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BlueFeena

Mojang purchased by Microsoft; sun exploding

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There have been rumours about this for the past week or so, but I'm still kind of surprised.

Here's the most amazing thing: Notch is leaving. So they paid literally billions of dollars for Mojang, but didn't think to include golden handcuffs for him as part of the deal.

Now, I can completely understand why Notch wants to leave. He's tired of the pressure and expectations and just wants to spend his time making cool games and having fun. That's really great for him. I'm happy for him.

What I don't understand is how Microsoft possibly think this is a good deal.

It's been three years now since Minecraft's official release, and five years since it was first put on the Internet as an alpha for people to test. By all accounts it's been a huge success, and Mojang has made a huge pile of money from sales, but aren't those sales going to start winding down pretty soon? In the end, there are only so many people in the world who are ever going to play Minecraft, and they must have almost exhausted the supply by now.

Microsoft are jumping on the money train when it's just about to reach its final stop. Sure, Mojang have produced a couple of other games, but neither have been hugely successful. It's Minecraft that's the key one.

I could understand if Microsoft were buying Mojang because they really wanted to get hold of Notch as an employee. Following him on Twitter, I know he's had some problems with dealing with the spotlight and with the pressure he's felt from fame. But I really do strongly suspect that guy has a lot of talent, and that in the future we're going to see some more fantastic games out of him, just like Minecraft was.

If Microsoft were spending $2.5bn buying Mojang with the stipulation that Notch isn't allowed to leave, then I'd think this could be a fantastic deal. If he comes up with another Minecraft then it could be worth every penny. Instead they've let him just walk straight out of the door. From the timing it seems pretty clear that they were aware he was going to leave if they bought the company.

This really seems like it's just the latest in a series of fantastically dumb business decisions by Microsoft.

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Companies buy games and other companies to make money, there's no surprise there and we've already experienced ID being bought by Bethesda/Zenimax.

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Notch apparently owned most of the company. He probably wouldh't have sold to Microsoft if he had to work there. Microsoft now gets the guys who were actually working on Minecraft. I have trouble seeing how Mojang is worth $2.5 billion, but that's their problem now.

What bothers me is MS might easily decide they don't have a reason to encourage the open nature of the PC Minecraft community. The timing of the deal already makes me wonder if they quietly paid off the bastard who DMCA'd Craftbukkit and Spigot.

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fraggle said:

Here's the most amazing thing: Notch is leaving. So they paid literally billions of dollars for Mojang, but didn't think to include golden handcuffs for him as part of the deal.

I was joking about Notch's big pay day earlier and it's actually become true, wow. So MS is in it simply for Minecraft rights. Maybe they'll go after Angry Birds next, eh? They can surely milk the franchise for a lot of money still, but 2.5 bil? That will take a lot of dead horse beating.

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Yeah, I too had to take second look to see millions were billions. :V

And somehow, M$ gotta get that amount back... Unless there is something we don't know. Someone throw smartphones. I dunno about that.

@Aliotroph?
Now, if they would decide to do that, M$ would be digging their own grave. But they might make bucks from modding community.

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What I don't understand is how Microsoft possibly think this is a good deal.


This is easy to miss if you don't have children in the 6-12 age range, but Minecraft has become a cultural phenomenon much bigger than the game itself. There's derived products, physical toys, game guides, etc.. and they get marketed in your standard kid magazines, not video games specifically. Plenty of kids also love watching Youtubers play the game. Some of them don't even play the game themselves, but they love the Youtube content.

It wouldn't surprise me if Microsoft is banking on Minecraft having the potential to be this generation's Pokemon or Dragon Ball Z. Some people are arguing this is a ploy to sell more Windows phones with a Minecraft exclusive, but this seems like small potatoes compared to what could be done.

Notch is largely irrelevant; they're buying a franchise, not talent.

