Then there’s the console and mobile versions to add to it. That’s a big pie to get a slice of. And many Minecraft players are regular players.
It could be argued that Minecraft helped spearhead the ‘Let’s Play’ movement, creating hugely successful YouTube stars like PewDiePie (who earned $4 million in the last year and has well over 30 million subscribers). Simply put, LPs are streamed or recorded videos of people playing games, sometimes creating episodic stories, sometimes just with commentary. Usually with humour.
Even regardless of the sales figures and userbase, each player has to create a login account. That’s a huge list of names for Microsoft to inherit. There’s echoes of Facebook’s acquisition of WhatApp earlier this year. As TechRadar put it:
That’s because the world’s No. 1 social network just bought its way into the hands WhatsApp’s engaged usersbase, which according to Mark Zuckerberg is on a path to one billion people.
Finally, what does it mean for the future?
According to Mojang, there are no plans for Microsoft to change the strategy in any way. And why would they? Things are going great currently.
There’s no reason for the development, sales, and support of the PC/Mac, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, Vita, iOS, and Android versions of Minecraft to stop. Of course, Microsoft can’t make decisions for other companies or predict the choices that they might make in the future.
Even if they were to stop development of certain versions down the line, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise in an industry as fickle as ours. After all, did we really expect Mojang to continue maintaining and updating the game forever?
So there you have it. Mojang, the company that arguably renewed not only our faith in the indie games scene but proved the ‘early access‘ model could be very successful, is no longer an indie games studio. Lucky Microsoft!