Mojang, the small Swedish firm behind the wildly popular video game Minecraft, is being acquired by Microsoft for $2.5 billion. The sale is set to be closed late this year, with the acquisition expected to be break-even in fiscal year 2015.
One of Mojang's founders, Markus Persson -- known as "Notch" -- said in a post on his personal blog on Monday that he would be leaving the company "as soon as this deal is finalized." Noting that he had decided to step away from Minecraft development "a relatively long time ago," he said he plans to "go back to doing Ludum Dares (game-making competitions) and small web experiments."
Microsoft said its "investments in cloud and mobile technologies will enable 'Minecraft' players to benefit from richer and faster worlds, more powerful development tools, and more opportunities to connect across the 'Minecraft' community." It added that it would continue to make the game available on all the current platforms, which include PC, iOS, Android, Xbox and PlayStation.
Launched in 2009, Minecraft has gone on to become one of the most popular video games ever, with more than 100 million downloads of the PC version alone. The game, which allows users to create worlds made out of blocks of various materials, has also been widely used for education.
In 2012, Mojang began working with UN-Habitat to use the game to encourage young people around the world to redesign the neighborhoods in which they live. The first pilot for the "Block by Block" sustainable development project is under way in Kibera, an informal settlement area in Nairobi.
Mojang has worked with Microsoft since 2012, when the Xbox 360 version of the game was released. Since then, Minecraft players on Xbox 360 have logged more than 2 billion hours of play time. Microsoft's purchase of Mojang is the company's first major acquisition since CEO Satya Nadella succeeded Steve Ballmer in February of this year.
'A Project of Monumental Significance'
"Minecraft has grown from a simple game to a project of monumental significance," said Owen Hill, Mojang's "chief word officer," writing Monday on the company blog. "Though we're massively proud of what Minecraft has become, it was never Notch's intention for it to get this big."
Noting that the pressure of owning Minecraft had become "too much" for Persson, "the only option was to sell Mojang," Hill said. "There are only a handful of potential buyers with the resources to grow Minecraft on a scale that it deserves. We've worked closely with Microsoft since 2012, and have been impressed by their continued dedication to our game and its development. We're confident that Minecraft will continue to grow in an awesome way."
Persson concluded his blog post with this message to Minecraft's fans: "Thank you for turning Minecraft into what it has become, but there are too many of you, and I can't be responsible for something this big. In one sense, it belongs to Microsoft now. In a much bigger sense, it's belonged to all of you for a long time, and that will never change."
He added: "It's not about the money. It's about my sanity."