Last week, a whole lot of people who aren’t into video games, but like reading financial news, suddenly heard about Minecraft for the first time when it was announced that the game is being acquired by computer giant Microsoft for 2.5 billion dollars.
This news has been a huge surprise, sending shockwaves through the fan community and the gaming press. Some of those reactions have been particularly entertaining, and the possibilities that the deal presents are interesting as well. Let’s take a look at some highlights.
7. Nobody Cares About How this will Affect Mojang’s Other Games.
It may seem like an error that the title of this article refers to Microsoft buying Minecraft, when they’re technically buying Mojang, (the company behind Minecraft). The beloved block-based build fest isn’t their only title, after all: they’ve got two other games available for purchase and are clearly capable of creating more. The 2.5 billion that Microsoft is spending means that they’re also buying those other games.
Here’s the thing, though; practically no one cares about those games, and that almost certainly includes Microsoft. Just as Disney didn’t buy Lucasfilm in order to get their hands on the Monkey Island franchise, Microsoft didn’t spend that money so they could get Cobalt and Scrolls. Those are nice little bonuses and nothing more.
The only news articles I’ve seen in the past week about any other Mojang games are about their second offering, Scrolls, getting a price cut in coordination with its launch on tablets. Needless to say, that’s not a big topic on the lips and keyboards of the gaming community. All the buzz surrounding the acquisition of Mojang and the possible ramifications are focused on Minecraft, because that’s the the prize everyone cares about.
6. Everyone’s Nervous About Possible Changes, Even Children.
It’s not surprising that Minecraft players are worried about what Microsoft might theoretically do to their beloved game. What’s noteworthy is how far the level of concern permeates. Even before the purchase was officially confirmed, a 10 year-old girl wrote to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella pleading for them to not ruin the game!
To know that a gamer so young took the time to write a letter is a sign not only of how beloved Minecraft is, but how little trust gamers have towards Microsoft. All of this worrying might be misplaced, but it’s still something that will have to be dealt with. It’s worth noting that Nadella wrote a response to the letter. Sure, it might seem like some friendly lip service with vague talk of improving the game, but it does show that Microsoft cares about what their newly acquired players think.
5. People Are Putting a lot of Effort Into Trying to Figure out Microsoft’s “True Motive”.
The most unexpected question to come about from this whole thing is the one that seems the most rhetorical. At even a casual glance, it shouldn’t be that hard to see why Microsoft wants to buy Minecraft. It’s the world’s biggest midget of independent gaming, starting out as a small-time project, spread by word of mouth, and eventually becoming a multi-million dollar cash cow with a huge fan base. Why the hell wouldn’t Microsoft want to buy that?
For some reason, though, tech and finance blogs have bent over backwards trying to figure out a deeper motivation for the purchase. The most entertaining speculation is a Forbes writer making the argument that Minecraft is a social network. And sure, if you squint hard enough and stretch definitions far enough, that argument could be made, but some times, a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes, the obvious reason for a huge corporation to buy the biggest indie game in the world is the only reason that needs to be looked at.
4. Some People are Applauding the Creator for Selling.
A much more interesting question to ask than “Why are Microsoft buying Minecraft?”, is “Why is Notch (the guy who created the game) selling his company?”, which he’s already answered, by the way. While the whole post is worth reading, the short version is that Notch doesn’t want the pressures that come with being in charge of a huge company.
While it might seem sad to see one of the most successful indie companies of all time get bought by a corporate giant, it’s not hard to sympathize with Markus Persson (Notch’s real name) for wanting a simpler life. One of his most notable supporters is fellow game creator Garry Newman, the man behind hits like Garry’s Mod and Rust. Newman wrote a post the same day the news hit in Notch’s defense. It essentially boils down to Newman admitting that he’d have done the same thing in Notch’s shoes, and laying out the reasons why he thinks this move was the right call.
Sadly, that sympathy is not universal…
3. Other People Are Not Being so Kind.
Not everyone is treating Notch’s decision to cash out so favorably. Many fans are upset about his decision and are taking it as a betrayal. A big factor in the negative view of Notch is that a few short months ago when it was announced that the company devoloping the Oculus Rift VR headset had been sold to Facebook, Notch was one of the most vocal critics of the decision. Among other things, he immediately pulled support for an Oculus Rift version of Minecraft.
While he eventually softened his opinion on the matter, that initial rebuke has given some cause to accuse him of hypocrisy now that he’s making a similar move. It also hasn’t gone unnoticed by the upper brass at Oculus. CEO Brendan Iribe took a couple of light jabs at Notch during a recent press conference about the company’s latest prototype. These kinds of criticisms will likely follow Notch for years to come, which is a fact that he acknowledged in his blog post about selling the company, stating, “Considering the public image of me already is a bit skewed, I don’t expect to get away from negative comments by doing this, but at least now I won’t feel a responsibility to read them.”
Speaking of Oculus, there’s some potential for a bit of good to come from this acquisition…
2. Maybe The Oculus Rift Version of Minecraft Will Happen After All.
If the big stumbling block to having a version of Minecraft that works with Oculus VR headset was Notch’s feelings on their deal with Facebook, his cashing out to Microsoft could pave the way for that project getting back on track. There doesn’t seem to be any bad blood between Facebook and Microsoft that would get in the way (at least none that I’ve ever heard of) and both companies would have a lot to gain from such a game.
Having an Oculus exclusive version of Minecraft would open up a whole new revenue stream for Microsoft, and it would give Facebook a flagship title to get people on board for buying the new item. Fans would also win by having a new and unique way to play their favorite game. Such a venture could count as the first tangible “post-Microsoft” improvement to Minecraft. Microsoft will need every plus they can get too, because fan bias is going to be working against them in the long term…
1. From Now On, Everything Mojang Screws Up Will Get Blamed on Microsoft.
Justified or not, a lot of gamers see Microsoft as the epitome of everything wrong with their beloved medium. Everything the company does is scrutinized in fine detail. Going forward from here, everything good that happens with Minecraft will be attributed to Mojang, and anything bad that comes up the pike will be seen as Microsoft’s fault.
Not everything that Mojang have added to their wonderful game has been great. As an example, their recent 1.8 update included a change to the crafting of enchanted items. For those unfamiliar with the game, the way it worked before was that people had to first build an enchanting table out of various items (most of which are hard to come by) and then put in the item that they want to enchant along with the experience orbs earned from killing monsters to get a special enhancement added to the item. This process now has an extra requirement of adding lapis lazuli, which is another hard-to-find resource, making the whole process of enchanting that much more difficult.
The change seems to have gone largely without comment, mostly due to so many cool things being added in the latest update (among them being underwater dungeons and customizable banners) but I’m pretty sure if that change hadn’t been implemented until after the Microsoft acquisition had gone through, fans would be blaming the new parent company for it. And so it will go with each new update from here on out: anything that fans don’t like will get blamed on Microsoft even it’s something Mojang would have done anyway. Rather than getting sucked into such arguments, I’ll just sit back and enjoy the entertainment of watching others bicker about it. But even more so, I’ll enjoy playing Minecraft itself.
Also by Greggory Basore on Topless Robot