It's one of the most popular video games ever, boasting over 100 million cumulative downloads on just the PC, and many more outside of that device on several other systems. It's only been around since 2009, and now, it's a Microsoft property. It's “Minecraft,” and the game that allows players to not only explore an entire world but also reshape it from its component parts is making perhaps its biggest move yet: to Microsoft (News - Alert).
The deal that brought Mojang, and with it the “Minecraft” operation, was reportedly valued at $2.5 billion, a deal that Microsoft actually expects to pay for itself somewhere in the 2015 fiscal year using generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). The deal itself is expected to close by the end of 2014.
Microsoft, for its part, discovered that “Minecraft” was actually a big draw for Microsoft's own player base, as users not only made the game the top online game on Xbox Live, but also racked up a combined total of better than two billion hours on the game's operation over just the last two years. That's a lot of potential for “Minecraft”'s operations, and also gives Microsoft a further stroke of diversity in its product lineup. But Microsoft won't be hoarding “Minecraft” like so many diamonds; rather, Microsoft plans to continue making the title available across the platforms on which it's currently found, including competitors like Android, iOS, and PlayStation. Indeed, Microsoft was quick to assert in recent postings that much of “Minecraft” would be business as usual, including the Minecon event.
Of course, Microsoft would have plenty of reason to leave “Minecraft” as a status quo operation. Already, there's a lot of room to look forward to; reports suggest that the Xbox One version of “Minecraft” will be substantially larger than the Xbox 360 version, with reports suggesting worlds up to 36 times larger than the original. So it's clear that there will likely be plenty of interest. Microsoft will likely enjoy the constant flow of cash around new skins and the like, and plenty of “Minecraft” players likely don't care that Microsoft now owns the show so long as it doesn't make a lot of changes to the system that don't result in bigger worlds and more sheer awesome, which seems to be most of the thrust here. It could even be said that having Microsoft at “Minecraft”'s helm might be a good thing overall; Microsoft certainly doesn't want for resources to modify and improve systems, and with the growing push toward virtual reality, as expressed by things like the Oculus Rift and Sony's Project Morpheus, Microsoft could use its own slice of that market. “Minecraft” makes a great way to show off any such project, and now that Microsoft owns it, worries about rights clearance in presentations boil off into a visible cloud.
Only time will tell what the long term effects of a Microsoft-owned “Minecraft” operation are, but it's likely to end up as pretty good news for the gamer. Microsoft needs more reason to get gamers to the Xbox One, and “Minecraft” might serve as just the draw it needs, while at the same time keeping a solid cash source operating to fund other operations.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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