Microsoft is reportedly in discussions to purchase the studio behind the popular game Minecraft for $2 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal (which drew its information from an anonymous source).
Markus Persson, who goes by the online handle Notch, wasn’t expecting to set the video-gaming world on fire when he released the Minecraft beta in 2010. The game was a side-project, something he cobbled together in his free time. Once the game became a hit, he quickly grew ambivalent about success, and more than a little uncomfortable—at least initially—with the millions of dollars it earned him. With a portion of the money, he founded Mojang, the studio that maintains and upgrades Minecraft.
In his original conception, Minecraft was primarily a survival game, demanding the player fend off hordes of enemies. But its growing audience decided to embrace the game’s “creative” mode, which treats the world Persson created as a set of digital Legos. Today, parents and educators use the game as a creative outlet for children; hobbyists rely on it to build scale models of the Starship Enterprise and other cultural touchstones; and designers use it to show off virtual models of upcoming projects.
If Microsoft does shell out $2 billion for Minecraft, it won’t be the first time in recent memory that a major tech firm has opened its wallet and paid billions for a video-gaming platform. Facebook made a huge deal for Oculus VR, creator of the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset, even though virtual reality has little to do (at least right now) with social networking. Amazon has made no secret of its increased interest in gaming as a revenue source.
But why Minecraft, when Microsoft could just as easily use its billions to buy, say, a major gaming studio? Years after its release, the game continues to top the iOS, Google Play, PlayStation, and Xbox charts; and given its popularity as a digital sandbox, it’s not unreasonable to assume that people will play it long after other franchises have faded from the collective memory. As Wired points out, however, the idea of Microsoft taking over Minecraft freaks out a portion of the game’s most die-hard fans, who fear that the tech giant will either stop supporting their beloved world on platforms such as iOS and PlayStation, or else begin charging all sorts of ugly fees.
Notch wouldn’t let that come to pass… would he?
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