According to a statement released by the Swedish developer on Monday afternoon, the purchase price is $2.5bn.
Mojang spokesman Owen Hill and Microsoft have separately sought to reassure fans of the multimillion selling building sim that work on the game will continue unaffected.
In the statement, Hill suggested that the pressure of running the company, which generated $326m in revenue last year, became too much for the founders, Markus Persson (known by his online username, Notch), Carl Manneh and Jakob Porser. All are leaving the company.
Minecraft has become a global phenomenon since its launch in 2009 as an incomplete “alpha” project. Since then, the game, which provides users with randomly generated environments in which to craft all manner of buildings, has sold over 50m copies on PC, smartphone and consoles.
In its announcement of the deal, Microsoft claimed that Minecraft had been downloaded more than 100m times on PC alone since 2009 – a figure that includes free downloads – while pointing out that Xbox 360owners have played the game for more than 2bn hours in the last two years.
According to Mojang’s statement, the focus of the company will now be on supporting Minecraft with new content and features:
“Minecraft will continue to evolve, just like it has since the start of development. We don’t know specific plans for Minecraft’s future yet, but we do know that everyone involved wants the community to grow and become even more amazing than it’s ever been. Stopping players making cool stuff is not in anyone’s interests.”
Mojang has assured fans that the purchase won’t necessarily mean that versions of the game running on non-Microsoft platforms will be scrapped.
“There’s no reason for the development, sales, and support of the PC/Mac, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, Vita, iOS, and Android versions of Minecraft to stop. Of course, Microsoft can’t make decisions for other companies or predict the choices that they might make in the future.”
“We are going to maintain ‘Minecraft’ and its community in all the ways people love today, with a commitment to nurture and grow it long into the future,” added Phil Spencer, head of Xbox at Microsoft.
It’s likely however, that Microsoft will seek to leverage Minecraft in both the console market, where its Xbox One machine is lagging behind rival PlayStation 4, and in the smartphone sector, where its Windows Phonefalls a distant third behind iOS and Android.
“Gaming is a top activity spanning devices, from PCs and consoles to tablets and mobile, with billions of hours spent each year,” said Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella in a statement.
“Minecraft is more than a great game franchise – it is an open world platform, driven by a vibrant community we care deeply about, and rich with new opportunities for that community and for Microsoft.”
While ceasing Minecraft development on other platforms would give Microsoft exclusive control over one of the world’s biggest game brands, such a a tactic would have huge repercussions amid the game’s highly vocal community.
“Microsoft’s challenge will be to maintain the spirit of Minecraft while developing the franchise in a commercially meaningful way,” wrote games industry analyst Piers Harding-Rolls recently. “With around 40 employees at Mojang, this is the sort of acquisition which can easily get lost in a huge organisation like Microsoft, and this factor is probably the main threat to longer term success.”
For Persson, the founder most closely responsible for the early development of the game, the deal represents a chance to escape the responsibilities of managing a global phenomenon. “I’m not a CEO,” he wrote on his blog on Monday. “I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter. 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.”
The deal underscores the shifting attitudes towards the giants of Silicon Valley. In March 2014 after Facebook announced the acquisition of virtual reality firm Oculus, Persson cancelled a planned version of Minecraft for the company’s Rift headset, saying that “Facebook creeps me out”. But Microsoft, once a byword for hated multinational computing firm, elicited no such reaction.
As such, the deal confirms the Redmond-based firm’s reinvention as a largely enterprise-focused company with one major successful consumer-facing division: Xbox. The company will be hoping that the success to date of Minecraft is only the beginning for a firm which could end up being “the 21st century version of Lego”. If it does reach that scale, then $2.5bn would be a steal.
We have approached both Mojang and Microsoft for comment.
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