Microsoft confirmed it will acquire the studio that created the hit “sandbox” game Minecraft for $2.5 billion, a move that could help bolster the company’s Xbox and mobile ambitions.
In a statement released Monday, Microsoft says the deal will close by the end of this year.
“Minecraft is more than a great game franchise,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a statement. “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.”
Launched in 2009 for PCs, Minecraft is an open-world game where players roam a simple landscape with forests and beaches, breaking apart the environment and building new objects like a digital Lego set.
It has surged in popularity over the last five years. Microsoft says the game has topped 100 million downloads. Although it’s been available on Apple’s iOS devices for nearly three years, it’s currently the second most popular paid app for iPhone. Retail versions of the video game for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were the third best-selling titles in the U.S. last month, according to NPD Group.
“The Minecraft players have taken the game and turned it into something that surpassed all of our expectations,” says Mojang CEO Carl Manneh in a statement. “The acquisition by Microsoft brings a new chapter to the incredible story.”
Microsoft says Minecraft will remain available on all its current platforms, including PlayStation, a rival to the company’s Xbox brand.
In a separate statement, Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson revealed he will leave Mojang when the deal is complete.
I’m leaving Mojang
September 15th, 2014
I don’t see myself as a real game developer. I make games because it’s fun, and because I love games and I love to program, but I don’t make games with the intention of them becoming huge hits, and I don’t try to change the world. Minecraft certainly became a huge hit, and people are telling me it’s changed games. I never meant for it to do either. It’s certainly flattering, and to gradually get thrust into some kind of public spotlight is interesting.
A relatively long time ago, I decided to step down from Minecraft development. Jens was the perfect person to take over leading it, and I wanted to try to do new things. At first, I failed by trying to make something big again, but since I decided to just stick to small prototypes and interesting challenges, I’ve had so much fun with work. I wasn’t exactly sure how I fit into Mojang where people did actual work, but since people said I was important for the culture, I stayed.
I was at home with a bad cold a couple of weeks ago when the internet exploded with hate against me over some kind of EULA situation that I had nothing to do with. I was confused. I didn’t understand. I tweeted this in frustration. Later on, I watched the This is Phil Fish video on YouTube and started to realize I didn’t have the connection to my fans I thought I had. I’ve become a symbol. 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.
Considering the public image of me already is a bit skewed, I don’t expect to get away from negative comments by doing this, but at least now I won’t feel a responsibility to read them.
I’m aware this goes against a lot of what I’ve said in public. I have no good response to that. I’m also aware a lot of you were using me as a symbol of some perceived struggle. I’m not. I’m a person, and I’m right there struggling with you.
I love you. All of you. 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. In one sense, it belongs to Microsoft now. In a much bigger sense, it’s belonged to all of you for a long time, and that will never change.
It’s not about the money. It’s about my sanity.
The Minecraft deal bolsters support from Nadella for the company’s Xbox brand, which had been rumored as a potential sales piece. However, in a memo sent to employees in July, Nadella said the company will “continue to grow and innovate” the brand.
But the Minecraft deal stretches beyond games. Snagging one of the video game industry’s hottest properties should help Microsoft grow its Windows Phone line, which sits a distant third from giants Apple iOS and Google Android.
“Minecraft strengthens Microsoft’s hand in the battle with Google, Apple and Amazon,” says IDC analyst Al Hilwa. “In the battle for mobile dominance or relevance, platform owners have to tussle with each other, trading and bartering mutual support for popular consumer services across their mobile platforms. Minecraft is a solid business with intense user loyalty.”