According to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is in the process of purchasing Mojang AB, the Swedish studio behind the popular Minecraft. The price is claimed to be $2 billion, and although either Microsoft or Mojang Chief Executive Carl Manneh would comment on it, the deal could actually be coming through as early as this week. The information is supposedly confirmed by an inside informant with knowledge on the matter, but until anything is confirmed officially, it would have to be treated as a rumor.
Minecraft has sold over 50 million copies of since the release in 2009, and earned Mojang more than $100 million in profit only last year. They have made some very profitable licensing deals with companies such as Scholastic Corp. for handbooks, Lego A/S for toys and Warner Bros. Pictures for a feature film. They charge a one-time fee for the game itself, staying well away from the very popular "Free to Play" trend in similar games. The Xbox version costs $20, while a download on a PC is $27 and the mobile version is $7. The console versions of "Minecraft" accounted for almost a third of Mojang's revenue last year. But then you have all the merchandise, supplying another steady flow of cash. Although Mojang and its founder Markus "Notch" Persson's past history with Microsoft is far from stress free, they have been sending some love their way by releasing the first version of the game for the Xbox 360 in 2012, over a year before it was available on PS3 3.
Mojang would be the first huge deal landed by the new Microsoft's chief executive, Satya Nadella, since he got the position in February this year. It would also be rather unexpected because he did signal that Xbox is not a core business for Microsoft. Then again, he named gaming the "single biggest digital life category, measured in both time and money spent, in a mobile-first world" in a letter to employees in July. As Microsoft has struggled with both Windows Phone and apps on other systems, having only Skype placed on the Top 50 list, getting their hands on Minecraft would drastically change this for them, as it is placed in the top 5 among paid apps both in Apple and Google stores. The deal would no doubt be beneficial to Microsoft, but is it something Mojang would accept? "Notch" has been offered deals like this before, and passed on them easily. Although admitting the big figures are tempting, he is not willing to compromise the firm just like that: "But at the end of the day we choose to do what either makes the most sense for our products or the things that seem like fun for us at Mojang." So the question is, will he fall for the temptation this time?
"Financially speaking, we have no pressure whatsoever to rush into any new projects. Besides, we have no outside owners that require us to reach any particular goals."
Whether or not this will change soon, is nothing but guesswork, as facts are scarce on the matter, all we have are the words of an insider. We will just have to wait and see.
What do you think of this deal? Is it just a rumor? Could it be something in it? And most importantly, what do you think a deal like this would do to Minecraft's future?
UPDATE: This rumor is no longer a rumor, it is now confirmed: http://online.wsj.com/articles/microsoft-agrees-to-acquire-creator-of-minecraft-1410786190