Why Microsoft was forced to buy Minecraft

News analysis: Microsoft had no option but to buy Minecraft if it ever wanted to see the popular game in the Windows Store, argues Barry Collins.

Why Microsoft was forced to buy Minecraft

Many commentators have been left wondering why Microsoft has shelled out a staggering $2.5 billion for a game that Ars Technica’s Peter Bright accurately describes as a “one-trick pony”.

Truth be told, Microsoft had little choice if it ever wanted to see the most popular app among the youth generation ever appear in its Windows Store.

Reports claim that Minecraft founder, Markus ‘Notch’ Persson approached Microsoft about a potential sale, and not the other way around. The almost apologetic blog that Persson wrote yesterday provides further evidence that he simply wanted out. “I’ve become a symbol. 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.”

Second opinions

The accountants say it’s a good buy for Microsoft, especially if the money paying for it is offshore from US taxes. See the parallel with the Skype acquisition. But is there real ongoing value, especially with the key people apparently leaving, and there only being a tiny team in place? That’s very hard to rationalise. But Microsoft wants to be hip. And that has a price tag.

Jon Honeyball, contributing editor

When one company buys another you’re always looking for the advantage it offers: in this case, what can Microsoft do better than Mojang? Clearly Microsoft offers a great gaming platform with Xbox, but it isn’t as if Mojang ever needed publicity to sell its products.

So in this case, what can Mojang – and Minecraft in particular – do for Microsoft? For starters, it will force one of the biggest-selling apps in the world to be sold on the Windows Phone and Windows 8 platforms. And that’s got to be good news.

Tim Danton, editor-in-chief

If Persson was approaching Microsoft – a company that he’d openly criticised in the past for the way it was trying to force him to certify Minecraft for Windows 8 – you can bet your bottom krona that he’d approached other potential buyers, too.

Microsoft must have seen the warning signs. With Minecraft yet to appear in either the Windows 8 or Windows Phone stores, the company must have realised there was grave danger that it would never make the transition if Mojang fell into the hands of Sony, Google, or even Apple.

Microsoft is about to unify its app stores for PC, tablet and phone, and currently Minecraft is only really playable on one of those three device categories. If Microsoft didn’t want to miss out on the app that almost every child I’ve met is spending hours of their time on each week, Microsoft had to move – and move decisively.

As Peter Bright suggested, $2.5 billion is one hell of a fee for a single title. But that’s the price you pay for having an app store that no developer feels compelled to be in.

Microsoft has already promised that Minecraft will remain in the iOS and Android stores, and it would be highly unwise for the company to now attempt to do otherwise – both financially and in terms of the company’s reputation.

Microsoft has paid $2.5 billion to literally stay in the game.

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