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Microsoft said to be buying the maker of 'Minecraft' for $2 billion

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Notch is expected to leave Mojang after deal concludes, according to Bloomberg

Microsoft is nearing a deal to buy Mojang AB, makers of the Minecraft video game franchise, according to a new report. According to the Wall Street Journal, the deal would value Mojang at more than $2 billion and could be signed as soon as this week.

Microsoft and Mojang declined to comment to the Journal. As the Journal notes, the move would be surprising given that Mojang founder Markkus "Notch" Persson, is a darling of the indie gaming scene who has avoided taking venture capital. He has also criticized Microsoft's Windows 8 for potentially being "very, very bad for indie games."

An unlikely target for acquisition

Minecraft, which first came out in 2009, has sold more than 50 million copies. Stockholm-based Mojang had $100 million in profits last year, according to the Journal. It's a reflection of the fact that Minecraft, an open-world game where players can build almost anything they can imagine while avoiding spiders and other dangers, has become a multi-platform global phenomenon. The Journal argues that owning Minecraft could "invigorate" Microsoft's Xbox business, though the game has long been available on that platform.

Mojang has been seen as an unlikely target for acquisition because its small team of about 40 people makes a highly profitable game in Minecraft and whose leader has expressed a desire to invest those profits in unusual new games. Persson has also been critical of large corporations in general; he canceled a planned version of Minecraft for Oculus Rift after the virtual reality company sold to Facebook.

Update, 9:51 p.m.: Bloomberg reports that the deal is more likely to be wrapped up next week. According to Bloomberg, talks between the companies began when Persson reached out to Microsoft a few months ago to explore the possibility of a sale. Microsoft believes it can make Minecraft more profitable by increasing its user base and doing more licensing agreements for toys and movies, the report said. Perhaps of greatest interest to Minecraft fans is that Persson will stay with Mojang through its transition to Microsoft but plans to leave beyond that, according to Bloomberg.

From the archives: The Verge's 2013 interview with Notch