Microsoft agreed to pay $2.5bn (£1.5bn) to buy Mojang, the Swedish developer behind the popular Minecraft video game on Monday, in a deal that could give a lift to Microsoft’s mobile platforms and its Xbox business.
The move fits in with new chief executive Satya Nadella’s plan to make Microsoft’s products compatible with rivals’ systems under his strategy to build up the company’s mobile and cloud businesses. It is the biggest takeover deal made by Mr Nadella since he took over from Steve Ballmer early this year.
Analysts say Microsoft’s Windows Phone system and its Surface tablet – both of which have faced a fight to grow their global market share – could be the main winners from the Mojang deal.
Microsoft said it will continue to make Minecraft, on which gamers build virtual structures using Lego-like blocks, available on all the platforms where it is currently played – PC, iOS, Android, Xbox and PlayStation.
“If you look at iOS, Minecraft has been a top-grossing game for quite some time – if Microsoft could on Windows phones give players a unique and compelling experience that you can’t get on the other platforms, that could be a driver to sell devices to existing Minecraft fans,” Dave Bisceglia, the chief executive of game studio Tap Lab, said. “It seems like Microsoft is looking at Mojang and Minecraft as a way to tap into this enormous, cultural phenomenon.”
Microsoft said Minecraft is one of the most-popular video games in history, with more than 100 million downloads on PCs alone since its launch in 2009.
Video: Microsoft buys Minecraft
“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,” Mr Nadella said.
“Gaming is a top activity spanning devices, from PCs and consoles to tablets and mobiles, with billions of hours spent each year.”
Microsoft said 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.
Rick Sherlund, an analyst at Nomura, said: “We don’t view this acquisition as a signal of Microsoft’s intent to double down on Xbox but consider it an attempt to better address mobile on a cross-platform basis.” He added: “This also appears to be consistent with Mr Nadella’s mobile and cloud strategy.”
However, the deal has received a mixed response from Minecraft’s fans on the users’ website, minecraftforum.net.
“Makes me sick, and sad,” wrote one fan. “One hand, that’s a lot of cash, other hand it would kill the gaming community it has.”
Another posted: “Although I would prefer Mojang remain independent, being bought by Microsoft could bode very well for the health of the game as a whole. With little effort in advertising, we could see a whole new crop of people out there.”Reuse content