Now that it’s official that Microsoft has purchased Mojang for $2.5B, I am sure that everyone is wondering what Microsoft intends to do with its newly acquired toy. It seems that at least for now, Microsoft plans to keep Minecraft running as is, and it will still be available on all platforms, so what’s in it for Microsoft?
Before I get to that, the Verge has an article about how some parents view Minecraft. For myself, I have never really spent much time playing the game, but seeing other friends who do have kids, they seem to get really into the game. On paper, it seems a bit difficult for me to understand how this game has become so wildly popular. For example, with one friend, while we were out having dinner one night, his son was sitting at the table mesmerized by watching YouTube videos of people playing Minecraft. For the entire 2 hours we were at the restaurant, his son only put down the iPhone long enough to take a few bites of his food, and finally when the battery ran out.
Minecraft Transcends Generations
One of the biggest takeaways I got from reading up on Minecraft is that it is not necessarily a “children’s” game, nor is it an “adult” game. It appeals to both, and I think that is part of its genius. If people are to say that it is like an endless, virtual, digital Lego set, then this totally makes sense. Kids and adults alike can really get into Legos. One of the main points of the article on the Verge is that Minecraft is played together where the whole family can get into it. This is also true with Legos. At least for me, I remember my parents buying me several Lego sets, and spending hours with me putting together different kinds of buildings together. For adults, maybe it’s that sense of nostalgia that this game is so similar to the Lego sets they had when they were younger, and for children, this is just another fun thing to play with.
Minecraft Can Be Educational
Similar to Legos, there is educational value in Minecraft. Much of it is rooted to architecture, such as basic geometry and physics, however, some of the more advanced lessons to be learned, again, like Legos, can be in basic mechanical design. In Minecraft, players can also create simple mechanical devices that can be used to create more complex designs. Moreover, Minecraft communities have gotten together to made mods to expand the universe even more which can create new rules to the game, for an endless amount of creativity within the game. The mods themselves can teach people some of the basics of computer programming.
Truly a Virtual and Safe Sandbox
Minecraft is so customizable and hackable that people can even build their own Minecraft servers to play in a truly private environment. In some neighborhoods, the children all play together on the same Minecraft server, with the ability to kick out griefers and other “bad guys”.
So What’s in it for Microsoft?
Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone has the answer to that question yet. At the moment, it is not apparently clear what Microsoft intends to do with Mojang and Minecraft, but it definitely is fun to speculate on the possibilities.
Cross-Platform Means Microsoft Everywhere
If we look at some of Microsoft’s past acquisitions and internal efforts, we will start to notice a trend here: Skype, Office365, and an experiment on streaming Xbox games. The trend would be that these are all acquisitions and efforts for things that would work cross-platform. This is pretty much on-par with CEO Satya Nadella’s vision of a “mobile-first and cloud-first” Microsoft.
By remaining cross-platform, Microsoft’s reach would become even wider, especially with a game as far-reaching as Minecraft. In terms of branding, Microsoft’s name would become even stronger, especially among younger people who are caught up in a world of Apple and iProducts. While Apple may have cornered the market in granting schools with their PCs, Microsoft can grab their attention afterschool and on weekends with the Xbox and just about everywhere else on Minecraft.
Going back to what I said earlier about Minecraft being an educational product, this provides children with a gateway into learning about servers and networking, as well as programming. By getting them interested at such an early age, and by seeing the Microsoft logo everytime they fire up the game, it gives Microsoft a bit of an edge of recruiting later down the line.
Overseas R&D Team
Mojang is a Swedish company. Being that it is not a US company, Microsoft got a chance to use its stockpile of money overseas to make this acquisition. For US companies with assets overseas, bringing money back state-side would incur a hefty fine that most companies are not willing to pay. Instead, Microsoft now has a developer overseas that can add to its R&D efforts in game development, server and networking technologies, etc.
Over the years, I have been intrigued by Minecraft, but never really had enough of an urge to actually play the game. Maybe with the acquisition, this may be a good time to give it a try. After reading about how it works so well with children and parents, and being that I am a new father, maybe this would be a good time for me to get into it so that when my son is older, this can be something we can play together at home.
Whatever happens from this acquisition of Mojang, I just hope that Microsoft will be able to augment some of its services to the game to make it better and stronger. It would definitely be a shame to see the company make “improvements” to the game, since it seems to be so well in its current state.