Microsoft’s Safe $2.5 Billion Bet On Minecraft

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Microsoft expects to break-even on its $2.5B purchase of Minecraft maker Mojang in 2015. It’s easy to say that buying Minecraft is a safe bet for Microsoft.

The deal was announced this morning following a week of unsubstantiated reports and wide-eyed speculation. Most of the commentary revolves around “one-hit-wonders” like Angry Birds that eventually fall flat and take down their motherships. Minecraft is a different beast than other recent gaming hits such as Angry Birds, Candy Crush Saga and Plants vs Zombies. Where those titles were created to serve ads and sell in-game add-ons, Minecraft is as pure as a video game can get, thus enhancing its stickiness with users.

Microsoft’s quick return on investment shows this purchase is more of a bit of old fashioned looting than a risky bet. Mojang doesn’t have to create another hit for Microsoft to come out a winner. The company just needs to continue as normal, appeasing its legions of fans. Selling out to Microsoft will likely have little short-term effect.

Mojang turned Minecraft into a cultural phenomenon. From lunch pails to LEGO kits to t-shirts, Minecraft is everywhere in a way that’s not unlike Mario or Sonic from 20 years ago. From my vantage point, even Angry Bird’s overnight success doesn’t compare.

What started as a PC game, Minecraft quickly became an important part of Microsoft’s Xbox Live platform, ultimately becoming its the best-selling title. Still, years after its release on Live, Minecraft is still towards the top of the charts.

At this point Microsoft just needs to keep its hands out of Mojang’s plans. And according to today’s announcement, Redmond seems to be doing just that. Minecraft will still be offered on multiple platforms and the MINECON conference will continue next year. But then again, that’s asking Microsoft to sit on its hands, which is something the company isn’t known to do.