An Opportunity for Microsoft to Expand Its Windows Ecosystem
Yesterday, following a week of persistent rumours, Mojang — video game developer and creator of Minecraft — confirmed that it will be acquired by Microsoft. Minecraft allows players to build structures and items with Lego-style pixel blocks, to explore large maps and to battle enemies or other players in a game that’s sold over 54 million copies.
Minecraft is one of the top-selling apps on Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play, and has been a popular downloadable title on the Xbox 360. It was most recently released on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Mojang was founded in 2009 and generated a profit of $128 million last year. Its team of 40 employees will join Microsoft’s game studio. Microsoft has announced that it plans to maintain Minecraft across all its existing platforms, with a “commitment to nurture and grow it long into the future”.
The $2.5 billion deal represents a huge amount of cash for a developer company with only one major title (not counting games in development and mini-games), and many will question Microsoft’s intentions. However, Microsoft could utilise its acquisition of Minecraft in a number of ways:
- Microsoft will be in a position to offer a seamless Minecraft gaming experience across various Windows devices. The title could be offered across Windows smartphones, tablets, laptops, PCs and Xbox consoles in a similar way to Sony’s Remote Play feature (which allows PlayStation 4 games to be played on Xperia smartphones).
- Minecraft appeals to a large (and growing) following of young people, and this audience could be attractive to Microsoft, able to use the game as an incentive to buy into the Windows ecosystem.
- Minecraft is now the best game title Microsoft has on offer if the company has plans for cross-platform integration for other games.
Free-to-play or monthly subscription
- It’s a laudable achievement to keep an open-ended sandbox game entertaining for a long period of time. The key to Minecraft’s success has been the constant flow of updates bringing new features, items and enemies.
- Gamers know that, after the one-off purchase, they will automatically receive the latest content.
- Microsoft could face criticism if it decides to change this model.
— Free-to-play lets users access the majority of the game free of charge while offering additional content via in-game purchases.
— Monthly subscription guarantees subscribers the latest game updates and add-ons.
- However, it would be tough to make these models work given that many of Minecraft’s core gamers are under 18 years old and therefore unable to make such purchases themselves. Some gamers are concerned that Microsoft will take this approach and it’s these fears that are driving the fair share of criticism against this deal.
- Maintaining the existing model for at least the time being appears to be the most sensible approach, particularly as it’s worked well so far.
I’ll be attending EXG London (an event dedicated to video games, formerly known as Eurogamer Expo) at Earl’s Court next week, where I hope to find out what gamers, developers and industry experts think about this deal.
Follow @George_CCS on Twitter for my coverage of the event.
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