Unless you’ve been away from the internet for the last few hours, you’ll know that Microsoft has just announced its purchase of Minecraft developer Mojang, for the princely sum of $2.5 billion. In my opinion, this is extremely bad news for the industry; and here’s why.
One intriguing question is whether Microsoft bought Mojang or Minecraft. Obviously they actually bought both, but what I’m interested to know is whether the reason for the purchase was Minecraft itself, or potential future games from the team that made it. I’m assuming it’s the former, as the studio’s subsequent games, Cobalt (currently in alpha) and Scrolls (currently in beta), have so far been much less successful.
Mojang has been quick to point out that the purchase will not affect support of Minecraft on non-Microsoft-owned platforms, but this strikes me as more than a little strange, because why would Microsoft buy a franchise, and then continue to develop it for rival formats? Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want them to stop development of the PlayStation versions of the game, but you can’t deny it’s definitely fishy.
To me, what this most likely means is that, while the current form of Minecraft will continue to be supported for other formats, Minecraft 2 – if such a game ever exists (which it almost certainly will, now that Microsoft owns the IP) – will be exclusive to Xbox platforms. After all, Microsoft paid a lot of money for the franchise, so to recoup the cost they need it to entice gamers into buying an Xbox One, and therefore spend more money with the company.
In fact, this raises another interesting point. Since 2009, you’ve been able to buy Minecraft once, and then all future content (excluding skins and textures) has been free. I seriously doubt this will remain the case once Microsoft gets its hands on it though; after all, why would you release something for free when people are willing to pay for it?
But this isn’t the only reason why Xbox fans should feel hard done by. For the $2.5 billion it cost Microsoft to purchase Mojang, the Redmond-based corporation could have funded ten blockbuster exclusives, which would not only have bolstered the Xbox One’s catalogue of games, but could potentially have had more profit in it too.
Another reason why Xbox fans should be worried is because Microsoft has a history of buying established developers, and somehow draining them of all the heart and creativity that made them such incredible studios in the first place. For example, in the days of the N64, Rare were regarded as arguably the best developer in the world, creating generation-defining titles such as Banjo-Kazooie, Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark. However, cut to 15 years later, and the studio is making throwaway motion-controlled titles for Kinect.
I couldn’t write this article without also making a brief mention of Markus ‘Notch’ Persson who, despite what he says, has shown himself to be a remarkable hypocrite. The Swedish game designer has slated Microsoft on several occasions in the past, but apparently his morals don’t prevent him from accepting their money. Even worse, he’ll be leaving Mojang very soon, so he is literally taking the money and running, leaving the rest of the studio to pick up the pieces.
The sale is particularly distasteful because Minecraft is perhaps the biggest indie success story of all time, forming a dedicated community of gamers, far eclipsing anything the game’s creator could have imagined. In all this time, those gamers have been supporting an independent developer. Now, however, they’re supporting a company with a net income of $22 billion.
There’s so much more to say on this topic, but I’d like to finish with an open letter to Microsoft:
For the good of the industry, please stop buying established multi-platform games/franchises/developers, and focus instead on your own original new content.