Does it amaze you that a game with massively pixelated graphics has become one of the most beloved and most popular video games of all time? Minecraft is not just unique in the world of next generation gaming because of its odd graphics. What many people may not know about the $27 game is that it really isn’t a game in the traditional sense. There are no winners, losers, or ranking systems.
So what do you do in the game? Players can mine for precious metals, fortify their base, build monuments, establish a farm complete with animals, create complex generators to power their base, build a massive automated quarry, build a nuclear reactor, enter dark portals to the Nether, and even create an automated horse breeding system which breeds horses, then places them into a smelter for a source of glue. The opportunities in the game are endless.
On September 15, the beloved creator of the game, Markus Perrson, a.k.a. Notch, decided to sell the game to Microsoft (the world’s largest software developer) for $2.5 billion. Although the sale has made Notch a rich man, fans everywhere are furious with the decision. Why? Branding. Fans have fallen in love with Mojang, the brand behind the game.
However, Microsoft does not have the underdog status that Mojang has obtained. In fact, big developers have a history of backlash from fans when an acquisition takes place. Look up Electronic Arts (EA) on Google. You will find a lifetime’s supply of angry posts from gamers who hate the company for their infamous acquisitions of beloved games with humble beginnings. In fact, hatred for EA caused the company to be rated as the Worst Company in America in 2012, even though they still produce “successful” games. If you would like to learn more about the strong hatred of Electronic Arts, check out IGN’s article by Colin Campbell.
Why is EA important here?
Much like Microsoft, Electronic Arts has established itself as a powerhouse in the gaming industry. Gamers often loathe big developers, especially with the recent growth of indie games. This shouldn’t shock anyone. A significant percentage of consumers have always preferred small businesses to large corporations for a variety of reasons.
Many large game developers and distributors have gained reputations for their poor customer service and high prices for online games. Regardless of whether the actions are necessary, customers may not see it as such. When creating or distributing Minecraft related content, Microsoft needs to align with fan expectations. Gamers fear the negative changes of their favorite games. Microsoft has been pushing cloud services in gaming, which may seem great, but Minecraft fans may feel different. Unlike movies with horrible sequels, once online games change, there is no returning to the original version.
After the sale was announced to the public, Notch had this to say to the BBC, “I don’t see myself as a real game developer. I make games because it’s fun, and because I love games and I love to program, but I don’t make games with the intention of them becoming huge hits, and I don’t try to change the world.” Although Notch did not intend to revolutionize gaming, he did. Not only did he revolutionize gaming, he gained a cult following in the process. This quote should serve as a strong lesson for large and small game developers concerned with branding. Create the game for the gamer, then the money will follow.
Will Microsoft profit from their $2.5 billion dollar purchase? We cannot tell just yet. In fact, no one really knows what major plans Microsoft has for the game. Can Microsoft save their reputation with computer gamers everywhere? Possibly, as long as the needs of the customer are put first, over profits.