Microsoft is buying Minecraft maker Mojang. Reports of Microsoft’s plans surfaced nearly a week ago, and the software maker is making it official today. Microsoft is paying $2.5 billion to acquire Mojang, and the deal is expected to close by the end of the year. "Minecraft adds diversity to our game portfolio and helps us reach new gamers across multiple platforms," says Xbox chief Phil Spencer. "Gaming is the top activity across devices and we see great potential to continue to grow the Minecraft community and nurture the franchise. That is why we plan to continue to make Minecraft available across platforms – including iOS, Android and PlayStation, in addition to Xbox and PC."
Minecraft creator Markus Persson, known as Notch, will not be joining Microsoft as part of the acquisition. "He’s decided that he doesn’t want the responsibility of owning a company of such global significance," says Mojang’s Owen Hill. "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. He’ll continue to do cool stuff though. Don’t worry about that." Notch has previously criticized Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system, but in a revealing blog post he discusses his reasons for leaving Mojang and Minecraft. "If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I’ll probably abandon it immediately," says Persson."Thank you for turning Minecraft into what it has become, but there are too many of you, and I can’t be responsible for something this big."
While there are constant calls from investors for Microsoft to sell off its Xbox division and not focus on gaming at all, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sees things differently. "Gaming is a top activity spanning devices, from PCs and consoles to tablets and mobile, with billions of hours spent each year," says Nadella. "Minecraft is more than a great game franchise — it is an open world platform, driven by a vibrant community we care deeply about, and rich with new opportunities for that community and for Microsoft."
There are a number of likely reasons why Microsoft is buying Minecraft, and some analysts believe the move could boost Windows Phone’s prospects. Minecraft has been a popular app on iOS and Android, but the game isn’t currently available on Windows Phone. It’s hard to imagine a version not existing on Windows Phone in future after today’s deal, but Microsoft may also choose to add additional features and benefits to its own Windows version to entice Android and iOS users.
Microsoft taps Minecraft's huge potential
Microsoft’s other interests with Minecraft are likely related to its huge following, and the ability to attract future developer talent to the Windows platform. Minecraft was originally released in test form five years ago as an indie game that allows players to shape an environment by crafting and building constructions out of blocks. A younger generation of players have flocked to the game, and videos of replica objects and tips on how to play Minecraft are regularly shared with millions of views on YouTube. More than 54 million copies of Minecraft have been sold across PC, Xbox 360, PS3, and other platforms, demonstrating its reach and success.
That popularity means Minecraft is essentially the digital equivalent of Lego blocks, allowing players to create their own worlds that can be shared and edited by others. If Microsoft can tap into that culture without upsetting the millions of devoted fans, then it could serve to open up Minecraft to even bigger audiences as a tool for building, education, and development.