Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft’s Xbox Division, announced today that the software giant has closed a deal to purchase Minecraft, the insanely popular indie video game. According to an official announcement from Microsoft, the deal was signed at a purchase price of $2.5 billion.
Mojang, the Swedish development studio behind Minecraft, confirmed the news and the purchase price on its blog.
Mojang’s statement added that all three founders of the company, Markus A. Persson, who goes by “Notch” in the video game community, Carl O. Manneh, and H. Jakob Porsér, would be leaving the company.
$2.5 billion may sound like a lot of money, but considering the popularity of Minecraft, that might actually be an undervaluation. The game has sold 50 million copies across a variety of platforms since it went into open development in 2009. It has been embraced as an educational tool and is currently on a merchandising tear.
Exclusive ownership of Minecraft is an amazing coup for Microsoft. The game currently runs on multiple platforms owned by both Sony and Apple, Microsoft’s chief competitors in the consumer electronics industries. The Microsoft logo could very well appear on iPhones, iPads, PlayStation 4 consoles and PS Vita handhelds every time someone boots up Minecraft on those devices.
Microsoft’s Xbox One console has been markedly lagging behind in sales compared to Sony’s PlayStation 4 since both consoles were released last year. Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition is the most popular game on Microsoft’s Xbox Live download service, with more than a million copies sold, and Minecraft: Xbox One Edition was released on Sept. 5. A purchase of Minecraft by Microsoft could be read as a move by the software giant to shore up the position of their entire Xbox division.
Minecraft is a block building game, played much in the way you’d play with Lego. There’s a sort of medieval fantasy game, called Survival mode, built within Minecraft, but Creative mode is a free-form mode where players can use the wide array of building materials in Minecraft to construct just about anything. The game captured the imagination of players outside of purely gaming circles.
Minecraft spent more than two years in open development beginning in 2009, with incremental changes being released via small patches. Persson, Manneh, and Porsér founded Mojang after Minecraft began to grow in popularity, and while the studio has developed other games, nothing has even come close to the runaway popularity of the original.
“Minecraft has grown from a simple game to a project of monumental significance. Though we’re massively proud of what Minecraft has become, it was never Notch’s intention for it to get this big,” a statement published on Mojang’s blog said. “As you might already know, Notch is the creator of Minecraft and the majority shareholder at Mojang. He’s decided that he doesn’t want the responsibility of owning a company of such global significance.”
Persson posted his own comments on the purchase:
“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.”
Microsoft, on the other hand, touted the diversity and access to new players the game will give its portfolio.
“Gaming is the top activity across devices and we see great potential to continue to grow the Minecraft community and nurture the franchise,” wrote Spencer in Microsoft’s announcement of the deal. “That is why we plan to continue to make Minecraft available across platforms—including iOS, Android and PlayStation, in addition to Xbox and PC.”
How that continued availability shakes out on competing company’s platforms is something that both fans and financial analysts will be paying close attention to in the coming months.
Photo via twinfinite | Remix by Fernando Alfonso III