Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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Notch – Cashing Out of Indie-dom (for a while)?

Posted by Rampant Coyote on September 10, 2014

markus_perssonMarkus “Notch” Persson is an incredibly lucky person. And with that, I don’t mean that at all as a slight against his skills. The guy paid his dues. He made craploads of games for previous employers. He co-created an MMO. He participated in Ludum Dare competitions. He’s got mad skills. He’s easily in the top 20% of indie programmers – probably in the top 10%, and he’s got a good head for design. He’s better than me. He was destined for success, sooner or later. But now he is a rock star. That’s not an inevitability no matter how good you are. His stardom came through a combination of skill, hard work, and an unbelievable amount of good luck. Things just clicked and went viral, and he was good enough and positioned well enough to take advantage of it.

And now, the rumors are circulating that Microsoft is offering just under $2 billion (with a “b”) for his company. And, of course, Minecraft.

Me? I’d take it. You can fund a lot of startup game studios and new game projects for a couple of BILLION dollars. Of course, we’re not talking about a lump sum of a couple billion dollars of cash here, either. It’s probably staged and a combination of cash, stock, and other assets released in a staged fashion. But I’d be for taking the money and using it to change the world. After all, at a certain point, that’s all that kind of money is good for – it’s exceeded your capacity to use it as a plain ol’ consumer. You gotta hire up people to do awesome things.

minecraftlogoAnd for that, good on him! The only thing bad about it is that it’s given a lot of people some very strange perceptions of what indie gaming is like. There may be another story like his in the future – I sure hope so – but it’s not like anybody of half his ability and half his diligence (or even an equal amount of both) is just going to go out there, make a game, and expect half or quarter or even 1/100th of the success he’s achieved. Especially not with just one or two games. Sometimes – like Rovio with Angry Birds, or Terry Cavanagh with VVVVVV, it’s a last-ditch effort after innumerable failures that brings success. And sometimes the “big hit” never happens.

Now, if I were Microsoft (or rather, if I was in Microsoft’s shoes… I can’t possibly envision what goes on in the corporate mind that causes them to be so disdainful of their customers), here’s what I’d put on the table:

#1 – The total distribution would be tied to Notch being directly involved in the release of Minecraft 2. Microsoft has it’s eye on a franchise, and it needs to be launched by The Man himself. The guy managed to make himself a rock star – the very thing the publisher / studio system has repressed for the last couple of decades – so you want him to the the front man.

#2 – I wouldn’t mess around with current distribution of Minecraft 1. In fact, I’d allow it to continue being ported to other platforms. The more the merrier. I’d want EVERYONE to have the opportunity to play Minecraft 1. And get addicted.

#3 – Minecraft 2, I’d be a schmuck about and limit it (probably) to Microsoft platforms. So all those people who loved the game on every system under the sun would find their way to own the new one on a PC, console, tablet, etc.

#4 – And yes, I’d milk the name and franchise as much as possible. I’d want new games to come from “the creators of Minecraft!”

Assuming these rumors are for real and it really does go down:

Yeah, there may be some people out there hating on him for even considering this deal. Many of them would probably take that deal themselves in a heartbeat if the situation were reversed. Assuming it goes through, nobody really knows what this means to the game that indie legends are made of. Hopefully, as gamers, we won’t notice a difference.

But you know what? It’s his game, and it’s his call. I hope that, in the end, he’s satisfied with his decisions. I’m pretty happy for him. He didn’t set out with this kind of expectation, and I honestly believe that he did what he did in order to make the coolest game possible. I’m happy to know that occasionally, that still pays off.

Filed Under: Indie Evangelism - Comments: 12 Comments to Read

  • Tesh said,

    My only concern is what Microsoft will do with the game and the IP. If Notch takes the deal, congrats to him!

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Well, as long as they don’t break what I have… I registered about four years ago. That’s a pretty good run, to be honest. If Minecraft 2 (or Minecraft 2.0) sucks, I guess it clears the field for the next indie.

