After a lot of rumors, it finally happened… Microsoft bought the company that made Minecraft, Mojang, for $2.5 billion. I am overall sad by the purchase, but my general feeling is that it was a good deal for Notch and I don’t blame him at all for pulling the trigger. I mean.. It’s 2.5 billion dollars, would you turn your back on that?
I think the problem with Minecraft is it’s age. Minecraft was released to the public on May 17, 2009 and after a couple of years of public alpha and beta tests, the public version was released on November 18, 2011. Now sitting at over 5 years old, there is a bit of age in the game. Yes profits of the game were up, what 30% last year? That’s an amazing number after 5 years, and I think the 360 sales finally passed the PC sales as well. I am sure this next year will see another rise in profits as well with releases to the PS3 and Xbox One. 1 2015 may be a decent year as well with expected releases on the PS4 and the PSP Vita, though who knows if both of those will follow through with this recent purchase. I wouldn’t be surprised if the PSP Vita one in particular was canned even though Microsoft doesn’t have a portable competitor to put it on. The point is, there might be maybe one more year of good profits before the game starts dropping off, and at that point the Mojang crew really needs to start considering a follow up somehow.
Mojang has tried to make follow up games to Minecraft since it launched. There have been several mini-game/tech demos made during mojams, there is 0x10c, and Cobalt and Scrolls. I feel like there has also been a couple other games but I can’t recall them. The point is none of these games have really worked out. Scrolls in particular started development in 2011 and after 3 years of development is most known for a lawsuit with Bethesda because Mojang tried to trademark the word Scrolls and Bethesda didn’t like that with Elder Scrolls being out there.
This means at some point in time over the next couple of years, Mojang’s next best shot is to make Minecraft 2, in order to get more income out of Minecraft and get all the initial purchases again. The problem with this plan is can Mojang repeat the magic they struck with Minecraft? The thing with Minecraft is that it seems to be one of those games that everyone who tries it loves. The other examples in gaming history that are similar to this that I can think of are Pac-Man and Super Mario Bros. It didn’t matter what kind of gamer you are, whether you were male or female, these are games you love. And Minecraft was in the same boat really. I have a few friends who play the game who I don’t really have in common any other genre. I know a lot of FPS players get into Minecraft even though it isn’t a game that I would generally consider FPS gamer friendly. I have also heard the Minecrackers talk about how the only game that they all have in common is Minecraft and they have a hard time playing other games because there isn’t a shared interest almost anywhere else. About the only people I have heard who dislike the game, really have never played it. Minecraft was special and I don’t think Mojang was going to really be able to repeat it. In fact, trying to make a sequel would have the potential of killing the original player base due to factioning the player base and may even had the ability of lowering the number. 2
So yeah, sell it to Microsoft. Mojang was near the end of the road with their magical horse, might as well sell it while it is still hot and make the most out of what you have. What does Microsoft get? Not entirely sure. They will face the same problem Mojang would have with a sequel but will probably try to do it anyway. I do see potential in offering officially licensed servers, but would have a difficult job making it so no one else could sell Minecraft servers without alienating the existing base. I don’t see Microsoft making back 2.5 billion off this though. Even if they sell servers and continue merchandising push, and Minecraft 2 is a moderate success… i don’t see 2.5 billion. I don’t get it. I mean think about it on this side… let’s assume Minecraft 2 comes out and is a success and sells 2 million units on name recognition alone and let’s say that the cost to make Minecraft 2 is free and they don’t advertise it and don’t sell it in retail… well they just made $100 million… they are still short by $2.4 billion… where do they see the money? To put it into perspective, Disney bought Lucas for $4 billion which included Industrial Light & Magic, Lucas Arts, the Star Wars franchise AND the Indiana Jones Franchise (plus some other stuff like Skywalker Sound). Marvel likewise cost Disney $4 billion. I feel Lucas got ripped off here. But there was serious money in the franchises Disney bought… all Microsoft gets here is Minecraft and from the sounds of it, Notch walks free and doesn’t even have to work at Microsoft.
On Mojang’s side, it’s kind of sad. I mean even though I get it, Mojang was really the company that proved that you didn’t need a big publisher to do it. They were an early indie victor when indies were coming back and they were also a big reason that PC made a come back. And then they went and did their best to support the indie community wherever they could. So to see them sell out to Microsoft seems to fly in the face of what indie is all about, though I don’t blame them. It’s just too bad…