Yesterday Microsoft officially announced that it is acquiring Mojang, the development studio behind the game Minecraft. Microsoft will reportedly pay $2.5 billion for the Swedish game studio. Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson also announced that he will be leaving Mojang and will not go on to work for Microsoft.
Respectfully, I'm not going to be doing any interviews.
— Markus Persson (@notch) September 15, 2014
Minecraft is sandbox style game that features simplistic graphics and gameplay. Players are free to play together as they please, often building using individual cubes; crafting weaponry and survival gear; and battling fantasy creatures. The game has become incredibly popular with young people and has consistently been a top-selling game across platforms including PC, consoles, and mobile devices.
Though Microsoft regularly purchases smaller companies, this particular acquisition has significance for the current console war between Microsoft and Sony. Sales of Microsoft's Xbox One console are now lagging behind those of Sony's PlayStation 4, leading Microsoft to un-bundle its Kinect peripheral to lower the price its new console. Microsoft is also scrambling to provide the Xbox One with exclusive software, and recently announced a deal with publisher Square Enix to make the next Tomb Raider game exclusive for a time on the One. Seen in this context, it is easy to see how the Minecraft acquisition could be worrisome for PlayStation, PC, or even iOS gamers.
Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft's Xbox division, tried to soothe gamers' fears this week, stating that Microsoft will "continue to make Minecraft available across platforms - including iOS, Android, and PlayStation, in addition to Xbox and PC." From the official announcement:
At Microsoft, we believe in the power of content to unite people. Minecraft adds diversity to our game portfolio and helps us reach new gamers across multiple platforms. Gaming is the top activity across devices and we see great potential to continue to grow the Minecraft community and nurture the franchise. That is why we plan to continue to make Minecraft available across platforms – including iOS, Android and PlayStation, in addition to Xbox and PC.
Mojang made a similar statement, saying that "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."
While this may be true, carefully selected language such as "continue to make Minecraft available" and "there's no reason" do leave the door open for Microsoft to stop supporting or marketing the game on platforms other than its own. Whether Microsoft will choose to do that is still unclear, but the company is now in charge of the greater Minecraft community and one of the biggest video games of all time.