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Mojang Unchained: Why Microsoft wants Minecraft maker

Gregg Keizer | Sept. 16, 2014
Gets Redmond into the mobile, PC gaming market; audience acquisition of millions of game- and world-builders.

Windows Phone has a very small, single-digit share of current smartphone shipments, according to researcher IDC.

Instead, Blau hammered on the "community" aspect of Minecraft, and what that brings to Microsoft. "It is all about the community," said Blau. "The benefits Microsoft gets is a large and diverse community of players on an open platform, a game-builders game.

"Minecraft is not the future of Microsoft games, but it's a piece of that," continued Blau. "Microsoft really hasn't had a mobile or PC gaming strategy that has brought people into the [Windows and Windows Phone] platforms."

Ben Thompson, an independent analyst who writes at Stratechery, matched Blau in bullishness about the deal. But Thompson focused on a different, newer component of Nadella's publicly-stated strategy.

"Minecraft is more than just a game: it's a community, with a huge cloud component, developers, and, at its very essence, it's about making things," Thompson wrote in an analysis today. "What could be more productive than that?"

Thompson was pointing to Nadella's focus on productivity that the CEO outlined in July. "At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world," Nadella said then (emphasis added). "We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more."

"Minecraft, though, isn't just a great financial decision; it's also a good strategic one that fits very nicely with Microsoft's new vision," Thompson argued.

Rubin echoed that. "Microsoft has a long-standing interest in development tools and education," said Rubin of Minecraft's open-ended, build-it nature and its widespread use in schools as a teaching aid. "Those are certainly additional assets that Microsoft is buying. And it's more than just a game. Much like Angry Birds, there's a licensing business."

Thompson thought Mojang had left a lot of money on the table, not in the Microsoft deal, but in growing the business on its own, a fact that Microsoft could itself leverage. "Minecraft, though, has the potential to make a lot more money," Thompson said. "Currently, Mojang only makes money off of players once: when they buy the game. All of those additional hours of play are essentially free. Contrast this to a game like the legendary World of Warcraft, which has made somewhere between $10 and $20 billion over its lifetime through a combination of up-front purchases and subscription fees."

The founder of Mojang and original developer of Minecraft, Markus "Notch" Persson, said he would leave the company once the acquisition closes. "It's not about the money. It's about my sanity," Persson said.

In a separate post by Mojang, the company put it differently. "Microsoft acquired Mojang for a smooth 2.5 BILLION dollars," the blog stated, making sure everyone caught the billion, as in B.


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