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Minecraft about to join Microsoft – will the "indie" spirit survive?

15 September 2014 / 11:09:11  GRReporter
2512 reads

Ivan Petkov

The games industry generates billions of dollars annually. But beyond the financial aspect, it has also become a player in the game of software platform market domination. iOS or Android would hardly have become so successful had there been no games for them. It is the same with desktop operating systems – one of the major reasons that Windows is so prevalent is that for many years computer games were available exclusively for it.

Gamers are amongst the most loyal and passionate fans. Whichever company manages to attract them to its side will have a powerful weapon at its disposal against its competitors. It is not surprising that Microsoft shows a huge interest in acquiring one of the most successful and popular games of recent years - Minecraft.

The game was created by the Swedish programmer Markus "Notch" Persson, subsequently being developed by the company he founded - Mojang (from Swedish - a tech gadget, device). The game quickly attracted millions of loyal fans and avid players, and currently it can be played on any type of device: PC, games console, smart phone and tablet.

YouTube channels of well-known players are followed by millions of devoted afectionados. For example, the channel Sky Does Minecraft has almost 10.5 million followers. A video entitled "’New World’, A Minecraft Parody of Coldplay's Paradise (Music Video)", which was uploaded 10 months ago to YouTube, has been seen over 45 million times. The profile of Sky Does Minecraft has been viewed over 2.25 billion times. Stunning figures which any international star would envy.

For Minecraft, with its army of loyal fans, Microsoft is willing to pay about $ 2 billion, reports The Wall Street Journal. The game has sold over 50 million copies since 2009, the profit of Mojang being over 100 billion.

Interestingly the game was created and distributed by an independent company, without using the powerful channels for advertising and sales available to major game publishers. Moreover Minecraft has become a byword for so-called Indie games – games developed by independent publishers. Markus Persson is known for his criticism of the large companies and their monopolisation of the games industry. That is why the company established by him has refused foreign investment in the past. Microsoft, now about to become the owner of Mojang and Minecraft, has also been under the lash with its own financial issues.

Although visually the game is far from beautiful it has won over gamers because of the freedom it gives them. They can collect various materials in the form of cubes and construct any kind of object, buildings and others, their imagination permits.

The popularity of the game crosses over into the real world, where avid fans buy all kinds of souvenirs, comics, toys and even have expectations of a film by Warner Bros based on the game.

The first reactions of Minecraft fans on rumours of the purchase are now available. As might be expected, they are in the style of the criticism of Markus Persson. Teens say that Microsoft is not "a cool company" and it has no high status in their culture. In general, the views of the fans of the game are rather negative. It is unclear what will happen to Minecraft if Microsoft acquires it. There are fears that the company might make it ​​exclusive only to their devices and operating systems, which is unlikely. The negative impact of such a move would be too great. But even if it does not happen, an acquisition by Microsoft would definitely change the direction of the game’s development and especially the philosophy behind it, which now attracts so many fans.

The reasons for Microsoft’s interest in Minecraft are clear. In recent years, the company has lagged behind in several key market segments. The overall policy of the software giant has been aimed at creating a strong ecosystem of connected devices that would give a boost to its lagging mobile business. However reality has proven different: users gave Windows 8 a cold reception and the Xbox gaming console has been overtaken by the rival PlayStation of Sony. To this we can add the poor performance of Microsoft smart phones and tablets. The acquisition of Minecraft could greatly strengthen the company’s position, but it potentially poses great risks.

According to Bloomberg the deal will be finalized next week and negotiations were initiated by Persson himself, who contacted Microsoft to ask whether the company would be interested in acquiring Mojang. Sooner or later, every young rebel grows up.

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