Minecraft’s mojo and the Microsoft buyout

minecraftVisit soundcloud for my latest ABC Radio pop culture segment with Leon Compton on 936 ABC Hobart . This week I’m talking about Microsoft buying Minecraft for $2.5 billion and if Minecraft can keep it’s user-friendly, playground, inclusive mojo going into the future?

Some of the details of the sale:

  • Microsoft payed $2.5 billion for Minecraft
  • The founder of the company Mojang who masterminded Minecraft, NOTCH, is leaving

Why does Microsoft want it?

  • as a learning tool. Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella has given his own explanation: “to get kids involved with math and science” as reported here
  • a cashcow. If microsoft could set it up as the sole marketplace, or server for the minecraft population of gamers, or even take a cut, it could eventually break even
  • it might be about the mobile competitive marketplace. Minecraft (and offering it first on MS systems, or forcing other providers to go through MS to set up the game), may yield benefits against apple, google, amazon etc. Check this article in the SMH for more details.

Some of the concerns this sale has raised are mapped out pretty well in this article 

Basically, this article asks if MS will use minecraft as a weapon against its competitors?

BAD what ifs

  • ruin it with in-app purchases
  • restrict it to Microsoft platforms (help boost its phone and tablet line). but doubtful, Microsoft has said they will continue supporting it accross all these platforms


  • use microsoft services to augment it (Skype, OneDrive etc)
  • give it the money to help it fix the bugs etc

For those who have never experienced Minecraft here’s a quick summary of the game:

  • Began as an indie game
  • runaway success 33 million plus copies sold
  • it’s received tons of media coverage
  • it’s often described as a type of first-person lego type game
  • Gather resources and fight monsters (survival mode)
  • no real ending, no real goal. resources are limited. it’s endless, you could explore forever (different from WOW because even those have limits)
  • No rules, no tutes, no instruction manual
  • tons of modding, and very liberal terms of service
  • BUT in creative you can go crazy and build some amazing things by yourself or others


The PBS youtube channels ‘Idea Channel’ and ‘Game/Show‘ have offered some interesting thoughts around the Minecraft phenomenon. To summarise:

  • no limits (post-scarcity economy – PBS Idea Channel suggests this here . And maybe we’re not that far off with the advent of 3d printing
  • it’s a game made for entertainment, but people are noticing amazing knowledge and learning going on

Is Minecraft’s biggest impact seen by how its younger gamers use it, and the type of learning and knowledge building many see coming out of it:

  • there’s a long history of games and learning – civilization and history etc. BUT, those games are narrowly locked in, what about a game which is broad and diverse
    • physics
    • play
    • foreign language
    • group cooperation
    • computer programming (inside minecraft)
    • build models of the famous buildings, a scale earth, functioning roller coasters etc
    • work with the UN to recreate city spaces for urban developers
  • 1/4 of Minecraft gamers are under the age of 15
    • context of children being over-protected from outside. sheltering. Is minecraft addressing this lack of play and experimentation (PBS Game Show)
    • unstructured rules (except in survival)
    • fosters creativity and independence, risky play
    • server multiplayer
    • make things together, play together
    • BUT, it is only virtual.
    • however does vitiual play still help. safe environment, but with risk
    • BUT, too much time on the internet
    • yes, there is too much
    • but i would say spending time there is a good thing. some core needs and social skills occuring there, unsupervised

For some further thoughts on the Minecraft phenomenon check out the PBS Game/Show which asks: “why hasn’t minecraft been repeated yet?”

  • is it a paradigm shift?
  • a whole new way of thinking?
  • the adjacent possible

can you imagine the games that are going to be produced by the generation raised on mine craft?

For some other random thoughts about the news of this week don’t forget to check out the streaming of ‘Pop Cosmopolitan’ on Edge Radio where Donald and I talk about this and the role of movie reviewers in today’s media landscape. Listen in to the 2014-09-18 show on-demand here.