Minecraft is one of the great paradoxes of modern gaming. Its graphics are simplistic, its target audience is early teens, and it’s been a blockbuster success since its initial release in 2009 (yes, it’s as old as SCIFI.radio is).
It is so popular, in fact, that it has finally attracted the attention of Microsoft, who hopes to buy Mojang, the software company that created the game, for more than $2 billion. The deal could still fall through, but things are moving forward.
Unlike a lot of startups bought by big technology companies for billions of dollars, Mojang, a privately held Swedish company, is already doing really well. They told The Wall Street Journal that its revenue was about $360 million last year, up 38 percent from the year before. Mojang was co-founded by Markus Persson, a 35-year-old programmer and game designer who is better known in the gaming world by his gamer name, Notch. Persson has said in the past that he wasn’t interested in selling the company or taking money from outside investors, but apparently $2 billion is too large a sum of money for him to ignore.
Microsoft is mostly interested in Minecraft to ensure that they have some compelling content for their various platforms, such as Windows Phone. That mobile device operating system has been eclipsed by both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, and currently holds only about 3 percent of the market. Minecraft is also missing from the lineup of apps for Windows 8. By the standards of Microsoft, which had nearly $86 billion in cash and short-term investments at the end of June, a $2 billion-plus deal would be small by comparison. Another factor that makes the Mojang purchase more likely is that it’s a European company. This means that Microsoft will be able to use money from overseas operations to pay for it and mitigate the tax burden they would have borne if they moved funds through the United States banking system.
Microsoft first approached Mojang about a month ago. This isn’t the first offer Perrson has had; about a year ago he was offered something around $1 billion for the company. He says that if he does sell the company, he’s not likely to stay with it for more than six months, and he’s trying to work out a deal where a lot of the junior programmers get to keep their jobs after the buyout.
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