I would not be surprised. It makes sense in many ways, a big IP, perhaps needs someone to put more money behind it and give it the chance to get even bigger, there are very few companies that could leverage the management properly across the “transmedia” thing, especially at $2bn+ but I ask myself as an Xbox One owner, am I really getting anything out of this?
Microsoft have partnered with Mojang before, when they got what was their Rare porting house 4J Studios (who had ported Banjo-Kazooie, Tooie and Perfect Dark to XBLA) to work on a Minecraft port for XBLA and it stayed exclusive for a while, making everyone bucket loads in the progress and Sony were clearly chomping at the bit to get it on Playstation after its Xbox success which finally happened on PS3 last December. The PS4/Vita versions which were due out at the time of PS4 launch were delayed a whole 9 months or so to ship around the same time as the Xbox One version (well, the PSVita version isn’t quite out yet but still).
2 billion dollars plus. Say it out loud, that is a shed load of money for anything, especially a games company with 40 employees who have only made 1 successful title, but that title has sold over 50 million units across PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and mobile, which is a phenomenal amount.
Is this even an “Xbox” transaction? I think that realistically it’s not, Microsoft’s plan is to milk it dry across merchandising, TV/film(?) as well as games which will then be exclusive to PC, Xbox One and any successor and mobile devices, I’m extremely confident that iOS and Android will continue to get new releases as well as PC, it doesn’t make sense not to. I think however the relationship between Microsoft Studios and Mojang that developed to see Minecraft on Xbox Live Arcade is extremely important in this deal and likely the only reason it’s probably happening – if Microsoft and Mojang weren’t close I wouldn’t think that Notch would have accepted the deal personally unless he was angling for it, possibly because he wanted to step away, who knows. Chris Charla (now head of ID@Xbox) was in charge of XBLA Productions at that time but I think that Phil Spencer was likely a key part of the team that made it happen, after all when it was released on Xbox 360 it was a first party published title.
I wonder what will become of the Playstation versions of Minecraft? What about 4J Studios involvement in the series, they’re pretty key to the operation with the console ports and keeping them up to date, so could any deal actually be a double deal including bringing 4J Studios in-house at Microsoft? I would think that it would make sense to bring the two together, 4J Studios who are based in Scotland with Microsoft partners Ruffian Games (current working on the Halo 3/4 Xbox One ports) and Cloudgine (Crackdown Xbox One developer) could get a nice rebrand to Mojang Scotland? (Don’t hate me for that) 4J Studios are only a small developer, but I suspect that the cost would be low and getting in talent that as I said knows everything inside out already might well be considered by Microsoft.
The game is very popular among kids as well, a market that the Xbox 360 took over from the Wii with when that began to tail off and Kinect came out, it’s clearly a market with the power to generate a lot of money, I think when I was in college it was referred to as “pester power” or something.
Bloomberg had an article with admittedly anonymous sources but suggested that the relationship between Microsoft Studios, namely Phil Spencer and Notch was a key reason. It’s also worth noting that Phil Spencer said on the IGN Xbox Podcast Unlocked when he was on it last year that he had a “blank cheque” for acquiring studios, but wanted to foster relationships with developers and presumably not attempt to buy out partners who were happy with being independent.
“The deal came together after Mojang founder Markus Persson reached out to Microsoft a few months ago, based on a positive working relationship on Minecraft for Xbox, said the person familiar with Microsoft.
The two companies quickly agreed on a framework and approximate price and have been working out the details since, the person said. Persson will help out with the transition, though he is unlikely to remain beyond that, according to the person.
Xbox chief Phil Spencer has a close relationship with Persson, and has flown out to have dinners with the Mojang founder, another person familiar with Microsoft said.” (Via Bloomberg)
Perhaps we’re seeing Phil Spencer’s words about relationships come to help this time, it’s certainly interesting that Microsoft were the ones that were approached – if true, I think they probably bit his hand off when the opportunity arose to buy them even for as much money as that.
I’m actually quite glad in some ways that Microsoft are not letting someone who is a key partner for them escape them yet again over concerns for buying the company, it’s happened too often over the last decade or so and I think its time Microsoft Studios bulked up their internal studios, assuming all this is true of course.
For the long-term I think even if as the Bloomberg said that Microsoft do keep Minecraft on Playstation up-to-date with the Xbox versions they will obviously not be releasing new products on those platforms. Considering the situation the Xbox One finds itself in with sales compared to the Playstation 4 with this possible acquisition Microsoft should be using this to try to spur on sales of their console, “the best place to play Minecraft” plastered all over TV and as time goes on “the only console to play Minecraft” for any possible spin-offs, sequels and the like that will almost certainly spawn. If they aren’t playing the long game with the potential influx of sales it could get for their console by giving it the edge over other versions then I’m not sure I really see the point from that side. Perhaps it will also cause them to drop the price quicker to get it into the impulse buy territory quicker for parents.
It’s certainly a huge deal and it will be interesting to see what results it yields if it does happen. I would expect they will make some announcement(s) of their intentions if/when they announce the deal as well, more specifically, any plans to bring Minecraft to Windows 8 app store, tablets and Minecraft Pocket Edition to Windows Phone 8. Outside of that I suspect they will do what they did with the announcements of the new multi-year multi-title deal with Undead Labs and when they announced the Gears of War IP acquisition and say that we’ll hear more next year when they’ve had time to complete the transition and work on any new projects that are in the pipeline.
Two billion dollars… it’s a lot of money, but when you consider that Microsoft have $84bn~ in reserves, I can see why they wouldn’t hesitate with this deal, it’s partly why they bought Skype and part of Nokia because as according to Bloomberg “the vast majority of their cash and short-term investments are held outside of the US”, I doubt its earning much interest for them, anyway.
I felt differently about the deal until I saw the Bloomberg article. I did think as an Xbox One owner I’m not really gaining anything by the amount of money being spent by Microsoft on things like the Rise of the Tomb Raider exclusivity deal and this but if Notch, as he goes by, is really going to walk away and sought out the deal then it makes a lot of sense, as i’ve given in the last 1200~ words or so.
We’ll see what comes to pass over the next few weeks, I suspect that very soon after (read: hours) the ink is dry on the deal, Microsoft will be announcing it.