The dust hasn’t even settled from Amazon’s out-of-the-blue acquisition of Twitch and there’s already another major change on the horizon for the gaming world. According to the Wall Street Journal, rumors are circulating that struggling software giant Microsoft is in serious talks to buy Mojang, the Swedish game developer responsible for Minecraft. The Journal cites their anonymous source as “a person with knowledge of the matter.” According to the source the deal could be worth as much as $2 billion and could be wrapped up as early as this week.
If the rumors are true, it could have a major impact on the growing community of video creators who have made Minecraft the center of their YouTube and Twitch channels. Mojang has, historically, been very easygoing in regard to fan-created content. The game maker has allowed the proliferation of fan-created mod packs and fan-administered game servers. Even though the Minecraft terms of service forbid operating “for profit” servers or the selling of modified content, the company has been reluctant to actually enforce those rules. More importantly, Mojang has never attempted to exercise its copyright to restrict the use of Minecraft content in videos or to claim monetization rights on those videos. All that could change with a large corporate entity like Microsoft at the helm. The company recently laid off some 18,000 employees and ditched its digital entertainment studio so it’s safe to say that profits are a priority these days.
While business, tech, and gaming bloggers have all run with the news, the YouTube Minecraft community has yet to register much of a reaction via social media. This isn’t the first acquisition rumor to be floated about Mojang. The popularity of Minecraft has made the company a hot property, but thus far founder and majority shareholder Markus Persson has repeatedly denied any interest in the massive payday that would come with any acquisition. In a post on his personal blog Persson, who is better known by his Minecraft handle Notch, wrote:
“Mojang does not exist to make as much money as possible for the owners. As the majority shareholder, I’d know. Every time a big money-making deal comes up that would make a lot of money, it’s of course very tempting, but at the end of the day we choose to do what either makes the most sense for our products, or the things that seem like fun for us at Mojang.”
As of now the deal is purely speculative. The Wall Street Journal did successfully call Amazon’s surprise acquisition of Twitch last month, but they also wrongly predicted that that same company would be acquired by YouTube. Even if it does become a reality Microsoft would be well served to stay the course with Mojang’s hands-off approach to fan content. YouTube creators have been the driving force behind Minecraft’s most recent wave of growth and discouraging the game’s vibrant creative community could render any investment, $2 billion or otherwise, totally pointless.