After days of speculation, tech giant Microsoft announced on Monday that it is buying Mojang, creator of the wildly popular video game Minecraft, in a US$2.5 billion (S$3.16 billion) deal.
It is the latest milestone in the game’s meteoric rise. Since its initial release for PC at an early stage of development in 2009, Minecraft has made its way to almost every platform under the sun, from iOS to PlayStation 4.
Here are four things to know about the purchase:
Co-founder Markus “Notch” Persson says he sold Mojang for his sanity
Markus “Notch” Persson, the original creator of Minecraft, is leaving Mojang, along with other co-founders Carl Manneh and Jakob Porser. Of the three, Notch has perhaps the highest profile, and has served as the public face of Minecraft.
The 35-year-old Swede stepped down from active development on the game in 2011, but remained the symbol of Minecraft. It seems that responsibility was too great to bear. He tweeted in June:
Anyone want to buy my share of Mojang so I can move on with my life? Getting hate for trying to do the right thing is not my gig.
— Markus Persson (@notch) June 17, 2014
Notch wrote on his website that he never expected Minecraft to become such a big hit, and that he will go back to making small games and experiments.
He said : “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.”
“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. … It’s not about the money. It’s about my sanity.”
Respectfully, I'm not going to be doing any interviews.
— Markus Persson (@notch) September 15, 2014
The lead developer of Minecraft is still on board
Jens Bergensten, who took over as lead developer on Minecraft in 2011, will continue to work on the game. He tweeted this on Monday to his 1.16 million followers:
I'm still at Mojang, and I'm still the lead developer of Minecraft. Check our blog and @notch's twitter for more info.
— Jens Bergensten (@jeb_) September 15, 2014
He will apparently be joined by most of Mojang’s existing staff. The studio wrote on its website: “Though it’s too early to confirm which of us will continue working on Minecraft or other projects, we predict that the vast majority (if not all) Mojangstas will continue to work at Mojang for the time being.”
Mojang also stressed that Minecraft would continue to grow and evolve, and that the move would not stop players from “making cool stuff”.
Minecraft will not be exclusive to Xbox
Securing a game that has sold 54 million copies as of June this year would surely have helped the Xbox One, which is struggling to keep up with the PS4.
However, Microsoft was quick to allay fears that Minecraft would somehow become an Xbox exclusive.
In a release announcing the deal, Xbox head Phil Spencer said: “That is why we plan to continue to make Minecraft available across platforms - including iOS, Android and PlayStation, in addition to Xbox and PC.”
Mojang also confirmed it on its website. It wrote: “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.”
Microsoft’s last big money game studio purchase wasn’t a great success
In 2002, Microsoft bought British developer Rare, which had been behind many of rival Nintendo’s most beloved games. The US$375 million purchase came as Microsoft was making inroads into console gaming with its first Xbox console.
Unfortunately, Rare wasn’t able to recapture the magic. Titles like Perfect Dark Zero and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts had a lukewarm reaction from critics and audiences alike, and the studio has made little other than sports games for the Kinect camera since 2010.