Why did Microsoft pay $2.5 billion for Minecraft creator Mojang?

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Danny Cowan
September 15th, 2014
Why did Microsoft pay $2.5 billion for Minecraft creator Mojang?
Microsoft confirmed its $2.5 billion purchase of Minecraft developer Mojang today, with Microsofts's Head of Xbox division Phil Spencer noting that the acquisition "adds diversity to our game portfolio and helps us reach new gamers across multiple platforms."

It's a big chunk of change to spend on an independent studio founded in 2010, but its juggernaut product has since sold over 15 million units and spawned a merchandising empire. Minecraft earned a reported $326 million in revenue last year, continuing its year-on-year trend of increased profitability.

Creator Markus Persson expressed a desire to move away from Minecraft earlier this year following a notable shift in indie development culture, however. "The current indie scene is as new for the people making games as it is for the audience," Joystiq editor Jess Conditt wrote. "Indie developers don't have trained PR teams to guide them through the drama; many don't know that the press and public will take their tweets seriously; some of them aren't even sure what an embargo is. They receive death threats and then react like candid humans when the audience expects them to behave like detached professionals."

"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," Persson said in reference to the Microsoft purchase.

Here's a quick rundown of the events that led up to today's deal.

May 17, 2009 - An alpha version of Minecraft is released to the public.

October, 2010 - Creator Marcus Persson forms six-person studio Mojang to assist in maintaining and updating Minecraft.

January, 2011 - Minecraft sells its first million.
August, 2011 - Minecraft Pocket Edition launches in a preliminary state for the Xperia PLAY platform. The port soon finds a wider release for multiple supported iOS and Android devices. Future updates bring the mobile edition up to speed with its PC version -- a major 2012 upgrade added the game's traditional Survival mode, and a recent update introduced infinite worlds. The port has moved 21 million copies as of April.

November, 2011 - Minecraft version 1.0 premieres, bringing the long-in-development game out of beta.

May, 2012 - Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition hits Xbox Live Arcade, selling one million copies in five days. The port continues to see regular updates and add-on content releases, including multiple texture packs and batches of character skins inspired by media properties like Guardians of the Galaxy. Total sales have surpassed 12 million units to date.

June, 2012 - The first Minecraft-themed Lego set hits toy store shelves, expanding a marketing presence that also features toys, apparel, and accessories.

December, 2013 - Minecraft appears on the PlayStation 3 in a new port developed by 4J Studios.

April, 2014 - Mojang debuts its Minecraft Realms server rental service, earning the studio another major source of revenue from dedicated players.

September, 2014 - Minecraft launches for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, completing its transition to the current console generation. A PlayStation Vita version is also in the works.

September 15, 2014 - Reports indicate that Microsoft is moving in for a purchase.

[Image: Mojang]
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