Crushing Success

The final tally for Microsoft’s purchase of Minecraft is $2.5 billion. Markus Persson’s (aka Notch) personal take is reported to be $1.8 billion.

What is almost more interesting though is his thought process behind selling at all:

[…] I’ve become a symbol. I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand, that I don’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to me. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter.

As soon as this deal is finalized, I will leave Mojang and go back to doing Ludum Dares and small web experiments. If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I’ll probably abandon it immediately.

It is almost funny, in a way. Can you separate the making of games from the business of making games? One can imagine some hobbyist painter who inadvertently crafts a masterpiece… that simply stays in the attic for decades. Or a writer who simply creates a book for themselves. The process is what they desired, not the outcome.

But games? Like information, games yearn to be free. A game without players is incomplete. So while I can understand the sentiment behind Notch’s desire, it seems somewhat futile. Being a game designer does not make one a good entrepreneur, true, but once released a game takes on a life of its own.

I will admit that my first reaction was to be a little petulant over Notch’s payout, because $1.8 billion. But looking at Minecraft itself and how it got there… who can really complain? This isn’t a game that preys on the weaknesses of the human psyche with microtransactions and cash shops (in the base game). This isn’t a game built around its business model. This is Old School purity in which a game relied on its own merits to sell more units. Sure, there is merch and movie deals these days but the core of the game remains the same.

So… good on you, Notch. This sale puts you around #1013 on Forbes’ billionaire list. Or to put it another way, Minecraft single-handedly made you equivalent to 2-3 JK Rowlings. Or about a Gabe Newell and a half.

Crazy world.

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Posted on September 18, 2014, in Commentary, Philosophy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. What gets me is people call him a sellout. Yeah, he’s a sellout…for almost 2 billion. I’d sell out for a tenth of that without even blinking.

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    • No kidding.

      What is also funny/sad is that I don’t really see it as “selling out.” More like… cashing out. I get that his online persona (etc) was all Indie Paragon, but as the man says, he was simply tired of all that noise. That seems manifestly different to me than a garage band being bought by a record label and churning out pop songs.

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  2. Is there any possible way that anyone can conceive of that Microsoft could get $2.5 billion worth of value out of this acquisition? It just doesn’t seem possible.

    And I’m with Matt. If I sold out for that much money and you called me a sellout, the only worry I’d have would be choking on my tongue from laughing at you so hard.

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    • In a word? Sure. Revenue was $238 million in 2012, $316 million in 2013, and likely to exceed $400 million this year (source). The actual profile was $129 million in 2013. There is Minecraft merch in Walmart. Warner Bros has the rights to the movie. There has been no release of Minecraft on Windows Phones yet.

      Paid servers. Minecraft 2. Licensing deals. Shifting the franchise to Microsoft-only products… or keeping it cross-platform and having the MS logo popping up on Sony & Apple screens.

      In any case, Microsoft themselves believe they will break even on this deal by the end of this fiscal year, e.g. June 2015.

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  3. Jeff Vogel had something to say about this when Dong Nguyen quit after Flappy Birds ruined his life. Persson sounds to be pretty much in the same boat. Hard to believe we’d ever come to the point of game developers being “rock stars” with all the attendant baggage.

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