(This post was originally going to be a rant, but I’m trying to keep cool)
Sometime last week, a rumor started milling around that Mojang, known best for creating Minecraft, and Microsoft were in talks of a huge contract to the tune of $2 billion. The thought of a large corporation buying out a small partially-anti-corporate-minded company was absurd. When the weekend was coming to a close, it was becoming more and more apparent that this was not only not a rumor, but the deal was going to go down for $2.5 billion.
Mixed thoughts of anger, confusion, and shock went through my head. I am a huge Minecraft fan; I play a lot more than I probably should, I host a few of my own servers for friends, and I have even raised my kids with the Xbox 360 version. I figured this deal could go one of two ways, and both are hinged on the idea that Minecraft is mostly well known for the huge modding community in the PC world. There are thousands of servers run by thousands of Minecrafters, and very few of them run Vanilla Minecraft. The worse case scenario would be that Microsoft completely locks down Minecraft and *POOF*, there goes the modding community. On the other hand, there is a chance that Microsoft could even make the game better, while keeping the same attributes about the game that people love.
As stated in Mojang’s blog, the reason for this sale to Microsoft was because Minecraft has gotten so big, that it makes sense for it to be managed by a company that has the resources to do so. They also mention that when Notch (Markus Persson) created Minecraft, he had no idea it would become so big. It was a hobby to him; He made Minecraft because the similar game he was playing at the time, Infiniminer, just didn’t have all the features he wanted in a game.
Microsoft states on their blog, that their reason for purchasing Mojang is to enable Minecraft players to “benefit from richer and faster worlds, more development tools, and more opportunities to connect across the ‘Minecraft’ community.” This actually makes a lot of sense, and if anyone can make Minecraft better from a resource perspective, it would be Microsoft. Minecraft is primarily programmed in Java, which, in part, allows it to be multi-platform, but also can be the reason for it’s huge resource drain on low end machines. I wouldn’t be surprised if a future update (perhaps Minecraft 2.0) were to be written entirely in a new programming language.
As part of the rumor a week ago, it was stated that Notch would leave Mojang if this deal went down. As it turns out, not only is he leaving, but the other two founders Carl Manneh and Jakob Porser are also taking off.
Notch has stated in his own personal blog that, in essence, he will continue to do what he loves; making stuff. Currently, he is working on a Dart/WebGL Doom level renderer that he may or may not finish, but he is having fun doing it, which is important right? There is currently no word as to what the three founders have in mind as a threesome, if they are planning anything at all.
According to Mojang’s blog, it will be business as usual for the time being. Their rapid update cycle will continue, their personal interaction with fans will still be personal, and as far as they can tell, Microsoft has no plans to remove Minecraft from any platform that it already runs on. We can safely assume that they will work hard and fast at getting a Windows Phone 8 title available, so there is hope in that. Microsoft plans on “maintaining Minecraft and its community in all the ways people love today.”
As a Minecraft player and host of a few servers, as I have stated earlier in this post, I have mixed feelings about this purchase. However, the more I find out about it and the more I think about it, the more I believe this can only be a good thing for Minecraft fans.
Also, as a developer, I can completely sympathize with Notch. He started this project with no intentions of it becoming a global phenomenon. If he is anything like me, I know that he probably doesn’t like to have that much attention brought upon him. We humble developers (most of us anyway) are happy to make things we love, and don’t want a lot of attention. Sure, it’s nice that he doesn’t have to work another day in his life if he doesn’t want to, but as he states in his blog, “It’s not about the money. It’s about my sanity.” He states that if he ever accidentally makes “something that seems to gain traction, [He’ll] probably abandon it immediately.” (As a side note, if you see that Notch is making something you want to see completed, stay away until it is completed. Just saying. LOL)
To What End? (Speculation)
Fast-forward one year. In a not-so-subtle way, Minecraft stunts feature updates to Playstation and iOS devices causing those platforms to completely remove the title from their app stores. Minecraft 2.0 is released and is completely rewritten in C. While v2.0 allows for the creation of plugins, you need to purchase a developer license and purchase Visual Studio 2015. Minecraft servers are available only through the Realms feature, but as they are on Microsoft’s servers, they are rock solid! They do allow server owners to add plugins to their servers for a small fee per plugin in the Realms App Store. Running a server in late 2015 will be a lot like running one now, but with no more downtime, all the plugins will work harmoniously with eachother, but you will spend a lot of money to maintain it.
The Minecraft purists will continue to run v1.9.99 and the modding community will last for another couple years until Microsoft either comes up with a way to stop them, or makes Minecraft 2.0 (or 3.0) more reminiscent of the “good ‘ol days”.
Mojang’s Scrolls is completely forgotten.
But on the plus side! Your Xbox One and PC can all play on the same servers! YAY! And Skype integration!