It was big news last year when Microsoft bought Mojang, the creators of Minecraft. There were 2 things that made this purchase special; the hugely positive and widespread reception Minecraft has received since beta and the $2.5 billion price tag that came with Mojang.Clearly if Microsoft spent that much money on something they must feel pretty confident that they can make something happen with it and, to be honest, I think that it’s a good investment as well, and I’ll explain why.
Minecraft has become somewhat of an icon in the modern world. I would take a guess that half the people in Europe and North America have heard of it, even if they haven’t played it. It defies language barriers and transcends the cliques that gamers are sometimes put into; children like, hardcore gamers like it, casual gamers adore it, critics love it and everyone else in between can appreciate what it does and plays around with it every so often. That’s why an approximate 70 million people have bought the game making it the 3rd best selling video game of all time. While its daily sales don’t reach the dizzying heights they used to, if I sold about 25,000 copies of something I’d made almost completely on my own every day, I’d be quite happy. This is in an industry where you are expected to get almost all your sales in the first month after release. It just occurred to me that, perhaps, Microsoft bought Mojang out of curiosity rather than any drive to make money because, thinking about how Minecraft has been embraced by everyone and doesn’t reflect any other genre in gaming.
The general method of making games for big publishers is this; there was a game released that was really popular so we should make every game into that thing. FPS games leap to mind. Ever since the rise of Call of Duty, FPS games have plagued the bargain bin far too often. There’s Call of Duty, then there are a few other FPS games that do their own thing, like Halo or Borderlands, and then there are the rubbish rip offs of Call of Duty. Even Battlefield tries to do something different to stand out, though, of course, it is still almost an exact copy of CoD. But, putting this aside, there are no other games like Minecraft that aren’t almost exact rip offs. There are “crafting” and “survival” games but that’s not what Minecraft is about, even though it has those elements, much like Minecraft also isn’t about falling into lava or getting blindsided by a creeper.
It’s this uniqueness, this immunity from its mechanics being used in something else without the something else being a copy of Minecraft that makes it so worthwhile as a property. You can buy one copy of Minecraft and have unlimited access to creativity. Build a palace, a sky-fortress, the USS Enterprise or whatever you want, you can do that for the same price as I can build my little house and keep my little sheep by the sea. But surely there must be another reason Microsoft want Minecraft?
Giving thought to this question leads me to a few answers. Microsoft might have wanted, initially, to make Minecraft an exclusive to the Xbone but $2.5 billion is too big a price tag and the PS4 version is already out. They might want to sequalise it but what more can you do? It’s a creativity tool. They could upgrade the textures and graphics of the game but it wouldn’t sell to PC users as they already have texture-packs and overhauls to help them with that. They could go down the modding road, of course, and sell “Minecraft: Tekkit,” or maybe the maps road and make “Minecraft: Middle Earth,” but, again, these would be for console versions. I would buy the shit out them, but Microsoft would have to be careful not to flood the market with them and to make them relatively cheap as they are just maps and mods that people, originally, built for free. I don’t know how it would work with things made by more than one person as well.
However, the best answer I could come up with was legacy. Microsoft, despite its size, isn’t your ordinary company, as can be seen by Bill Gates incredible charity work with his wife and his own thoughts of his legacy. Microsoft see that Minecraft has had a huge cultural impact from very humble beginnings. It’s even used in schools across a few different countries now, but, with just 49 employees and based in Sweden, I think Microsoft saw that overseeing the expansion and upkeep of Minecraft was going to take something special that only a big company could give it.
Minecraft is timeless. Its graphics are simple and some would say out dated, but we don’t care because we can make beautiful things. Combat is clunky and the monsters are, frequently, annoying, but we don’t care because we’re here to mine and build and grow. XP and potions and all manner of little additions have been made to the game since launch but, with all due respect to them, they’re not important. The game is just about building something, and I don’t think there’s anything purer than that. If you are on a multiplayer server then it encourages teamwork or, if you’re playing solo, you can really dive into the world and make the things that you want to, and if you want to show it to someone else then you can, but if you want to keep it private then you can do that too. Minecraft will make a profit for Microsoft, eventually, but that’s not why they bought it.