What Minecraft lacks in finesse, it more than makes up in popularity. According to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is in advanced talks to acquire privately held Mojang, the Swedish maker of the multiplatform game, for more than $2 billion drawn from the company’s overseas war chest
Eschewing cutting-edge graphics for a blocky, somewhat retro look, Minecraft is largely known for a Lego-like gaming experience that has emerged as an outlet for the creative and inventive impulses of millions of users. According the official Minecraft statistics page, more than 16.6 million people bought the game for PCs and Macs. More than 8,000 copies were sold in the past 24 hours.
Minecraft is also available on Microsoft’s Xbox (360 and Xbox One) and in a “Pocket Edition” for Apple iOS and Android devices. Even Sony’s rival PlayStation gaming platform is home to a version of the game.
In total, Mojang has sold more than 50 million copies of Minecraft since its release in 2009. Last year, the company generated more than $100 million from the game and related merchandise.
For Markus Persson (a.k.a. Notch), creator of Minecraft and co-founder of Mojang, the deal would mark a reversal of the company’s ethos. “Mr. Persson has regularly thumbed his nose at large corporations with snarky tweets and blog posts,” according to The Journal’s Sept. 9 report. After Facebook snapped up Oculus VR in March—also for $2 billion—Persson canceled a version of Minecraft that was being developed for the virtual reality headset in protest.
The deal, if completed, would also mark a big milestone for Satya Nadella, who took over the reins of the company on Feb. 4.
“Mojang would be the first multibillion-dollar acquisition by Microsoft’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, since he was named to the top job in February,” stated the report. “It would also be an unexpected plunge because he has signaled Xbox isn’t a core business for Microsoft.”
Microsoft of late has been focused on a “mobile-first, cloud-first” product strategy to help counteract a dwindling PC market and its effect on the company’s flagship Windows desktop operating system. Critics have long painted the Microsoft’s Xbox video game division as a costly distraction for the company.
While Microsoft’s cloud-first approach is certainly paying off, Nadella recently put an end to rumors that the company would rid itself of Xbox. During a July 22 conference call, he reiterated the company’s continued support of Xbox despite the closure of the company’s streaming media-focused Xbox Entertainment Division.
Mojang isn’t the first video game maker to attract Microsoft’s attention.
In June 2000, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant announced that it had acquired Bungie, developer of the Halo video game series, which would go on to become one of the Xbox’s signature titles. That deal came full circle in 2007 when Microsoft spun off Bungie as an independent company.