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I think Penny Arcade put it quite well:

But it’s only partially the Product that is being purchased, only partly the growing services platform. If you don’t hang around with Children Of A Certain Age, you might not know exactly what is being bought here. They’re functionally purchasing a generation. Two billion dollars starts to look like a steal.

http://penny-arcade.com/news/post/2014/09/12/the-god-womb

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I'm thinking Microsnot has plans for a Minecraft 2 and it'll probably be a Xbox exclusive. I don't see how they can recoup 2.5B on Minecraft itself at this point though they may stop the free updates and turn new content into DLC's....

Whatever the case, I have a bad feeling about this. I don't blame Notch for taking the money and wanting to get the hell out of there.

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Its too late. Lightning already struck and the fire has been put out. All they need to do is slap a '2' at the end of Minecraft and sell it. But '2' won't be nearly as popular, because Minecraft is so good.

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My prediction: Microsoft tries to force Minecraft 2, it only gets a lukewarm response, and the studio gets closed. God bless America.

If MS does have any sense, they'll reform Scrolls making it actually fun and then make zillions selling boosters. Unfortunately that doesn't fall under the scope of my prediction.

Also, I hope this means Notch will finally give that space game a chance that he said he was working on and then ditched because he was worried people wouldn't like it. It sounded really fucking cool.

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fraggle said:

I could understand if Microsoft were buying Mojang because they really wanted to get hold of Notch as an employee. Following him on Twitter, I know he's had some problems with dealing with the spotlight and with the pressure he's felt from fame. But I really do strongly suspect that guy has a lot of talent, and that in the future we're going to see some more fantastic games out of him, just like Minecraft was.


It's possible but his attitude towards it seems to suggest otherwise:

geek article said:

As for the founders, Notch said in the post that he’ll go back to “Ludum Dares and small web experiments,” and if he ever “accidentally” makes something that gets popular, he’ll “probably abandon it immediately.” Notch does note that his current attitude toward game development is indeed directly contrary to what he has said in public in the past, and that he has no good response to that.

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I was feeling bad about this until I read up on it and realized that Notch took the deal because he's overwhelmed with maintaining Minecraft and wants to move on to the next thing. That deserves mad respect since he clearly cares more about making games and having fun than money. Not that he needs any more at this point, but still. xP

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I think Phml hit the nail on the head here. Thinking of Minecraft simply as a game, or even a franchise where you churn out sequels, is to misunderstand it. It's incredible popularity, especially amongst kids, means it's transcended that. Something so popular and universal has the potential to become a self-sustaining medium - a canvas on which other franchises are built. In that situation, profits from the original game or retaining the creator are almost irrelevant.

The obvious comparison is Lego. Lego's success is based on not just being a toy, but instead a medium for building toys and selling other merchandise. So there are endless varieties of Lego sets, and franchise tie-ins with Star Wars Lego, Pirates of the Caribbean Lego, etc. There are also franchised video games, movies, clothing, etc.

Minecraft's potential is to become a similar medium for video games. The number of existing Minecraft clones and mods is a testament to the flexibility of its formula, and I expect Microsoft will look to exploit that by publishing a convey belt of officially sanctioned, polished variations. Imagine it: Pirate Minecraft - with ships and cannons! City Minecraft - with skyscrapers and cars! Fantasy Minecraft - with wizards and spells!

And just like Lego, franchises such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings could release licensed Minecraft content. You pay a fee and you get a whole recreation of Middle Earth to wander around, digging in Moria while dodging goblins, or a recreation of the Death Star. It might seem unlikely, but who would have predicted Angry Birds Star Wars?

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^This.

Also really interesting to see Notch working on something Doom related - I'm stoked about that!

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40oz said:

It's possible but his attitude towards it seems to suggest otherwise:

He never intended Minecraft to become a huge success either but it did and took him by surprise. I think this won't be the last time he has such a success, and now he has lots of people watching what he's working on and interested in trying it out.

