This morning, it was announced that Mojang, the developers of Minecraft, was purchased by Microsoft for $2.5 billion. In addition, the founders of Mojang (Notch, Carl, and Jakob) are leaving the company. Notch published a post on his website detailing his reasons for leaving and adding some somber personal thoughts on the matter.
This comparison between Notch and Phil Fish obviously isn’t extremely accurate, but it is right about one thing: Notch has become a symbol. He is not Markus Persson, Swedish game developer. He is the guy who made Minecraft. He gets flak every day from fans, journalists, and youtubers. It’s not an easy thing to step down from the company you’ve built up into one of the most important game developers of all time. It’s even harder when millions of fans are watching your every move. Notch had to reclaim his freedom. Stepping down is the only way to do that.
The purchase of the company isn’t a mistake, but it feels very dehumanizing. To Microsoft, this is simply a step in the direction of profit. It is a large deal they made to increase their revenue for the coming years. This is not a simple business transaction in the eyes of the average consumer. Microsoft has not just purchased a game developer. They’ve purchased a cultural icon, a generation of people that will see Minecraft in the same way that baby boomers see Pink Floyd or The Doors. To Microsoft, it’s a product, a brand, and a group of people that are extremely talented at what they do. To the people, it’s something more than that. Something intangible, that can’t be bought or sold with money. $2.5 billion isn’t even close to the real value of Mojang. It’s as if someone tried to buy the internet. How does a company even begin to plan around buying something that is barely even seen as a product anymore?
They treat it as one. I’m not saying Microsoft made a bad move, or that I hate them for simply trying to increase their profits (something that every business can and should be doing). But there is a sort of defeat in this deal. To see something that’s been such an important part of my career and my life be purchased away from the original creators/owners is sad, I have to admit. It’s an even more important part of the lives a generation below me. Indie games wouldn’t be where they are without Minecraft, and to see it officially become what most would consider “not indie” (even though it hasn’t really been “indie” for a long time) is depressing. It’s the end of an era.
I’m looking forward to seeing what Notch and co. are going to create now that they’ve left Mojang. I’m not looking forward to seeing what Minecraft is going to become. I’ve been so passive about the game for years now. I barely play it anymore. That said, I recognize that millions of others do, and their hesitation on this deal is valid. But know this: No amount of money can ever buy what our culture has turned Minecraft into. That will always belong to the people.