So the rumours coming around seem to be transfixed on the possibility of Mojang being bought out by Microsoft for $2bn. With both sides refusing to comment on the matter, all the rumour mill can do is spiral out of control with nobody taking the reins, and of course everyone is pitching in their two cents in the matter. Well, it would explain how Microsoft are able to make the purchase with the Xbox One being outsold by the PS4 1:3 respectively. But I have to ask: How feasible is the rumour from a consumer standpoint, and why is there an audience immediately repulsed at the idea (including, possibly, Notch who is also rumoured to be leaving the company if this deal comes through)?
First off, let’s look at what the gain is from Mojang’s standpoint. Sure, the $2bn is a VERY, VERY nice sum of money, but what are they actually gaining from it besides a wad of cash? Mojang is already in gamers’ minds when it comes to Minecraft and so the publicity isn’t something they can really benefit from since they already got all the eyeballs they could ever want or need. They already have a development team that’s been working on the project for long enough to just do what they choose with their product(s).
About the only possibility they may see from this is the network stability expertise Microsoft would have, but even then, with no real complaints about Minecraft Realms making it into the mainstream, who can say if they need any help with that at all, especially with the already thousands of Minecraft worlds online and out there (and workarounds for those who just want to play with a few friends). So where’s the advantage of this deal when thousands of others are already happy with how they already are?
Secondly, Microsoft’s stance. Sure, they get a huge IP under their belt, but is that really a good thing when your major console competitors also have a version of the game also? And even for PC owners, Java is an open-source platform for development, which means it works with most major operating systems. When you are at a point that excluding the competition becomes detrimental (read: self-destructive) to the company and the IP, what advantage can you give to the IP that you won’t end up giving to everyone else?
Not only that, but the already-detrimental image that Microsoft has because of their flagship console release (see: previous post) is only going to be passed on to Mojang and Microsoft which, in foresight, is only going to affect it negatively. Microsoft bought out Skype and now there’s a string of complaints about it in comparison to how it was before a mile long, the image of which is still very apparent in many people’s minds when they think of Microsoft because of how popular it had become and still often use because of the lack of fierce competition to it (not to mention “Windows Live Messenger”, right?).
So what’s the angle? Again, it comes down to Minecraft Realms and the possibilities there. But what are they hoping to achieve with this? If you look at some of the pricing ideas they’ve had in the past (like, I don’t know, micros for pay-to-play games that involved advantage boosts – something Mojang recently put a cull onto earlier this year?) either they are going to be faced with SERIOUS opposition from within Mojang itself or the entire Minecraft community if they start applying similar methods of microtransactions into Minecraft Realms or they will outright butcher the idea, alienate Minecraft fans (and some of the parents paying for it because of them) and flip Minecraft into “A Thing That Once Was”. So what is the angle and the advantage that either side will gain from this?
Then there’s the situation around Notch, a man that has a lot of strings attached to the company. In a quote from a statement made back in June:
“Mojang does not exist to make as much money as possible for the owners. As the majority shareholder, I’d know. Every time a big money making deal comes up that would make a lot of money, it’s of course very tempting, but at the end of the day we choose to do what either makes the most sense for our products, or the things that seem like fun for us at Mojang.”
This gives the very notable impression that the company is run on ideals over finances, and that passion is their drive for game design rather than the cow-clickers that have been made infamous via King, Zynga, Facebook and every hypersexualised tits-in-your-face ad for a game basically built around building a fortress because why the fuck not. So why would a company this driven in ideals, and with Notch at the helm, suddenly want to change course in the face of what Microsoft is appearing to look like from the outside? Well, one possibility comes from a tweet just days after the announcement:
Given how much of an outspoken critic Notch has been in the past regarding the free-to-play model and the fear of that transistioning into Minecraft via Realms, Notch leaving the company following a buyout from Microsoft would fall in-line with his character which, if given some thought, does lay down some ground rules for the credibility of the rumours. If some of these ideas have been part of the talks ongoing behind the scenes with Microsoft that Notch is obviously very aware of, it may be the incentive he needs to sell off the major stake he has in the company and leave it in the same breath. The possibility is there for someone willing to put the money up front.
Adding to this, Mojang’s other planned games Cobalt and Scrolls could be the intention behind the purchase, citing possible future successes – and given the console exclusivity for Cobalt on the Xbox consoles, that is looking to be a strong contender for this support, especially given how Scrolls in itself is only a few months away from an official release version. However, that said, neither game has got much publicity outside those close and invested in the Mojang circle, so this could be another aspect Microsoft would play upon should they bring their advertisers into the blender. It may also attract more employees that may take up Notch’s previous offer to work on 0x10c, a concept that never got that far off the space-dust, sadly, but may still hold worth to someone brought into the company.
So in summary, what are the chances of this being true, and what of the consumer backlash? In respect of the first question, it’s really hard to say: Minecraft is a very large name but Mojang isn’t known for anything else up to this point and changing that is bound to upset the excessively large fanbase Mojang/Minecraft has, so that’s effectively a no-touch zone for the most part, but the other two games are significantly more appealing when the profits from these can be rather high given the right publicity streams and the freedom to express the creative desire that rested in the initial development of the titles.
As for the consumer backlash, it’s going to sting but then when you go reaching into the honeycombs you’re bound to piss off a few bees. And providing Microsoft maintains a hands-off approach regarding Minecraft and doesn’t ruin the advertising with their e-boner flying over the other two products, it’s largely going to be another Skype situation: A purchase people will forget entirely until the moment they have a problem with it, because that’s how consumers are at times.
All in all, I think it’s something to consider, but nothing to panic over just yet.