Jonathan said:

I think Phml hit the nail on the head here. Thinking of Minecraft simply as a game, or even a franchise where you churn out sequels, is to misunderstand it. It's incredible popularity, especially amongst kids, means it's transcended that. Something so popular and universal has the potential to become a self-sustaining medium - a canvas on which other franchises are built. In that situation, profits from the original game or retaining the creator are almost irrelevant.

Yeah, I've thought a lot about this possibility. Minecraft is like Lego and Lego never gets old. But there's never really been a video game that has kept mass market popularity for years and years after it was released. Sure, it's doing pretty well for itself after 5 years but is that really going to continue? It's possible it will be the first to break the mould but I'm skeptical.


The obvious comparison is Lego. Lego's success is based on not just being a toy, but instead a medium for building toys and selling other merchandise. So there are endless varieties of Lego sets, and franchise tie-ins with Star Wars Lego, Pirates of the Caribbean Lego, etc. There are also franchised video games, movies, clothing, etc.

Yeah, but here's the thing: What would "Star Wars Minecraft" actually be, as a game?

This is where the Lego analogy falls down. Lego's themes work because you can sell all these cool pirate ships, spaceships, etc. to kids that they can play with. It's an open-ended building system but it's also a toy.

You could reskin Minecraft so that the blocks have some kind of Star Wars theme, but then you just get Minecraft in space. Nothing particularly innovative.

Alternative you could make something like the Star Wars Lego games - which were really good, but then you lose the addictive qualities of Minecraft itself.

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Larzuk said:

I am a little interested about what he has been doing for doom. http://notch.net/2014/09/doom/


Here's a bit of progress (nonsense) from august::
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tN48jCnF1FE

and an excerpt of more coherent coding-
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6p-Z6TXoN10

If he continues, I wonder if he could finish a new Doom engine that appears like Doom, but behaves very odd with new quirks.

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fraggle said:

Yeah, I've thought a lot about this possibility. Minecraft is like Lego and Lego never gets old. But there's never really been a video game that has kept mass market popularity for years and years after it was released. Sure, it's doing pretty well for itself after 5 years but is that really going to continue? It's possible it will be the first to break the mould but I'm skeptical.

World of Warcraft? Starcraft? Both are going strong years after their initial release, and both sold far fewer copies than Minecraft.

In terms of sales, Minecraft as already broken the mould. It's already the 3rd best selling game in history. That's especially amazing when you consider the top two spots are Wii Sports, which came bundled with a hit console, and Tetris, which also came bundled with a hit console and has been selling for a multitude of other platforms for thirty years.

fraggle said:

Yeah, but here's the thing: What would "Star Wars Minecraft" actually be, as a game?

This is where the Lego analogy falls down. Lego's themes work because you can sell all these cool pirate ships, spaceships, etc. to kids that they can play with. It's an open-ended building system but it's also a toy.

You could reskin Minecraft so that the blocks have some kind of Star Wars theme, but then you just get Minecraft in space. Nothing particularly innovative.

Alternative you could make something like the Star Wars Lego games - which were really good, but then you lose the addictive qualities of Minecraft itself.

Well, franchise tie-ins don't necessarily have to be innovative to make money. Even wrapping some Star Wars decor around the basic Minecraft mechanics would probably sell very well. And there'd be a sliding scale of how far it could shift away from the vanilla Minecraft experience to include more franchise specific gameplay elements, which the game's producers would have to decide. I think it's a failure of imagination to pre-emptively declare that you can't make a Star Wars (or any franchise) flavoured version of Minecraft that successfully marries the strong points of both.

But really, even if franchise tie-ins don't work out, there's still huge potential value in in-game purchases, custom game modes, sequels, merchandising, films, TV shows, etc. An audience of 50m addicted kids is valuable, however you manage to monetise it.

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doomgargoyle said:

What a fucking sellout.

I hear you, man. He should've accepted the payout in bitcoins. But seriously, are you 12 and oblivious to the concept of money? Two point five billion dollars is when you just walk away from what you are doing and stop caring about it, because you can do whatever you want now.

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