Microsoft’s Minecraft deal shows its new CEO is paying attention

Minecraft is everywhere.
Minecraft is everywhere.
Image: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

It’s official: Microsoft is buying Mojang, the studio behind the massive cloud gaming hit Minecraft, for $2.5 billion. Microsoft expects the deal to close later this year and to break even in fiscal 2015.

This deal looks great for Microsoft and its relatively new CEO, Satya Nadella, for several reasons—but foremost because it shows Nadella is paying attention to what’s actually hot and making it a part of Microsoft’s future. Think of all the boring or too-big enterprise-software deals he might have pursued—SAP? Adobe?

But Microsoft is at a point where it needs some sizzle, and Minecraft—whose popularity with brainy youths can’t be overstated—should bring that. Here’s the relevant paragraph from Microsoft’s release:

Available across multiple platforms, “Minecraft” is one of the most popular video games in history, with more than 100 million downloads, on PC alone, by players since its launch in 2009. “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. The “Minecraft” community is among the most active and passionate in the industry, with more than 2 billion hours played on Xbox 360 alone in the past two years. Minecraft fans are loyal, with nearly 90 percent of paid customers on the PC having signed in within the past 12 months.

One potential concern is that Minecraft’s founders are not joining Microsoft, but are moving on to start new projects. In many cases, that can be a recipe for disaster—if the culture tanks and everyone who built it leaves. It remains possible Microsoft will ruin everything.

But given its distributed nature and huge, passionate community, Minecraft seems—at least for now—too big to fail.