Microsoft to acquire Minecraft for $2.5bn

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Tech giant Microsoft is to buy Mojang, creators of Minecraft, for $2.5bn, reports the Associated Press.

Launched in 2009, Minecraft is a sprawling, endlessly-replayable "sandbox" game that dumps the player in a randomly-generated abstract world. By exploring, gathering materials, crafting items and equipping their avatars, players can set about surviving hostile fauna, launching expeditions deep into ore-filled caverns, and constructing anything from huts to palaces, and even vast machines.

The phenomenal appeal and success of Minecraft -- just check our archives over the last few years! -- is hard to define, but it's been downloaded more than 100 million times since its inception. Created by Markus "Notch" Persson, Minecraft remains the most popular game on Xbox, and the most popular paid game on iOS and Android, according to the AP.

Yet that word hardly scratches the surface of the blocky world-simulator's Lego-like possibilities, though: a fact hit on by Satya Nadella, Microsoft's new CEO, who said that it was "more than a game."

"It is an open world platform, driven by a vibrant community we care deeply about, and rich with new opportunities for that community and for Microsoft," Nadella was quoted as saying in the press release. Microsoft expects to close the sale by the end of 2014, and break even by the end of 2015.

Microsoft also committed to keeping Minecraft available on all the platforms on which it is available today, including Sony Playstation and cellphones running Apple and Google-based operating systems

"Yes, the deal is real," wrote Mojang's Owen Hill at the company's official blog. " ... Please remember that the future of Minecraft and you – the community – are extremely important to everyone involved. If you take one thing away from this post, let it be that."

Notch, he wrote, didn't want the responsibility of owning a company that had become globally successul, and had found that the pressure of owning Minecraft made it impossible to work on other projects.

Here's Microsoft's press release, in full:

Microsoft Corp. today announced it has reached an agreement to acquire Mojang, the celebrated Stockholm-based game developer, and the company’s iconic “Minecraft” franchise.

The Mojang team will join Microsoft Studios, which includes the studios behind global blockbuster franchises “Halo,” “Forza,” “Fable” and more. Microsoft’s investments in cloud and mobile technologies will enable “Minecraft” players to benefit from richer and faster worlds, more powerful development tools, and more opportunities to connect across the “Minecraft” community.

Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will acquire Mojang for $2.5 billion. Microsoft expects the acquisition to be break-even in FY15 on a GAAP basis. Subject to customary closing conditions and any regulatory review, the acquisition is expected to close in late 2014.

Available across multiple platforms, “Minecraft” is one of the most popular video games in history, with more than 100 million downloads, on PC alone, by players since its launch in 2009. “Minecraft” is one of the top PC games of all time, the most popular online game on Xbox, and the top paid app for iOS and Android in the US. The “Minecraft” community is among the most active and passionate in the industry, with more than 2 billion hours played on Xbox 360 alone in the past two years. Minecraft fans are loyal, with nearly 90 percent of paid customers on the PC having signed in within the past 12 months.

“Gaming is a top activity spanning devices, from PCs and consoles to tablets and mobile, with billions of hours spent each year,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “Minecraft is more than a great game franchise – it is an open world platform, driven by a vibrant community we care deeply about, and rich with new opportunities for that community and for Microsoft.”

“The ‘Minecraft’ players have taken the game and turned it into something that surpassed all of our expectations. The acquisition by Microsoft brings a new chapter to the incredible story of ‘Minecraft,’” said Carl Manneh, CEO, Mojang. “As the founders move on to start new projects, we believe the high level of creativity from the community will continue the game’s success far into the future.”

Microsoft plans to continue to make “Minecraft” available across all the platforms on which it is available today: PC, iOS, Android, Xbox and PlayStation.

“‘Minecraft’ is one of the most popular franchises of all time,” said Phil Spencer, head of Xbox. “We are going to maintain ‘Minecraft’ and its community in all the ways people love today, with a commitment to nurture and grow it long into the future.”

More details will be available upon the acquisition closing.

Minecraft documentary

It's 85 minutes long, and it gets right into the meat of things. There are interviews with Notch, the Mojang crew, and game design luminaries, but the documentarians also capture the game's vibe in a way that few others do: that strange, expansive sense of place. You can download a DRM-free HD copy at the official website. [Video Link]

"Scrolls" trademark tussle settled

ZeniMax has settled a trademark claim against Minecraft-famed Mojang and its forthcoming fantasy-themed card game, Scrolls. ZeniMax is the holding company for Bethesda Softworks, creator of Skyrim and other games in the Elder Scrolls series of computer role-playing games. In the settlement, Mojang—which won early court tussles in its native Sweden—is permitted to publish the game under it's current title, but releases ownership of the "Scrolls" trademark to ZeniMax. No damages will be paid. [Indiegames]