  • Tesh said,

    Yeah, as long as they leave the legacy stuff alone, I won’t be bothered much.

  • Maklak said,

    I dunno. He already got over 10M (or was it 30M) from selling the game, so he is past having to worry about money.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Yep, that’s the point where you are no longer spending it on yourself – you invest it and hire people to do cool stuff, fund charities, etc.

  • McTeddy said,

    Honestly, I don’t see why he WOULDN’T take the deal.

    Notch is a legend in the community and he could rebuild a new company from the ground up without an issue. Many people are fans of NOTCH and not Mojang.

    Would it be the next minecraft? Maybe not, but he often sounds like he wants to try something new. Cutting the cords to minecraft will give him that chance.

  • TheBuzzSaw said,

    Notch has spoken at great length about “Minecraft 2”. Basically, he has said it will never happen. All it would do is fragment the community. He really preferred having one contiguous product.

    Today, with how deep the community is (the number of maps, mods, resource packs, wiki pages, etc.), a sequel would have to be built in such a way that it could easily catch up. In other words, Minecraft II would require a proper mod API (preferably in a good extension language like Lua), a proper non-Java engine, and a boat load of new abilities/mechanics that are simply impractical to add to the first game’s engine.

  • Cuthalion said,

    Yeah, if someone offered me two billion dollars for all of my current game and setting projects, I’d take it in a heartbeat and start making something new.

    Unless there were stipulations that I couldn’t do anything in the same industry/genre/etc. That would make me hesitate.

    Of course, his stuff is actually making money, and mine’s not. So there may be some math involved that says he might not be better off taking it.

  • Anon said,

    I wondered how quickly this “rumor” would be mentioned here… 😉

    “But I’d be for taking the money and using it to change the world.”

    Of course you would, as would I but I have no illusions about it: You don’t change the world with that measly sum.
    At best you participate in toppling the government of a country like the Ukraine – that’s a hobby for people like George Soros, even when it can backfire sometimes.
    But, yes, for Ukrainians the world has been changed…

    You likely won’t even change the gaming world with that amount. Companies like Activision Blizzard and EA are worth between 20 and 15 billion dollar each.

    With 2 billion you can buy a lot of “rubble” but you don’t make more than a dent in the business and where it’s headed.

    As for using Notch for advertising “the switch” in #1:

    No. Most Mindcraft players aren’t aware of the creators and neither do they care. This is a common misconception of indie devs: They think they are more important than their product. Truth is: They aren’t – even if they are geniuses like Notch or nice & humble like you. The only thing that counts is the product.
    Proof 1: People bought Windows and Office despite that fat, sweaty clown Steve Ballmer jumping around like an idiot.
    Proof 2: Apple lovers still buy Apple products like crazy even though their messiah is long gone.

    I agree totally with #2, though, and I understand both the motivation behind #3 and #4 but have a different opinion: Mindcraft is a gargantuan, but solitary success.
    I have the same opinion as Notch: Split it and it will die.

    And let’s be realistic about #3: What hardware do you want to push?
    – The optimal platform for Mindcraft are still desktops (whether PCs or Macs, whatever the OS), everything else is second fiddle. Limiting it to Windows will only anger the Mindcraft 1 fans, especially those few vocal Linux gamers. The repercussions will be bigger than the advantages.
    – Windows tablets, especially the expensive Surface tablets, still don’t have a big enough market share to justify an exclusive port.
    – Windows Phone sales? Samey same!
    – The only port that makes sense is the Xbox One – and that is at least two years away to be profitable.
    Well, you could of course argue that MS thinks in long terms and that’s true, even if they sometimes think incorrectly but will Mindcraft still be important in two years from now?

    As for #4: You mean “The same company that brought you Bob and the Zune!”?

  • Anon said,

    Ha ha ha – it had to be done:


  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Link doesn’t work.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Oh, I think I found it the hard way… I think the link works now, but it didn’t when I first tried.

    Minecraft microsoft