Posted by Xander Pakzad
This morning, rumors of a deal between Microsoft and Minecraft developer Mojang were confirmed with news of a whopping $2.5 billion sale. Minecraft and the Mojang team will join the tech giant but without three of its influential executives: Markus “Notch” Persson, Carl Manneh, and Jakob Porser.
The sale is both unexpected but entirely believable. Minecraft started out as an independent project that snowballed into a global franchise. Its gameplay is accessible to newcomers but incredibly deep, and its online community became one of the most supportive and robust of any game. While its original independent spirit never dwindled, it was quickly surpassed by its enormous success and value.
So it's no surprise that Microsoft, a company that’s been trying to catch up in the gaming market since the Xbox launched 13 years ago, swallowed it up. Will they do anything with it? It's too early to say, but they did fork over a huge amount of money for something that ain't broke. No reason to fix it, at least not yet.
Quick to deny any corporate mischief, Microsoft confirmed that they will continue to support the game on devices that aren’t their own, including Playstation consoles and iOS. I have no doubt that will change, at least a little. Microsoft has a console to look after, so of course they’ll leverage whatever software they own to boost sales of their hardware. But in the meantime, it’s a nice sentiment.
What about the beneficiaries on the Minecraft side? With a price tag of $2.5 billion, it’s easy to say it’s all about the money. In a blog post from this morning, Notch explained his real motivations for the sale and departure from Mojang:
“I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand, that I don’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to me. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter.
“As soon as this deal is finalized, I will leave Mojang and go back to doing Ludum Dares and small web experiments. If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I’ll probably abandon it immediately.”
-Markus "Notch" Persson, "I’m leaving Mojang,” Notch.net, September 15, 2014
I believe Notch when he claims to be selling Minecraft to take it off his hands, to rid himself of the public scrutiny and the massive responsibility the game demands. But he’s also a billionaire now, so that can't not be a factor.
Regardless of why he decided to sell, Notch has an undeniable skill for creating something that’s globally popular but also communally engaging. Rather than operating a business, his time would be better spent creatively. He should designing the next big thing, even if he does hate the spotlight it will draw.
(image credit: PlanetMinecraft.com)
What’s truly a game-changer in this situation is the corporate takeover of a brand that started independently. Minecraft has become a cultural phenomenon because of its audience. From the start, players contributed to the game with documentation, tutorials, mods, and tons of user-generated content. The open-ended nature of the game lent itself to recreating real architecture and locales, fictional worlds, making movies, 3D prototyping... The list goes on. Minecraft has a whole slew of uses that no one—not even Notch himself—could foresee. What concerns me as a member of the gaming community is how corporate interests will affect the game’s direction.
I myself have been lucky enough to work as an after school teacher and camp counselor for dweeby elementary school kids. Because of its versatility and popularity, Minecraft is a large part of the technology program. They use the game to teach social skills and how to work in a team. The kids create works of art in the game while also learning engineering concepts and how to navigate a 3D world. They learn how to tell stories and express themselves, all while having fun. In their handling of Minecraft, Mojang let these user-defined features happen naturally, and even encouraged them. They responded to user requests, adding features that made Minecraft more fun and usable. I question if this evolution will be halted or even reversed when a larger company takes the wheel—a company that, frankly, has historically valued profit over usability.
What are some of your favorite uses of Minecraft and do you think they will still be possible? Is something to fear with Microsoft taking over? Comment below or Tweet at us @DweebCast
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.