It was announced yesterday that Microsoft had the audacity to pay £1billion for the gamers favourite company – Mojang, the makers of Minecraft. Clearly the fact that 2 billion hours of game play had been stacked up on the Xbox 360 was enough alert the perceptive powers at Microsoft to the popularity and appeal of this phenomenon.
The purpose of the most popular PC game ever, is to generate virtual worlds out of “Lego”. The concept was the brainchild of the Swedish based Indie firm lead by Markus Persson, Carl Manneh and Jakob Porser .
This continues a trend that has been going on for many years in the computer games industry, or indeed the film industry where Disney will one day own everyone… Within gaming, we can take a multitude of buyout examples – take Ocean – bought by GT, GT bought by Infogrames, who are then bought some years later by Namco Bandai and on it goes. In doing so the purchasers, buy the studio, staff and more importantly, the catalogue to produce sequels and reuse the very expensive engines, reduce the risk of a brand new concept tanking and tap into an existing and known fan base. (And rationalise the staff and studio along the way).
EA have purchased 37 Companies around the world – including the likes of DICE, Origin Systems, Pandemic, VG (for $775m). Acquisition is just one of those things, and try as you may to remain independent and true to your (mine)craft, there is always a number. Microsoft have a very broad pallet and an appetite for any company that generates entertainment or communicates entertainment. If you fall into that beginning to end spectrum, your business has a shot at Bill Gates popping in for coffee. Microsoft are headquartered in Washington and have purchased 146 companies since 1986, including Skype and Nokia as well as shares in Comcast and AT&T. It’s a fierce appetite. But will Disney buy Microsoft, or Facebook buy Apple, or Google buy them all?
The fears of the gaming community lie in the possibility that Microsoft will now only publish sequels on their own platforms – which they have already refuted. But fans are unconvinced and they like the idea of being independent and out of the mainstream. It doesn’t get more mainstream than Microsoft, but understandably the pressure on the 3 founders at Mojang to run a £200m a year company became less and less palatable and probably not what they signed up for.
Whilst fans are crying, “foul”, if any of them had been waved a cheque for a billion bucks would they have put the fans first?