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Microsoft buying Minecraft would create the biggest possible culture clash

Reuters/Ints Kalnins
Microsoft’s new Stockholm office?
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Microsoft is reportedly in serious talks (paywall) to buy Mojang, the Swedish game studio behind Minecraft, the enormously popular indie game where gamers can wander and build what they please in an open world. The deal could be worth more than $2 billion and close this week, according to the Wall Street Journal. It’s enough to make anyone say “whaaaaa…?”

This is not least because Microsoft, a company that describes its strategy as becoming the “productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world” is thinking of buying a game widely acknowledged as one of the world’s most popular time-sucks.

It’s also because a notoriously bureaucratic behemoth of a company would have to integrate one with about 40 employees which prides itself on having a flat corporate structure, no middle managers, job titles like “director of fun,” and a founder, Markus “Notch” Persson, who has a tendency to poke at other technology companies—Microsoft included:

Still, while it might be hard to square Microsoft’s image with the independent and quirky personality that helped make Minecraft such a success, the acquisition makes a certain sense for Microsoft. Minecraft is hugely popular with a young user base; it has a good image as a tool for educators and for teaching kids the basics of coding; and it’s got a great deal of future potential.

The motivation for Mojang is harder to parse. The company is highly profitable and has resisted past attempts to buy it. Persson canceled a version of Minecraft designed for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset after the company sold itself to Facebook, writing that “Facebook creeps me out.” Microsoft may be many things, but apparently creepy isn’t one of them.

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