Money, Minecraft and the Maniacal Microsoft

Microsoft's initial impression of Minecraft.

Microsoft’s initial impression of Minecraft.

Microsoft announced the acquisition of Mojang, creators of the world’s greatest indie game Minecraft, for 2.5 billion dollars last Tuesday. In my nicest opinion, this marks the end of both Mojang and its multi-million dollar baby.

According to Microsoft, its “investments in cloud and mobile technologies will enable Minecraft players to benefit from richer and faster worlds, more powerful development tools, and more opportunities to connect across the Minecraft community.” This means Microsoft intends to use its ‘advanced technology’ as a way to immensely improve Minecraft’s social aspects and gameplay-modding tools, along with making the game itself run better. Really, though, who would listen to Microsoft about social improvements? They can barely connect to their target audience, let alone a bunch of 12-year-old Minecraft fanatics.

See, Microsoft doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to purchasing major companies. Remember Rare Ltd., the creators of Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, Diddy Kong Racing and Conker’s Bad Fur Day? I’m certain you don’t, because they haven’t made a single smash hit since 2002, when Microsoft slurped them up for only one fifth of the price of Mojang. 7 years later, with only a couple games on their belts, the company was restructured to a Kinect-only team. Sure, they made great Kinect games like Kinect Sports, but whatever happened to Banjo-Threeie?

Oh, right. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts happened. Never-mind.

These types of purchases, for gamers and I, translates to “we don’t care how many best-sellers they made, we’re buying them just for the money.” This mentality, and the fact that the Xbox One entertainment console sold horribly compared to its competition, make for two strikes against Microsoft’s legitimacy as a section of the videogame industry as a whole, and ignites debates as to whether or not it should stay in the personal computer market where it hypothetically belongs.

What saddens me most about this acquisition is the fact that the company’s founder, Markus Persson (username: Notch) had no choice. Mojang spells out in a note that “though we’re massively proud of what Minecraft has become, it was never Notch’s intention for it to get this big. He’s decided that he doesn’t want the responsibility of owning a company of such global significance. The only option was to sell Mojang.” This is just a pretty, smile-for-the-camera version of what Persson explained in his own blog post regarding the issue: “I don’t see myself as a real game developer. I make games because it’s fun, and because I love games and I love to program, but I don’t make games with the intention of them becoming huge hits, and I don’t try to change the world.” He later goes on to say, “I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand, that I don’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to me. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter.” Finally, he elucidates that if he ever creates another project that seems to get any traction, he’ll probably abandon it immediately.

Is Notch even the same person anymore? Sure, he’s not a big upturned-nose CEO type of guy, but he is definitely a symbol for video game developers everywhere. Absolutely nobody took him or his values with a grain of salt that knew what they were talking about. I mean, he made Minecraft. One of the best-selling games of all time. How could the creator of one of the best-selling games of all time, a respected and exemplified individual, have his pride and joy haunt him throughout his career? Is there something we don’t know, or is he just whining about the lack of a normal, celebrity-free life?

What we do know is, Minecraft won’t last much longer. With Notch gone and nobody to lead the team, Minecraft will most likely die a slow and painful death, and once again drag Mojang with it. Microsoft will probably make the same mistake all surprise hits do: once a piece of media is presented in one style that gains extreme popularity, the owners completely change that style from what made it popular to “appeal to its audience”, even though it has the reverse effect. That just makes me angry, because those companies always boast about how professional they are and how they have real experts studying how stuff like that actually works. Now it just makes them look like they’re flat-out lying.

Regardless, we should mourn the perpetual death of great video games and their father companies. Here’s looking at you, Banjo-Threeie. You too, Minecraft.